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Tollgates, Potholes, and Gridlock – Roadblocks on your DevOps journey


Guest Post: Vasu Sankhavaram, Chief Strategist, Product Foundation Services, HP Software


As HP Software’s chief strategist working on DevOps and cross-portfolio architecture alignment, I spend almost every working hour engaged in abstractions. But when I was invited to present at the 14th International Cloud Expo in New York, I knew I couldn’t stand up and talk in abstract terms about cloud computing, IT infrastructure, agile software development and continuous delivery. I needed to make these business-critical topics feel real and engaging. I needed a good analogy.


I found the perfect metaphor in a phrase that everyone in IT already uses: the “cloud journey.” The entire IT world is on a journey from mainframes and client/server architecture to a New Style of IT that is based on elastic cloud architecture. So I asked myself, “What kind of obstacles do travelers encounter on a journey?” And how do those real-world obstacles relate to DevOps, which is where the “rubber meets the road”?


Tollgates (Barriers to adoption)

devops1.jpgOur journey can be slowed, or even stopped in its tracks if business and IT leaders are not clear about what DevOps is and how to implement it. Thinking that DevOps can be implemented using tools or by dropping a DevOps team in between developers and operators who don’t talk to each other is one such barrier. DevOps requires continuous assessment and rapid evolution. Rigid processes – “the way it has always been done” – are like tollgates on our cloud journey.


It is easy to give lip service to “DevOps and agile processes” but business and IT leadership must support the cultural change and organization realignments that come with the agile process.


Dr. Peter Drucker, an expert on organizational change, famously said, “Culture eats strategy.” Without the right organizational buy-in and alignment, any major DevOps initiative is bound to fail. Once business leadership, IT leadership and the DevOps team are aligned, then you can stop idling in the cash-only lane and merge into the fast lane.


Gridlock (Barriers to efficiency)

devops2.jpgEveryone dreads gridlock. For DevOps, it happens when you have too much work in process, huge release sizes or when there is no clearly defined process. Gridlock can occur when the organization is locked into work silos or is using outdated tools that make handoffs slow and painful.


There may be too much manual work. In the cloud era, you must automate stack provisioning, configuration and deletion. Building stacks manually is like walking on the freeway. Everyone will pass you by, and you won’t get to the market on time. Or worse, you may get run over.


devops3.jpgOpenStack® technology, which is the foundation of HP’s Helion hybrid cloud portfolio, uses Heat for provisioning and deleting stacks. Solutions like HP Cloud Service Automation (another key part of the HP Helion portfolio) automate the full stack configuration from infrastructure to platform to application software, relieving gridlock in Ops.


Potholes (Barriers to effectiveness)

Cloud computing and the approaching wave of connected appliances – called the Internet of Things – is going to accelerate the pace of change. But as we race ahead, full-tilt on our cloud journey, we have to watch out for technology gaps that can stop business in its tracks.


devops4.pngAs with tollgates, thinking that DevOps can be implemented by point tools and proprietary technology (even if it is open-sourced) is a sure-fire way to drive your DevOps initiative into a sinkhole. It is imperative to choose a partner who can help you navigate and protect you in this ever evolving DevOps tooling landscape.


While there are several exciting nascent technologies out there, there is no clear winner. Since 2011, HP has been a leading supporter of OpenStack, an open source community creating a hybrid cloud model. When HP announced the HP Helion brand for its entire cloud portfolio, it pledged $1 billion over the next two years on cloud-related product and engineering initiatives, professional services and expanding HP Helion’s global reach.


Alignment is key

Lack of alignment between Dev and Ops is a recipe for disaster, as richly illustrated in a seminal 1995 paper titled “On the folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B” published by Steven Kerr in the Harvard Business Review. Dev teams and Ops must align toward common goals based on customer value and outcomes. Rewards need to be tailored to fit that alignment.


Alignment must extend beyond DevOps. You must have all these things: employee awareness, cultural change, organizational alignment, the right tools, the right vendor, and a reward system that reinforces DevOps evolution.

Finally, for DevOps to succeed, there must be an ongoing collaboration between teams in a congenial way with mutual respect. Without it, getting DevOps up into the clouds is bound to be a helluva bumpy ride.


Business fundamentals unchanged

For my Cloud Expo presentation, I added just a touch of abstraction – a Venn diagram showing that DevOps still rests on the same three pillars that have always supported business: people, process and technology.




What’s new in this picture is the Agile Development methodology extending onto the planning and operational aspects of the lifecycle (represented by the green outer circle), which surrounds people, process and technology with a culture of continuous assessment. Continuous assessment is essential because there are many new ways to bridge the gap between traditional IT operations and agile development. Traditional IT likes to manage risk by scheduling regular releases. Agile development advocates a “build to run” philosophy and continuous delivery of upgrades.


Cloud computing, like HP Helion built with OpenStack technology, makes it essential that Dev and Ops work more closely together. Cloud computing is making stack deployment lightning fast. As infrastructure becomes code, stacks that used to take weeks to assemble in a rack can now be provisioned and configured in minutes.


Gridlock will occur if developers adopt the new principles of infrastructure-as-code, but operations hangs on to manual processes. Or the opposite may occur – operations may be on the leading edge while developers build apps on a server this is running outdated software on an old version of the operating system. When the developers finally toss their app “over the wall” to Operations, Ops turns into a tollbooth, stopping the release while it tests whether the app will function on an up-to-date platform.


I took my finished presentation to Cloud Expo, and it was well received. Everyone identified with the cloud journey metaphor. They understood that success in adopting and implementing DevOps hinges upon having a clear understanding of the barriers.


Ultimately, Dev and Ops should no longer be viewed as separate entities, but as complementary and connected entities in a system. Just as yin and yang describe how apparently orthogonal forces in the natural world can be complementary, interconnected and interdependent, so DevOps in the IT world can balance Ops yin with Dev yang to provide the speed and stability needed to meet business needs.


At Cloud Expo, I wrapped up my presentation with this insight that DevOps has a yin and yang duality. I have focused on that idea in a separate blog: DevOps epiphany – yin and yang in the cloud era. Stay tuned for it next week. It offers a  deeper dive on the similarities, differences and inter-connections in Dev and Ops.


To learn more about how HP Helion can give your business a competitive advantage, check us out at and follow us on @hphelioncloud.


Senior Manager, Cloud Online Marketing
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About the Author


I manage the HPE Helion social media and website teams promoting the enterprise cloud solutions at HPE for hybrid, public, and private clouds. I was previously at Dell promoting their Cloud solutions and was the open source community manager for OpenStack and at Rackspace and Citrix Systems. While at Citrix Systems, I founded the Citrix Developer Network, developed global alliance and licensing programs, and even once added audio to the DOS ICA client with assembler. Follow me at @SpectorID