“If we were to ask most folks who have been in the DevOpsian world, you kind of go back to the emergence of the Agile Manifesto,” she says. “That’s kind of the beginning of the discussion.”
DevOps vs. Agile: What’s the Difference?
The Agile Manifesto, first developed in 2001 at a ski resort in Utah, came to set basic standards for lightweight software development. Although it had existed before then, the formalization helped build interest in lightweight software development, which in turn increased interest in DevOps.
Both DevOps and agile development evolved as something of a reaction to the more traditional “waterfall” style of development, in which progress falls sequentially, with different aspects working separately from one another, leading up to a large release with many features under the hood.
DevOps relies on a more integrated approach, with a greater focus on collaboration and continuous deployment of new code. Rather than one big release, there are numerous small ones.
The DevOps approach existed before it was formally named — the result of a Belgian conference in 2009 called devopsdays. The conference not only helped build the philosophies around DevOps along with its nomenclature but also developed into a global network of events.
The 2020 State of DevOps report, published by the cloud and hybrid automation platform Puppet, describes the DevOps philosophy as becoming increasingly dominant in the modern day, as organizations build more sophisticated disciplines around it.
“Perhaps a few years from now, the term ‘DevOps’ will sound quaint — even fade away — because so many people and organizations have fully adopted the DevOps principles of collaboration, communication, small-batch iteration, feedback loops, continuous learning and improvement,” the report states. “We certainly hope so.”
What Are the Benefits of DevOps?
Ultimately, the goal of DevOps is to simplify the software development lifecycle through methods such as the continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) of code, the process of merging developers’ work into a mainline codebase and shipping it.
This speeds up the work on software releases, creating a stronger, more efficient way to manage software over time. Fixes can be easily implemented, and new features can be delivered quickly.
“When a software development organization successfully adopts DevOps principles and an organizational philosophy, those organizations have been shown through a lot of research to have better productivity and throughput for delivering products and features to their customers,” Google’s Hernandez says.
Unlike a waterfall approach, where responsibility for a codebase might shift between departments, Hernandez said there is ultimately shared responsibility between the developers and operators for tools working in a given environment. In other words, before a piece of code gets online, it’s expected to work.
“There’s kind of a fundamental shift in thinking,” she says. “The developers have as much responsibility as the operators for their software running in production.”
And while it makes particular sense in the context of cloud computing — and, as a result, comes up in conversations for those looking to build services around Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure — it is not limited to it.
The challenge, of course, is that it’s an organizational philosophy, not a toolset, so an organization might have to work its way up to a broader goal. And while there’s a lot that can go wrong, much more can go right.
It can also take time to perfect. Although organizations can get quite good at DevOps — Google’s own research found, for example, that 20 percent of organizations it studied had become “elite performers” at DevOps by 2019 — Hernandez suggests that organizations without an existing discipline start slowly.
“If you’re not doing any of it, you’ve got to kind of start at the foundation at the developer level and work your way out,” she says, “with the understanding that you’ll want someone who’s at the production end — maybe embedded.”
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