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DevOps: The Future Of DIY IT?

If Gartner’s recent poll of NoSQL database adopters is any indication, traditional IT is dead. Not just a little bit dead. Dead dead.

According to the Gartner poll, a scant 5.5% of NoSQL users identified themselves as DBAs that run their businesses operating on those storage systems. The survey was small, but it might point to a larger trend: Do-it-yourself (DIY) IT, or DevOps.

DevOps Rising

DevOps is sometimes characterized as developers reigning over operations, but that’s not really the case. Rather, as Mike Loukides suggests, “Operations doesn’t go away, it becomes part of the development.” Application developers, increasingly running in cloud environments, take on more traditional operations responsibilities with Ops becoming part of the application. 

It’s catching on. As Microsoft’s Tim Park declares, DevOps is “the new normal” given that “infrastructure is too complex now to manage with humans,” requiring “automation of everything.”

The numbers agree. Since 2011, DevOps adoption has increased 26%, according to a 2013 survey by Puppet Labs. The rise in DevOps also translates into the ability to ship code 30X faster. All of which is expressed in a separate CA Technologies survey of senior IT decision-makers, which found that improvements to the customer experience are by far the biggest reasons enterprises are embracing DevOps.  

So what happens now to the traditional IT Operations professional?

Who Is Running This Stuff?

The answer is, of course, that it’s unclear. But looking at Gartner’s data, the numbers don’t bode well for traditional operations:

Commenting on the data, Gartner analyst Nick Heudecker notes: “DBAs simply aren’t a part of the NoSQL conversation. This means DBAs, intentionally or not, are being eliminated from a rapidly growing area of information management.” While Heudecker is talking specifically about DBAs and NoSQL databases, this same trend is playing out across the IT spectrum. 

Developers are the new kingmakers, as Redmonk’s Stephen O’Grady reminds us. They do Ops differently.

Not that this is without problems. In my experience, developers are often unprepared or unwilling to take on the burden of managing their applications in production. Trained for years on the idea that they could build an application and dump it on Operations to manage, developers are discovering that the “Ops” in DevOps is real, and sometimes painful.

Heudecker captures this concern: “Application developers may be getting what they want from NoSQL now, but cutting out the primary data stewards will result in long-term data quality and information governance challenges for the larger enterprise.”

Ops By Another Name

Such issues will need to be tackled by the rising generation of DevOps professionals. But let’s be clear: It’s too late to go back to the old way of managing IT. CSC’s Simon Wardley posits that we’re well into a “Next Generation” approach to IT, one that elevates developers and significantly changes the role of traditional IT Ops. Given the crushing need for development speed, there simply is no other way.

Lead image courtesy of DevOpsDays, lower image courtesy of Gartner

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