This article originally appeared on Forbes.
High in the mountains of Pakistan lie some of the most dangerous roads in the world. With sheer cliff faces that abruptly meet raging rivers thousands of feet below, these roads offer no guardrails to keep vehicles from sliding off, nor protection from falling rocks above. Torrential rains often cascade across the unpaved roadways, eroding gullies out of the dirt, making the paths among the most feared stretches of road in the world.
Only the most well-trained drivers dare traverse these roads, and locals are even taught how to drive every inch of them starting from as young as 12 years old. It struck me that we have established a similar paradigm within IT and that DevOps allows us to turn the one-lane road of traditional IT into a broad, paved expressway safe for travelers of every stripe.
The Slow Path Of Traditional IT
IT operations is comprised of undoubtedly well-trained experts. They know how to navigate the potential hazards of a company’s systems and are aware of what’s behind the next bend before they reach it. The trade-off of this detailed knowledge is that each person within a team tends to be a specialist who manually handles specific tasks within the system. This means that IT can be slow, and those people needing a particular task completed that can only be done by these IT specialists must be patient and wait their turn -- much like the drivers on the Lowari pass.
DevOps is a Free-Flowing Highway
In contrast to traditional IT, the DevOps methodology uses automation to create a free-flowing freeway to success. It does so by providing guard rails, road signs and rules of the road. (Editor's Note: The Flux7 Enterprise DevOps Framework is a good visual guide, which you can see here.)
Guard rails: DevOps has clear lanes of traffic, and the DevOps model uses automation to provide guard rails. DevOps traffic is facilitated by technology-enabled pipelines that remove manual tasks, which means that processes are able to proceed faster -- and without waiting for a specialist to arrive and help. As a bonus, removing manual tasks also removes the potential for fat-finger errors.
Also serving as guardrails are tools called inspectors that monitor, log and inspect traffic to ensure that specific rules (security and regulatory compliance) are being followed. As elements move through the pipeline, inspectors audit for adherence to these rules. In a nutshell, inspectors ensure that anything on the highway abides by specific rules.
Road signs: The vast majority of roads feature signs that ensure traffic flows smoothly. Tools called injectors act similarly as they keep traffic moving at full speed by inserting information needed in a given process at the right time. Injectors keep people from having to stop a process in order to communicate specific information to each other. For example, injectors can inject environment-specific information into service templates on the fly as elements go through the pipeline.
DevOps automation in the form of injectors make the environment more stable and, as a result, more productive. With automation acting like road signs, traffic flows more smoothly and teams are able to accomplish more with their time.
Rules of the road: With a dual-lane highway for everyone to traverse, rules of the road are needed. These can be established with what I refer to as a cloud common library. This library of DevOps best practices gives everyone:
- Access to common tools in a central, known location.
- Samples to learn with and from.
- A central location for organizational knowledge so that as one member of the team learns, the entire team has the opportunity to learn along with them.
The cloud common library helps keep teams organized and from getting in each other’s way. The library provides common approaches and organizational standards that facilitate best practices and standardization that are akin to following the rules of the road, like driving on the correct side and staying in your lane.
With guard rails, proper road signs and rules of the road, DevOps enables an entire organization to move faster, more safely and with a greater focus on the end goal rather than merely traversing the path to get there.