Earlier we wrote about accelerating cloud success with factories that support DevOps. Today we’re going to zoom out a little and explore how DevOps automation has become a lynchpin to IT modernization and a competitive position in today’s marketplace. Just as the assembly line gave automakers an incredible advantage in the market, DevOps automation creates efficiencies of scale that bring serious competitive advantage to today’s early adopters.
To effectively compete in today’s rapidly industrializing IT environment, companies must build DevOps automation into their systems and processes or risk becoming irrelevant. We’ll explain why through a brief historical example.
The Assembly Line
In 1901, Ransom Olds, founder of Oldsmobile, patented the assembly line. This new process allowed the company to increase the number of cars built by 500% in one year. While many people credit the Model T as the first mass produced vehicle, the Curved Dash model was first with Oldsmobile manufacturing 20 Dash per day. It was against this new assembly line that Henry Ford competed; he in turn applied a conveyor system to automate the movement of vehicles through the assembly line, further reducing the time to build a car to just 2-½ hours.
With Oldsmobile and Ford adopting assembly lines for mass production, other auto manufacturers were ultimately faced with the option to adopt the new process or go out of business. More than FOMO (fear of missing out), the automation of IT processes is placing similar ‘evolve or die’ type pressures on organizations -- regardless of size, industry or geography.
The DevOps Assembly Line
In today’s IT modernization era, we see the assembly line in the form of interconnected, automated pipelines. According to DevOps.com, DevOps Assembly Lines are, “focused on automating and connecting activities performed by several teams, such as CI for devs, infrastructure provisioning and configuration management for ops, test automation for test, security patching for SecOps, semantic versioning and approval gates for release managers, deployments for multiple environments, and so on.”
While this sounds easier said than done, at Flux7, our DevOps toolchain includes the use of several tools that automate these DevOps steps bringing them together to achieve continuous, automated delivery. In this way we help enable organizations to experiment more, fail at less cost, and more accurately measure their results.
Industrialization Style Automation
From factories to DevOps assembly lines, Development, Operations and the business gain significantly from industrializing IT. Just as automation and the assembly line ushered in mass production, DevOps automation provides greater repeatability and consistency of IT processes and products. For example, by using automation to provision new systems on demand, these assets can be created exactly alike, giving us cattle (rather than pets) which can then be treated interchangeably. Scalability is enhanced as fewer fragile artifacts exist within the environment and systems can easily be added, removed and/or recreated on demand.
Rather than spending time on mundane, repeatable tasks, DevOps automation allows Developers and Operations to focus on more strategic work, thereby reducing wasted effort and growing employee productivity and efficiency. These benefits combine to enable teams to fail fast thereby increasing the company’s pace of change and velocity of innovation.
Before mass production, parts for products were each hand made by craftsman. This scenario favored the tradesman. For example, if a component needed to be replaced, it would have to be re-crafted by the designer by hand. In much the same way, environments filled with ‘pets’ often require the original designer to repair the fragile asset. Firefighters are valued in this environment with surprise fires erupting often -- even as the result of something as trivial as a business-as-usual change.
Gene Kim, founder of IT Revolution, has an insightful anecdote about a company whose outages remarkably decreased over the holidays. Why? It turns out that as more IT staff went on vacation, fewer changes were made and as a result, the fragile systems broke less. Fewer changes meant fewer breaks and less firefighting.
A Well-Honed Team
DevOps allows us to work as a well-honed team, working in cross-functional groups to reach our business goals. At Flux7, we advocate for cross-functional teams that deliver to the overall value stream. Beginning at even the earliest stages of DevOps within the organization, a cross-functional team should be developed to helm the introduction and subsequent DevOps expansion.
We often refer to this team as a Center of Excellence (CoE) but they may also be called a Center of Practice (CoP). This group’s role is to capture best practices and other learning in order to effectively serve as DevOps champions to the rest of the organization, in the process breaking down silos, helping upskill others, and expanding a culture of DevOps.
Enhanced efficiency; greater throughput and productivity; the ability to use resources to drive innovation rather than repeatable tasks; greater stability and control; and repeatability and confidence. The benefits of applying automation to the process of creating goods - whether it be the Model T or Infrastructure as Code - vastly improve business outcomes. While we are not the first to draw attention to the parallel between industrialization and IT modernization with the help of DevOps, it’s become increasingly clear that in this revolution, companies must build DevOps automation into their systems and processes or risk becoming irrelevant.