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A Successful DevOps Implementation: It's More Than Fast Delivery

Insights_Guest on ‎08-24-2015 09:00 AM

By: Eric J. Bruno

 

A successful DevOps implementation is a journey that involves people, process, and technology. Streamlined application delivery and faster time to market are good goals, but they're not enough. As HP found out, it's often more about people, and providing value—not just software—to them sooner.

 

People, process, and technology

DevOps is rooted in agile development, which fosters short, iterative release cycles; increased user collaboration; delivery of high-priority features sooner; and feedback loops. Agile is rooted in lean manufacturing, where waste is eliminated and only high-priority items are addressed. With agile teams delivering features more frequently, build and deployment bottlenecks are exposed. A successful DevOps implementation aims to remove bottlenecks throughout the application build, test, and deployment process. The first step is to increase collaboration between development teams, who disrupt stability through changes, and operations, who keep environments stable and running. Next, continuous integration and delivery help to keep the software pipeline moving. As changes are made, they're built, integrated, and deployed automatically.

 

Agile and DevOps eschew stages, and instead form a series of parallel operations—one of which is testing. Instead of stopping everything to enter a test phase, quality assurance is done continuously throughout the process. Continuous collaboration is important here, both internally between product, development, and operations teams, and externally with customers and end users. Beyond streamlined processes, true DevOps value comes from continuous improvement throughout. This involves not only getting products and services to your users faster but also improving their value and quality, as well as the morale of the teams delivering it.

 

Drink from your own fountain

When HP committed to DevOps, it used its own tools, processes, and solutions. According to Rich Gilbert, VP of infrastructure technology and operations at HP, the first step was to break down silos and implement a new culture of collaboration and integration. Although change can be concerning, people appreciate the effects of DevOps collaboration, namely the removal of administrative bottlenecks, the increased value of new skills, and the camaraderie of working together for a single goal.

 

This is backed by Ralph Loura, HP Enterprise Group CIO, who cites the benefits of a ChatOps approach. With this, HP formed a peer-to-peer model as opposed to a centrally guided process. Through cross-team collaboration, everyone is empowered to make important decisions, and everything is done out in the open so it can be understood and learned from. One important lesson Loura shared is that one size doesn't fit all. While some activities still require increased governance and review (such as regulated procedures), others don't (such as portal application user interface changes). You need to customize processes and revise continuously, while listening to the feedback from everyone involved.

 

A plan to get started

HP overcame the challenge of getting started with DevOps by focusing on being agile. When your goal is to deliver value to customers sooner, you can quickly see what needs to change with your procedures. Next, look to streamline processes, cut waste where possible, and defer less-important work.

 

Automation helps to remove bottlenecks, eliminate human error, and remove the tedium of administrative overhead. Begin by removing the most error-prone or manual processes, such as software builds and unit tests. The result is an automatic workflow that allows people to focus on improvement in both processes and products.

 

An important part of any DevOps plan is to collaborate by removing silos. Avoid independent teams, workflows, or closed communication. Although some organizations are concerned about disruption, the results at HP were positive. "Great employee engagement is a key cultural side effect of working in DevOps, and people are really enjoying that," says Loura.

 

Have a maturity plan

When you implement DevOps, like HP you're likely to see increased creativity and productivity as tedium and waste are removed. "Once the current paradigms were lifted, the teams began to think differently," Gilbert says about the changes seen at HP. To mature your DevOps practice, you should do the following:

  • Embrace lean manufacturing by avoiding work unless it meets the most urgent customer or business need, and defer the lower-priority work as long as possible.
  • Focus on modernization initiatives, which HP found to be vital. For key areas that needed improvement, Gilbert and his team examined the key principles (not just the systems) behind the reasons for the implementation. Opportunities for automation were then identified for every step and implemented iteratively to reduce risk.
  • Don't wait: expand DevOps from successful pilot projects quickly. HP saw positive changes from DevOps in short periods of time, and analysis showed that up to 60 percent of HP's projects were prime candidates for DevOps.
  • Keep customers involved. According to Loura, "Lots of people are very excited to work in a collaborative way like this, and I think it shows in the quality of the outcomes."
  • Tools go a long way toward meeting DevOps automation and collaboration goals. HP found success with their own tools and solutions, such as those that manage agile processes, software and hardware builds, integration, testing, deployment, collaboration, risk assessment, and so on. For more on HP's specific journey with DevOps tools, read the Frost & Sullivan report.

 

Finally, remember that agile and DevOps foster a culture of continuous improvement, and that involves your agile and DevOps processes as well. You should constantly iterate to mature your build and deployment processes. It's a loop that hopefully never ends as your products and your organization continuously improve and provide increased value to all stakeholders.

 

 

Eric Bruno

 

Computer scientist skilled in full life cycle, large-scale software architecture, design, and development. His accomplishments span development expertise in the areas of client/server ,highly distributed, multi-tiered web, as well as real-time and transactional software.

Connect with Eric:

  @ericjbruno

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