The Struggles DevOps Administrators are Up Against

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DevOps has quickly gone from being a niche concept to a widespread practice that is gaining traction rapidly in both large and small organizations. As it becomes a key part of many development teams, administrators must work to integrate DevOps techniques, tools and practices into a wide range of teams, from operations to development, support and management.

The seamless completion of this implementation, together with the overall change in methodology and culture from top to bottom, provides a smoother workflow. The issue, however, is that admins are being asked to do more with less. DevOps administrators from large companies are struggling to keep pace, partly due to the newness of the practices, and in part out of a need to provide a competitive advantage for the business. Additionally, they find themselves in the middle of many different cultural pressures. All of this is leading to problems in fully implementing and reaping the benefits of a fine-tuned DevOps machine.

That said, working through the implementation of a DevOps techniques will be worth it in the end and to make the transition easier, here are some specific pitfalls that administrators should try to avoid.

Reliance on DevOps Technology

One burden that is often faced by DevOps admins is an organization’s over-reliance on technology. In theory, technology is the easy part, but too often organizations become enamored with the newest shiny automation tool and find themselves in a cul-de-sac of isolation, forgetting to bring the rest of their organization with them.

The wave of digital transformation that many organizations are experiencing can present additional difficulties as new technology is being implemented throughout different business units and administrators find themselves in high demand.

Automation is awesome, but it isn’t the answer—it’s part of the recipe. The solution requires attention to processes and culture. According to a Gartner study, 73 percent of what organizations should focus on consists of attention to culture and communication, information exchanges and building operations process and organizational consistency. Only 27 percent should be on tooling.

As the growing emphasis on DevOps places an added burden on infrastructure teams already struggling to cope with the digital transformation in their organizations, unification will be key to success. Ignoring the importance of creating a harmonious culture that embraces DevOps and processes that foster the methodology can be costly. Ensuring that tools are utilized in a smart way alongside people and processes will ultimately lead to more success.

Building Collaboration Between Dev and Ops

DevOps trust and transparency is at the core of release management. This level of collaboration and trust ensures that both sides of the equation agree when it comes time to ship software.

Both sides in Dev and Ops frequently misunderstand the other’s motivations around production control and release management. Stability is king for Ops, and they would love nothing more than preserving uptime in each release, even if it means a blockage of imperative software updates. Dev, on the other hand, wants to move quickly, and they often make assumptions about what is required to support software in production. To help unite the two requires administrators have the ability to fill in the information gap that exists between Dev and Ops.

In a way, DevOps admins work as the therapist for a severed relationship between Dev and Ops. Bridging the divide between these two departments can, at times, feel like counseling an organization to communicate better. But doing so through integration and collaboration is a surefire way to make life easier for everyone involved. DevOps doesn’t force people to become who they’re not; instead, it promotes cooperation, tolerance and shared responsibilities between the teams. 

Lack of Transparency

What many administrators also lack is a way to clearly understand, prioritize and utilize the data they have. From an agile practice perspective, that level of visibility should be established early on in a data reporting structure—project, initiative, etc.—and with the proper software solution. A solution that combines application release, environment, quality and deployment data across the portfolio to drive continuous improvement of software delivery.

Being able to utilize this data makes a world of difference for delivery teams to be able to quantify, correlate and predict outcomes to help solve problems and make better decisions. The most basic, yet beneficial, insight you can have when making these decisions for an organization is to have the transparency to know that what you are doing is working.

Creating a Culture vs. Working in Silos

Application release delays costing hundreds of millions of dollars can be caused by poor management of complex enterprise software releases. A big part of the issue is that the very nature of agile and DevOps is to work in smaller teams, which can naturally create silos. For a given release, there can be many teams and, in some cases such as test environments, teams from different projects can collide due to lack of oversight. This complexity presents significant management problems and, without insights across the entire process, release trains are bound to crash.

A culture of working in small teams on a single release lends itself to working in silos, and that isolationism often conspires against organizationwide success. This construct needs to be broken, as it produces an additional level of complexity and unification that will be a key point of emphasis for organizations in their road to digital transformation success.

This unification will be especially important in large organizations that see frequent changes to their software release cycles, sometimes daily. It is imperative for these organizations to avoid silos and favor better communication with pronounced team roles, especially with the added confusion that the rapidly evolving delivery cycle can bring.

Creating a cohesive and harmonious DevOps culture will benefit everyone in an organization in the long run. To be successful at this, though, it’s imperative that DevOps admins are given the rein to institute the change that they see fit. Admins must educate themselves on the latest technology, learn how to use and monitor it and bring in the rest of the teams so everyone can work together. But the burdens they are up against need to be dealt with on an organizational level from the top down, creating the ultimate DevOps working environment for all.

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