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DevOps: Stop The Existential Angst

Want to use DevOps to improve time to market, decrease risk, and reduce operating expenses? Then stop with the navel-gazing and start taking advantage of scripting, templates, virtualization, and open APIs.

Twentieth-century philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre embraced existentialism throughout his works -- works I do not recommend unless you have insomnia. To save you the pain of slogging through Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, I'll sum it up: Words are cheap. Actions are what count.

In short, the meaning -- of life, of mankind, of the universe -- is defined by what we do, not by what we say. Let's apply that to DevOps for a moment, because the industry is currently churning in a sea of turmoil over the definition of DevOps. Is it people? Is it a cultural shift? Is it the tools you use to apply an agile methodology to operations? Is it a role? A group? A title?

I say, forget all that. DevOps is as DevOps does.

[Want more on how to harness DevOps? Attend Lori MacVittie's Interop workshop, Achieving Operational Excellence Through DevOps.]

Rather than asking what DevOps is, ask what it does for you and your organization. What DevOps will do is a far better question than what it is, because by answering what it will do we get a better understanding of what it is. (How's that for existential reasoning?)

DevOps improves time to market. How? By operationalizing the processes that provision apps and their supporting infrastructure. By using scripting, templates, and open APIs, operations can automate and orchestrate the process of provisioning the services necessary to move an app into production.

It decreases risk. How? By promoting the practice of encapsulating infrastructure as code and reducing the number of keystrokes necessary to provision compute, storage, and network services. Human error remains a significant contributor to disruptive data center downtime. Reducing the number of keystrokes means reducing the number of errors and thus decreasing the risk associated with a deployment.  

It reduces operating expenses. How? By automating and orchestrating deployments, the number of hours (and people) needed to provision and run services can be reduced. That means less cost per application and more money available to spend on innovation, new services, and evaluating new technology.

So take action -- explore frameworks and tools such as Puppet, Chef, Vagrant, and Ansible, and evaluate software-defined systems such as OpenStack, VMware NSX, and Cisco ACI.

Through action -- the process of implementation -- DevOps promotes a more collaborative environment because in order to orchestrate the deployment of an application, you have to know all the services and systems that must be provisioned and configured to succeed. That means operations, networking, security, and development must cooperate to define the entire package that makes up an application when it's finally in production. There's the cultural change aspect, but whether it's the chicken or the egg is debatable and, I'd argue, largely irrelevant. That it will happen is inevitable, because the end goal requires it.

So don't worry too much about the definition of DevOps.

DevOps is as DevOps does.  

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