What is DevOps? update from May 2014

Be careful using the D-word

Caroline Marwitz

May 2, 2014

3 Min Read
What is DevOps?

You know how you ask a question you think is harmless, and suddenly people are expressing strong opinions? That’s how I learned the D-word.

It began with a simple question: “What is DevOps?”

I had read a Microsoft TechNet blog post title—“The Three Musketeers of DevOps,” a great starter post by Volker Will of Microsoft.  Talk about hooking the English majors in the audience—he had me at Musketeers.

He defines DevOps in this way: “It is a broad initiative involving most anyone in IT. It is a way of doing work or more narrowly a new way of increasing agility and shortening cycles between application development (Dev) and operationalizing the new application within the business (Ops).”

Then I asked a couple of IT guys. That’s when I learned that DevOps, to some, is the D-word.

So what is Dev Ops?

It’s not a job description.

You can’t patent it.

It’s not a product.

But it sure is, as some have called it, “a lightning rod for people with thoughts about how IT should function.”

According to Adam Jacob, founder of Chef and OpsCode, it’s a cultural and professional movement. As Jacob explains it in a video from the Velocity 2010 conference,

“System administrators run stuff--dudes installing printers. [Then…] We all came in at the same moment when the Internet was taking off. We were all like ‘I got the Unix book with the armadillo.’ We did what we were told to do. And we were like ‘That shit doesn’t work.’”


It didn’t come about as the result of a marketing ploy by cloud vendor companies. At least not according to Damon Edwards, who offers a recording on the history of dev ops.

It’s spawned its own conferences, of which DevOps Days is one

And lest you think this is all pre-Great Recession era, a more recent video about DevOps, again by Damon Edwards,  addresses what he says is the main comment he gets: “DevOps sounds great… but how do I go about introducing DevOps to my company?”

Is it a passing fad? Not at all, according to Gene Kim. In his article titled “Trust me: The DevOps Movement fits perfectly with ITSM” he says, “It is my genuine belief that that patterns and processes that emerge from DevOps are the inevitable outcome of applying Lean principles to the IT value stream.  It is an inexorable force that will likely change IT in a manner we haven’t seen since the birth of client-server computing in the 1980s.”

Oh, I can already see the cynics in you sighing. Come on!

Beyond being an observer of the SharePoint and Microsoft world, you might say I’m also an unofficial observer of how IT and dev operate in a medium-sized, privately held US company.  I’ve seen my share of ways that IT and dev can work well together, and I’ve seen ways that they don’t work well together.

That’s why I find the notion of DevOps interesting. Do I think it will change the way IT works? I’m not sure. There are many forces of change afoot that affect IT, organizations, and all users of technology. But for goodness sake, know what you’re getting into when you use the D-word.

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