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By Dian Hansen
Technology is changing how we live, how we operate businesses, how we deliver value for the company. SaaS, IoT, cloud, mobile and other technologies are driving innovation. Customer expectations are also changing, with data as the new king, creating an edge to cloud ecosystem. Agility and experimentation are necessary components to unlock business value in this new edge-to-cloud world. As organizations embark on their digital transformations and focus on delivering more value to their customers and stakeholders, a DevOps approach becomes crucial, and it is central to a new operating model. Here are the key considerations to evolve to a cloud operating model and maximize the impact of DevOps across the organization
What is DevOps?
There are several views and opinions on the definition of DevOps. At HPE, we believe it is not a function or a set of tools but instead a way to deliver value, requiring support from management and champions on the ground. Cloud native DevOps requires new skills for developers as well as automation, security, and operational changes. Emerging patterns such as GitOps and Kubernetes Resource Model-based “Configuration as Data” bring additional disruption as teams move to take advantage of new opportunities. Change is the only constant but in order to benefit, flexibility and agility are critical. But how should DevOps and automation alignment be driven with this new hybrid cloud operating model and speed?
The DevOps journey is different for everyone. While some teams are experimenting with new paradigms, many others are just developing a strategy, often combined with other transformation programs. Because the journey touches governance, culture, automation, and continuous improvement along with other areas, it can be very difficult to adopt successfully.
Automation is at the heart of enterprise DevOps. In driving the transformation, IT can become the leader in enabling business and transforming to an agile and “nimble” organization. Cloud native methodologies move beyond the simple “lift and shift” of applications into the cloud and enable innovation through speed of release and flexibility but require new methods such as open API integration, loosely coupled systems, containers, and resilient, policy-driven automation. Many teams have introduced SRE (Site Reliability Engineers) to increase velocity through automation of operations tasks as well as identifying and resolving issues through automation, improving reliability and customer satisfaction. Mature DevOps practices include enterprise adoption of frameworks, industry standards and patterns such as automation as-a-service and a factory-based approach for quality and consistency of pipelines and deployments. Automation practices that reduce developer friction such as self-service are the gold standard when implemented across organizations to provide a consistent user experience.
Culture and enablement
As called out in the Agile Manifesto principle “people and interactions over process”, people are the most important aspect of DevOps. Often engineers are excited to pick up the new skills and tools that are a part of cloud native and DevOps practices. Others can be concerned with changing roles, lack of knowledge or just uncomfortable with the transparency that comes with DevOps. People managers and product managers may struggle to adapt to agile methodologies where long-term roadmaps aren’t committed. Organizational capabilities to identify DevOps skills and leverage cross-functional teams are a must for a successful DevOps initiative. Agile, empowered teams delivering innovation driven through the cycle of failure/learning/new ideas are the hallmarks of mature teams. Evidence from the DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) group illustrates the value through these metrics:
Lead time for changes
Change failure rate
Time to restore service
A comprehensive DevOps transformation can produce significant benefits but must ensure you bring your people along for the journey.
Governance and continuous improvement
Automation and DevOps practices have fundamentally changed how companies deliver value but in order to take advantage of the speed and agility gains, governance must also adapt. Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipelines have long been used to automate software testing and packaging but with IaC and containers, they are now a necessary component for integrating more than just software testing. Security is a high-profile concern, both in software development and in the infrastructure supply chain. Integrating security into pipeline moves it early in development cycles and ensures security is everyone’s responsibility instead of inserted last minute by security professionals. Aligning the pace of security to development through pipeline automation improves velocity as well. Pipelines are central to GitOps, a cloud native approach to pipelines that delivers robust telemetry and metrics, supporting continuous improvement through transparency and observability. Adopting new governance practices, including DevSecOps pipelines is a necessary change to deliver business value at today’s speed.
How should organizations transition to become an agile, flexible company implementing automation best practices, continuous improvement-based governance, with empowered, innovative teams? There are three key components to moving to a DevOps approach as well as improving existing practices: Assessment, Roadmap, and Execution
It is essential to understand the starting point. The role of DevOps is to deliver execution, measurement, and improvement; initiating the journey without information can lead to an overestimation of needs in some areas while critical improvements are missed in others.
Once an assessment of the start point is determined, it’s time to answer the critical question – what are the important objectives for the DevOps transformation? What are the business outcomes that will be used as metrics? Key consideration – avoid vanity metrics related to quantity or number of stories delivered and instead focus on measuring capabilities related to lead time for changes, change rate failure or other similar measures.
Additional considerations include communicating strategy company-wide. Are there other transformation initiatives such as automation that need to be integrated to avoid duplication? Often a transformation business office can help ensure all initiatives are aligned.
How will the organization grow to deliver agility, speed, and enhanced customer experience? How will it drive a move to cloud-native applications and solutions, utilizing cloud native best practices? What are the steps needed to make progress on the journey? Creating a specific backlog that aligns to DevOps transformation combines execution with metrics. User stories such as these will provide the stepping stones to success:
As an architect, I want to improve upon our standard gold imaging process to use CIS and support automation, so that it performs at the industry standards
As a security architect, I want to verify SSO requirements are enforced across the entire organization, so that I can ensure identities and access is integrated across systems
As a Cloud/DevOps Architect, I need to establish a CI/CD pipeline that can support deployment targets on-premises and in the public cloud, such that the organization can satisfy workload portability, resiliency, and DR targets
Armed with the current-state assessment, a strategic roadmap and a backlog that encompasses the varied areas of change, the journey can be started or using the same process, advance DevOps maturity.
A framework to help
DevOps aims to deliver agility and flexibility, but at its heart, it is about continuous improvement. Whatever DevOps maturity is now, change and improvement are core necessities. A framework to assess, update and execute strategy can help transform teams while setting them up for future growth. HPE has the Edge-to-Cloud Adoption Framework that helps create an actionable roadmap to DevOps vision as well as ensure it is aligned with higher-level business goals and transformation strategy.
With over 20 years of experience in software development and automation, Dian brings a focus on business outcomes through automation and agility. Continuous improvement is a journey, and she works with customers to deliver innovative solutions that span edge, data center, co-lo, and public clouds, driving transformation to unlock business value.