DevOps: The Secret to Doing More, Faster and Cheaper

by: Paul Rix, CEO of Zanaris

What’s the Common Denominator? Apps.

Let’s start with a brief quiz to see if you’ve kept up with business news. What’s the world’s largest taxi company? Who is now a top-10 U.S. retailer? Biggest accommodations provider? Easy. Uber. Amazon. Airbnb. What do they have in common? They’re digital companies. Category disruptors. Upstarts that are gobbling up the old guard in their industries.

But they also exemplify something else. They’re part of the new economy. And the new economy is based on applications and software.

Apps have become the business imperative, the key conduit to your customers, and the essential business enabler. The mission-critical aspects of business run on apps. They are the competitive differentiator. And they’re proliferating, with no end in sight.

As a trusted advisor to your customers, you recognize that IT buyers in the organizations you support are incorporating apps as quickly as possible. They might be pushing out an app-based service to sell to, engage with, and support customers and business partners. Or they might be developing apps to increase productivity and efficiency. But in their bid to keep pace with the market, they may also be hitting a wall.

How can you, as a consultant, channel sales expert, or agent, work with your customers as they struggle to fund, roll out, house, manage, and update all of these apps? How can you help your customers climb over that wall and move their business forward?

The App Development and Maintenance Dilemma

Companies take a few different approaches to dealing with apps. First, they hire an ever-expanding army of people. Building and managing software and apps is people-intensive. But that’s a short-term solution, even with the budget to sustain it. The security experts, developers, operations professionals, and engineers needed to build and manage these apps are in short supply.

Businesses also look to the cloud. It promises to be more cost effective, agile, and scalable. Many have moved to at least a hybrid environment of cloud and physical infrastructure, with applications and workloads running on both.

But, as you know, another hot topic in the business and IT press is how the cloud hasn’t necessarily delivered on these promises. When companies get there, many quickly realize how complex and costly the cloud can be. They need deeper knowledge and tooling to manage it effectively. They can’t spin up additional environments quickly, there are too many features and too much functionality, and they don’t know how to manage the cloud for an app environment. And every time they bring up a new cloud, they have to move things around and staff the move.

Therein lies your dilemma. Your customers are in an app-dependent world, but there aren’t enough people or large enough budgets to support life there. And what they thought was one solution—the cloud—is not solving the problem.

DevOps to the Rescue!

The cloud can be ideal for an app-based world, but it requires a switch from an infrastructure mentality to an app mentality. The mistake many companies make is to take the traditional processes and approaches for infrastructure…and move them to the cloud. If it was on the server, now it’s in the cloud. They’re not changing the way they automate, scale, or test.

With an app mentality, you shift from scaling your environment with humans to scaling with technology. And the most effective way to do that is with DevOps.

What Do We Mean by DevOps?

Before we dive into the beauty of DevOps, let’s define what we mean. DevOps is part philosophy, part tools, and part processes, all combined into a new approach to deliver apps and services at hyper speed. It incorporates popular frameworks and methodologies to run in tandem across the entire systems development lifecycle. This means you can have agile development, continuous integration, and continuous delivery. In other words, you can keep pace with an app-based world.

The difference DevOps can make in deployment times is dramatic and measurable. In one organization, DevOps decreased deployment time from seven weeks to less than seven minutes. In another, deployment times went from one month to ninety seconds with a push of a button.

Bridging the Gap Between Development and Operations

One of the biggest upsides of DevOps is cultural. The term DevOps is a bit of a paradox. If you’re familiar with development and operations teams, you know one of the sources of angst in the app delivery process is the communications gap between the two.

On one hand, developers want to use the latest tools, languages, and frameworks, but it’s becoming more and more difficult for operations to support their work and allocate the right resources. On the other hand, operations feels like the dev team doesn’t provide enough notice when requests and changes are coming, so they can’t be as responsive as dev would like. Each team feels like it’s working too hard to overcome the requirements imposed by the other.

DevOps can help bridge this gap. After all, they often have a common antagonist in the shadow IT groups (unless developers are the shadow IT group…) that are finding ways around IT, muddying the environment, and creating security and compliance issues. In other companies, the complexity of the environment is a challenge that both groups are dealing with.

Development and operations also have common pressures. Business units press tight timelines to get environments staged, releases tested, and apps rolled out. And both teams are held accountable.

To handle these pressures and have the agility necessary to stymie rogue groups, development and operations teams have to work in concert. DevOps processes and tooling can make that happen. In addition to improving processes, the two groups can take a team- and small-project-based approach.

Financial and Process Benefits of DevOps

With a DevOps model, it’s possible to build repeatable processes that are faster, more efficient, and scalable. Just look at usage. Many companies don’t know how much they’re spending on public cloud computing services. There’s a tremendous amount of waste—some estimates are as much as 35 percent—from companies doing things like not tracking usage or forgetting to shut down instances when they’re not actually in use.

With DevOps, your customers can employ tooling, automation, and scripting to put parameters in place to auto-provision storage as they need it. Your customers can get additional capacity at certain times of the year/month/day to quickly spin up new environments when needed, and scale back down when not needed. They can also automate the orchestration of bug fixes, break/fixes, security patches, etc. to speed time to market. And DevOps can manage versions: how often they’re implemented and refreshed, and how code gets deployed.

Another benefit of DevOps is the ability to work at the application level down, using an agile, continuous development methodology, where applications drive the platform and business operation needs. With an understanding of languages used at the application level—typically Java and .NET—protocols can be managed up and down the stack. This makes vendor-specific OS knowledge unnecessary: it’s possible to manage with generalists, which allows for more scalability.

Opportunities for Channel Sales Experts and Agents

So how do you know if DevOps is the right path forward for your clients? Here are a few things to listen for:

Becoming more proficient in the DevOps domain will put you in a better position to help your clients with their IT transformation, acceleration, and maintenance.

For the transformation piece, you can help your clients get up to speed on popular configuration management tools and DevOps methodologies. If they’re just getting started with a DevOps strategy or need help maintaining a current system, you can help take them to the next level. You can educate them on using DevOps for resource provisioning, continuous integration, and automated application performance.

As a trusted advisor, you can guide your clients through an audit of their application architecture and software delivery process, and provide a holistic, well-documented view of their current state.

On the acceleration piece, you can help your clients choose a platform and technology-agnostic provider. A next-generation service provider can work with your clients on application configuration management, using tools like Chef and Puppet.

On the maintenance piece, your service provider partner can provide insights and expertise around scaling, as well as assist with changes in the application environment.

The Final Word

For IT consultants, solution providers, channel sales experts and agents, there is plenty of value and opportunity in the cloud for large and small customers. Whether a company is in a hybrid environment or just starting on the cloud, DevOps is an area of growing investment as customers—and their budgets—pivot to a more agile way of technology management to increase speed to market and app delivery capabilities. With development and operations teams working together through DevOps methods, you can help your customers not just keep pace with the world of digital disruptors, but also thrive in it.

Written in Partnership with Clarify 360’s Jo Peterson, VP of Cloud Services:

About Clarify360 

Clarify360 is a technology sourcing and benchmarking firm specializing in the discovery, planning and migration of connectivity, collaboration and cloud/colocation deployments globally. Experts with decades of experience lead each of our three practice areas: Connectivity, Collaboration, Cloud/Colocation. We collaborate on each initiative, affording our clients expert strategy and execution without the overhead inherent in larger consulting practices. Our full service methodology encompasses planning and design through delivery and ongoing operation –