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5/21/2014
09:06 AM
Andi Mann
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How DevOps Benefits Large Enterprises

The era when DevOps was just for startups is over. There's plenty of proof that big companies have figured out how to benefit from this software development method, too.

I read a provocative article in The Wall Street Journal's CIO Journal May 13 by Rachel Shannon-Solomon, a venture associate at Work-Bench, entitled "DevOps Is Great for Startups, but for Enterprises It Won't Work—Yet." In it, Rachel asserted that enterprises face immutable barriers to implementing a DevOps approach.

She wrote:

Devops is a buzzword for a new movement associated with enterprise IT that in reality plays more in the domain of startups and SMBs… While the theoretical use cases for devops within enterprise IT are not dissimilar, the potential for adoption within large organizations is less rosy… I've found that there is no lack of appetite to experiment with devops practices at the enterprise scale… But ultimately, there are few true change agents within enterprise IT willing to effect devops implementations.

[Want more DevOps misconceptions? Read Busting 5 DevOps Myths.]

Leaving aside the somewhat insidious a priori assumption that DevOps is just a buzzword, there is a lot that is right about this article. Large enterprises absolutely are different from the startups and web "unicorns" such as Netflix, Google, Facebook, and Amazon -- the businesses most commonly highlighted as being at the forefront of DevOps maturity. As Rachel points out, traditional large enterprises have calcified silos, cultures, processes, and org structures. They mostly use commercial off-the-shelf software from large vendors rather than free and open-source software from small startups. And they look for ROI more than cultural movements.

I would add that large enterprises are also less agile, more complex, and more financially, legally, and geographically constrained. I definitely agree there are significant barriers standing in the way of a DevOps transformation for larger enterprises. Indeed, I have written about this before. However, much of this CIO Journal article is also factually wrong.

Image: Wikipedia
Image: Wikipedia

Rachel cites some unnamed and unverifiable sources ("startup founders, technology incumbents offering devops solutions, and technologists within large enterprises"), but whoever they are, I believe they are not giving her the fact-based insight she needs on this topic. Rather, many sources show quite definitively that large enterprises are adopting DevOps today and reaping the benefits.

To start with, it is simply false that DevOps is not already happening at large enterprises. For example, large enterprises such as DirecTV and Union Bank already are achieving fantastic results with their own DevOps approaches. For what it's worth, CA Technologies is a 37-year-old Fortune 500 company with 13,000 employees and $4.6 billion in revenues (by almost any measure,

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Andi Mann is an accomplished digital executive with global expertise as a strategist, technologist, innovator, marketer, and communicator. With over 30 years' experience, he is a sought-after advisor, commentator, and speaker. Andi has coauthored two books. He blogs at Andi ... View Full Bio
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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
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5/27/2014 | 12:44:00 PM
Cockcroft: Not doing DevOps? Prepare to be disrupted
May 27 email comment from ex-Netflix architect, current Battery Ventures advisor Adrian Cockcroft: "I know Andi and I tweeted a response at the time. Basically Enterprises that aren't ready to do DevOps will be disrupted by those that are. Adrian"
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
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5/22/2014 | 5:31:49 PM
"Permission-less organizations"....
Good point. Thanks for comment on need for "permission-less organizations" from Archimedius, also known as Greg Ness, director of worldwide marketing at CloudVelocity.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
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5/21/2014 | 8:24:26 PM
The difficulty with large enterprises....
Rich Wolski, CTO of Eucalyptus Systems, comes closer below than CIO Journal writer did in describing why large enterprise systems are calcified and ossified. It's not that these organizations like to fight rationality.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
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5/21/2014 | 6:04:37 PM
DevOps is more than a buzzword
DevOps may not be the right word but it's more than a buzzword. Mann himself has said that he prefers "continuous delivery" or some other moniker that refers to frequent updates to production systems. Glad Mark Thiele, an IW cloud contributor and executive VP of data center technology at SuperNAP, chimed in.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
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5/21/2014 | 12:21:04 PM
How to move away from silos, calicification
Drew, I am not an expert on DevOps, but from what I've read, you want to standardize the environment as much as possible. Buy variations on one type of server, allow a narrow range of operating systems that will be maintained by someone else and stick to them. Limit the development tools, even though that is viewed as a serious incursion on the development team's preference and authority. Concentrate on the technologies needed by your organization and bar those that are peripheral or personal preferences. By simplifying the environment, you move closer to a DevOps style of operation.

 
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