Discover Performance

HP Software's community for IT leaders // July 2014

Building the bridge to DevOps

A DevOps transformation takes time. HP Software Professional Services CTO Shamim Ahmed looks at the process.

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DevOps can be a very confusing topic when you first look into it. If you look at DevOps literature, some people approach DevOps as a philosophy, while others focus on it in terms of process. Other people see it in terms of technology and tools, while others put culture ahead of all other considerations.

As CTO for Application Services with HP Software Professional Services, Shamim Ahmed often gets asked, "What are the concrete steps I need to follow to get to DevOps?" He advises his enterprise clients to take an incremental approach to DevOps. He has blogged on how to lead a DevOps transformation, discussing "a model we call continuous everything." Discover Performance recently cornered him for a discussion around the earliest steps in a DevOps transformation. We asked him to start from the first conversation he’d have with a client who is ready to grapple with "DevOps."

Core practices for apps and ops

"I suggest customers think of DevOps as a bridge," Ahmed explained. "A bridge essentially enables the flow of personnel and goods across a barrier."

Shamim Ahmed
The idea of DevOps "bridging" those traditionally separate disciplines is familiar, but Ahmed notes that people don’t always think about what it takes to actually build  that metaphorical bridge—starting with a solid foundation on both sides.

"There’s a core set of foundational practices you need to have on the apps side, and a core set of foundational practices you need to have on the ops side. Before you can actually launch the first DevOps journey, you need to have established those core apps practices and core ops practices."

Collaborative practices link apps and ops

The next layer in the DevOps bridge analogy is the deck. "The deck spans the two foundations of core apps and ops practices," Ahmed said, "and represents collaborative practices." The practices need to be standardized, so that people in processes and in technologies can collaborate with each other.

"Following the whole concept of shift-left, everything happens in the collaborative part of the deck," Ahmed explained. In shift-left strategy, a company attempts to resolve issues as close to the end user as possible, in an effort to keep support costs down while maintaining a high level of service.

These collaborative practices are generally never built from scratch, since all organizations are already doing application development and operations today. It’s a matter of solidifying some of the key existing practices and extending them. Ahmed described the process as more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Sustained practices provide agility

"Standard, or sustained, practices form the third layer, which in our view are the suspension cables of the bridge," Ahmed said. "These are the things that actually keep the bridge flexible, and also adjust for change. For example, when there is an earthquake, the bridge swings, the foundation remains stable, but if you don’t have the suspension cables, the bridge will collapse."

The suspension cables give you the flexibility that you need to stay current and be agile. "These sustained practices are the kinds of things that enable you to continuously improve," added Ahmed—a key requirement for DevOps.

"This three-layer roadmap of foundational, incremental, and sustained practices provides a practical way to look at DevOps," Ahmed concluded. "It’s not a maturity model, it’s not the big culture of transformation. It’s a sequence of concrete steps boiled down to black and white."                                                                      

Shamim Ahmed has more than 20 years of experience in large-scale application architecture, design and development, product research and development, large multi-shore project/program management, organizational quality management, and IT consulting.

For more on the HP Software Professional Services approach to DevOps, read the white paper, "DevOps: Unify App Delivery" (reg. req'd).


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