What’s holding organisations back from DevOps success?

The global app economy is set to be worth $6.3 trillion by 2021, with the user base rising to nearly every person on the planet. As a result, organisations are having to rethink the way they build products or services to meet the always-on culture today.

The DevOps methodology has emerged over the past few years to address this phenomenon, accelerating the way companies build, test and deploy applications. Now as we head into 2018, it’s the buzzword on every CEO’s lips and the priority of most developer and operations teams as the pressure to release applications faster has never been greater.   

The reality is a DevOps strategy is less about the tools and much more about the company’s culture. In practice, DevOps establishes a culture and environment to build, test and release software in a rapid, frequent and reliable fashion by embracing agile methodologies across the IT teams. It doesn’t matter whether an organisation is operating entirely in the cloud, taking a hybrid approach or strictly on-premise, the core elements of DevOps don’t change, only the speed of delivery.

Cloud technology accelerates the speed of DevOps as steps like automation are easier through cloud-based APIs, database access is faster and scalability is achievable on-demand

Cloud technology accelerates the speed of DevOps as steps like automation are easier through cloud-based APIs, database access is faster and scalability is achievable on-demand. However, organisations run into problems when they try to do too much at once, ignore core elements like the database, and don’t have the expertise in place to drive the transformation forward.

Safeguarding success in the digital era

There are a number of factors that can stifle even the best DevOps intentions. The first is getting everyone across the tech team – developers, operations, security teams, database administrators –  to buy into the DevOps approach, especially when organisational silos have been heavily ingrained in some organisations for years. For example, one well-known high street bank tried to transform a 120-year-old business using the DevOps methodology, applying it to 1000 applications across the personal and corporate banking divisions and sales. Unfortunately, the attempt failed thanks to different internal views and agendas, a highly-regulated environment, a strict central IT system and limited knowledge of DevOps strategies and supporting technology. Now they’re taking that learning and applying it to projects, rather than the entire business.

The second factor that often holds DevOps back from success is overlooking the application database. If application updates require changes to the database, the DevOps process often breaks down, because databases are historically developed and managed differently due to their complexity, development process and sensitive nature. Additionally, database development frequently lacks code testing and reviews, source code controls, and the ability to integrate with existing build automation processes, which are critical to preventing errors impacting production systems.

Cloud-based tools can certainly help break down the common barriers associated with deploying database changes and automate those adjustments within existing DevOps continuous integration-and-delivery processes. But it also requires database administrators have a seat at the DevOps table, to avoid unnecessary bottlenecks and ensure the best possible solutions are being put forward.

As business leaders today are building their DevOps strategies for 2018, there are five factors they should consider to ensure the business remains agile and continues to thrive in the digital era. 

  • Skill-up: It’s critical to make sure that anyone involved in implementing DevOps, especially in the cloud, are properly trained in both technologies and are able to pass their knowledge onto others in the organisation. DevOps represents a cultural change and people are its key so it’s essential that there is a shared understanding of what is involved so that expectations of what can be delivered are realistic. 
  • Avoid vendor lock-in: Don’t lock the business into one cloud or database vendor. To ensure success with DevOps, organisations need to be as open and flexible as possible in their choice of tools as changes to the platforms may be needed in the future. Consider the use of containers for application deployment to provide additional flexibility.
  • Integrate database development: Weave database development into the fabric of any DevOps plans, otherwise, this will become a significant bottleneck that could delay application delivery.
  • Prioritise performance testing: This infrequently happens during on-premise deployments. With cloud-based services, where it’s subscription-based, performance testing becomes more important so you don’t find yourself unnecessarily using more cloud resources than you need.
  • Don’t over-commit: Try DevOps practices and supporting technology on a relatively low-risk or pilot project first, learn from them and then roll-out additional projects with the enhanced knowledge of what worked or didn’t previously.

The enthusiasm for DevOps will only continue in 2018. The demands of today’s digital era mean organisations cannot afford to have delayed releases, security breaches, or application downtime, as these effect everything from customer experience to company profits. Adopting cloud technology as part of a DevOps strategy puts companies in a better position to ensure those issues do not arise, but can quickly respond in real-time if they do.

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Now more than ever, business leaders need to understand the importance of agile work environments, prioritise core elements like the database and take a realistic project-based approach to application development. Only then will the future of the business and its teams thrive in this brave new world.

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