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DevOps: The IT Tale of the Tortoise and Hare

RalphLoura

Ralph Loura, CIO HP Enterprise Group, Global Sales Operations, and HP Labs

May 2015

 

 

Remember the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare?  We were always taught to be the tortoise: vigilant and methodical; as opposed to the hare who relied on speed and greater risk taking, and achieved the expected outcomes.  Today, successful IT leaders enable their organizations to be both – to operate with the fiduciary responsibility, governance and security stewardship of the tortoise and the swiftness, agility and (managed) risk taking of the hare.

 

Traditional IT Requires Tradeoffs

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Traditional IT focuses on cost reduction, long-term technology investments, and command and control oriented security.  The model is effective at managing cost and traditional cyber or delivery risks, but requires IT leaders and project managers to continually make tradeoffs between speed and effectiveness:

 

  • TIME: Sacrifice speed to affect broad change – initiate major programs that take too long to deliver meaningful results
  • RESOURCES: Work within narrow parameters to achieve velocity – limit the systems or processes a program can impact to minimize security and compliance risks
  • SCOPE: Limit scope to achieve agility – launching broad and ambitious projects then cutting away the pieces that slow delivery; meaning the finished product often does not address the stated goals

IT will always be tasked with minimizing risk, maximizing operational efficiency, and controlling costs.  But today businesses face an unprecedented pace of change, and competition comes in the form of digital disruption from startups or businesses entering new industries.  The demands from business on IT are not just high, but are DIFFERENT – the good news is that IT has a richer-than-ever tool set from which to draw, and a tech-fluent user community that is more tolerant than ever of change.  We no longer have the option of being either the tortoise or the hare; we have to be both, and more.

 

Not ‘Either/Or’, but ‘Both, And…’

Rabbit_5SM.pngDevOps offers IT an opportunity to eliminate some of the tradeoffs involved with traditional IT.  It’s currently a trending topic in tech circles, with a plethora of companies in the container, micro-services and infrastructure-as-code space seeing unprecedented market valuations.

 

But DevOps isn’t just the latest ‘shiny object’ garnering IT and venture capital attention – it truly presents a departure from traditional thinking and an opportunity to solve some long-standing problems. 

 

In a legacy environment, updating a fully integrated tier 1 enterprise application is a considerable undertaking.  In a large enterprise like HP, such an effort could involve 100 or more people:  developers, testers, security, and infrastructure personnel, plus business stakeholders and users distributed across the globe.  With a model like this, up to half of the project lifecycle can be consumed in project overhead (governance and coordination meetings, authoring and reviewing functional specs, code inspections, phase gate reviews, signoffs).

 

Using a DevOps approach means we can deliver value faster and assign a larger portion of resources to the outcome vs. the overhead.  We can move faster but build in protection:  e.g. If I divide those 100 people into ten discrete teams, each owning a few more granular parts of the service (so called ‘microservices’) and loosely couple these services; versus the prior approach of end to end tight integration, I can make changes quickly by evolving a few services at a time.  I can use a hybrid cloud environment to enable infrastructure as code, so solutions can be quickly provisioned based on established security and performance guidelines without the need to use human ‘butlers’ or buffers to intervene at so many stages of the process.

 

This can significantly improve time to value and allow IT to incrementally deliver new user and customer experiences; then scale to meet demand.  And IT can still closely manage cyber and delivery policies through an informed blend of risk taking and risk management.

 

Collaborative IT requires Cultural Evolution

According to Frost & Sullivan, “…agility tops business leaders’ list of priorities, as they prepare for the fast-paced, hypercompetitive future”1.  IT can offer leaders a clear path to agility through DevOps in exchange for leaders’ support of the cultural and process changes necessary to make DevOps a reality.

 

The continuous integration and continuous delivery model that DevOps enables requires continuous business stakeholder engagement.  IT must be plugged in to business strategy and understand what’s keeping business leaders up at night, then design IT capabilities to address those issues or drive key initiatives.  In return, rather than spending time with IT only during the annual or quarterly planning cycle where IT gathers business requirements and agrees to deliver Release A in this quarter and Release B in that quarter; the business will be more closely involved in IT planning, testing, and implementation.  This model requires the business to spend more time with IT, but think of the old adage "Measure twice, cut once" – closer engagement and time spent up front and throughout yields faster time to value and less need for rework.

 

The build cycle also evolves with DevOps — traditionally IT plans a major initiative, procures hardware to meet the demand, then installs, configures, and tests software for the workload over a period of several quarters to years.  With an hybrid cloud model we have a true on-demand compute infrastructure.  We still need the hardware, but it can be provisioned on a "build to stock" basis rather than an "assemble to order" model.  We can assess a need and provision solutions on demand, based on pre-assigned design and security parameters.

 

With DevOps, enterprise IT groups can truly be the tortoise and the hare; realizing the security and vigilance of the tortoise by enabling infrastructure as code, and the speed of the hare by creating a microservices model for rapid delivery.  As I said in Frost & Sullivan’s May 2015 DevOps White Paper, to start a DevOps fire “…You start with a few sparks [passionate developers] and some dry tinder [well chosen projects].  Be careful not to add too much additional fuel to the fire too soon, or to leave it exposed to the elements of corporate governance before the flame catches and is strong enough to survive.”2

 

I will be talking about this topic more at HP Discover during my session, ‘Keep your business ahead of disruption – CIO strategies for the New Style of Business.’ The session will be streamed live on June 2nd at 4:30 PT, and available on demand.  I hope you tune in, and afterwards feel free to connect with me on Twitter and share your thoughts.

 

Connect with me via Twitter/ Twitter at @RalphLoura and LinkedIn/ Ralph Loura on LinkedIn

 

 

  1. Frost & Sullivan. (2015, May). White Paper, Through the DevOps Looking Glass: Learnings from HP’s Own Transformation Initiative.
    Retrieved from hp.com:
    http://www8.hp.com/h20195/v2/getpdf.aspx/4AA5-8744ENW.pdf
  2. (Frost & Sullivan, 2015)
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RalphLoura

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