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How CIOs can leverage DevOps

For many, DevOps is the natural "heir apparent" to an Agile development methodology. In an article on LinkedIn, Matthew Kern said Agile's demise has come about because it simply is not a strong match for enterprise needs.

DevOps is gaining momentum among companies looking to adjust to an increasingly tech-oriented, mobile business environment. An enterprise software development phrase, DevOps is used to mean a type of agile relationship between development and IT operations. The goal of the methodology is to change and improve that relationship by advocating better communication and collaboration between the two business units.

"DevOps has the potential to accelerate software development and release cycles, which can directly contribute to accelerating revenue and to the acquisition and retention of customers," said  John Gentry, CTO of Virtual Instruments. "For example, companies like eTrade and Paypal live and die by their ability to innovate quickly and drive new functionality in their online offerings."

As DevOps blurs the traditional lines between development, test and production deployment, the separation of the application infrastructure that supports those functions begins to blur, according to Gentry.

"In highly virtualized and hybrid cloud environments, the shared nature of the infrastructure creates cost advantages," said Gentry.

That's not to say DevOps doesn't come with caveats, however.

"It also introduces the risk of (a) non-production workload impacting the production applications," Gentry said.

How CIOs can leverage DevOps

Thomas Phelps, vice president of Corporate Strategy and CIO of Laserfiche, shared a bit about his DevOps strategy and experience. Laserfiche's software engineering unit recently embraced DevOps specifically to accelerate and support ongoing feature releases for Laserfiche Cloud, a SaaS enterprise content management solution, according to Phelps.

"Product teams involve key stakeholders—including executive business sponsors and both internal and external customers—with sprints, user acceptance testing and releases to help ensure continuous alignment with expected business outcomes and value drivers," said Phelps.

Based on his experience, Phelps suggests CIOs focus on changes beyond just people, process and technology, and factor in change levers that include the broader organizational structure and culture.

"To help manage these changes, organizations will need to invest in new tool sets to accelerate DevOps adoption and enable collaboration — especially in a matrixed reporting structure where reporting relationships and accountabilities could shift for each initiative," said Phelps.

Gentry too said businesses need to adapt their approach to design, deployment and managing of the underlying infrastructure in order to reap the benefits of DevOps.

"For example, the ability to understand in advance how the deployment and adoption of new features will impact the overall workload profile of an application would enable the business to be much more proactive and even predictive in ensuring the overall performance and availability of their customer-facing applications, which could both contribute to revenue as well as manage cost," said Gentry. "This approach to understanding the full infrastructure lifecycle as it relates to supporting mission critical applications and the ongoing development, test and deployment that is the at the heart of the DevOps movement."

In fact, CIOs may want to look at moving to DevOps as a cultural shift for the entire organization, said Steve Wallo, chief solutions architect at Brocade Federal.

"CIOs should encourage collaboration amongst personnel and resources across various IT disciplines to produce more stable infrastructure and faster delivery of features," said Wallo. "CIOs should also be prepared to implement a DevOps strategy that includes adopting new tools, hiring new talent or retraining existing staff."

Capitalizing on DevOps

Phelps also said CIOs should include Internal Audit in DevOps, in addition to business sponsors and customers.

Including Internal Audit will enable them to "assess segregation of duties and controls involving change and release management," said Phelps. "It would be foolhardy to accelerate the time to market for a new technology capability that drives business innovation—and end up creating costly internal control weaknesses that impacts regulatory compliance."

Wallo shared an example of adopting a DevOps mentality by bringing cross-domain automation to IT.

"Too often CIOs only automate specific IT disciplines," said Wallo. "However, the services delivery chain spans multiple domains and when operated in functional silos, the execution of tasks can take days or weeks."

Instead, Wallo suggested CIOs incorporate a DevOps mentality by bringing together resources from various IT disciplines to collaborate on common problems.

"This enables the creation of cross-domain workflows bridging IT silos and enabling split-second execution of tasks," said Wallo. "The result is not only greater IT agility through automation by reducing human errors and increasing time-to-resolution, but gives each IT organization better value through overall collaboration."

Filed Under: IT Strategy