Much Ado About DevOps

Ted Dziuba certainly has a bone to pick about devops:

I’ve got to hand it to the Agile development guys — they were really good at liberating money out of organizations that all had trouble with something inherently difficult. The geniuses who developed Scrum and Extreme Programming executed masterfully; selling books and training; and they made some serious bank doing it. If you hang around Silicon Valley long enough, you know to applaud the hustle. It’s the classic Rainmaker scam. You pay a man to make it rain on your crops, and when it rains, he takes the credit. If it doesn’t rain, he comes up with an excuse that involves you paying more money.

What is the problem you want to solve?

The main issue with the Devops movement is that it treats symptoms, not problems. Yes, everybody wants to ship new code frequently and keep it stable, but the dev vs. ops feud is as old as the phrase “it’s 98% done, I just have to test it”. The symptoms of the problem are these:

  • Developers write code on their workstations and it doesn’t work in production.
  • Systems administrators are slow and reluctant to change production configurations.

As a result, it takes longer to ship features than it should. The underlying problem, however, is that dev and ops have different goals, and each group’s problem solving skills is a product of those goals. The Devops movement does try to cultivate some kind of understanding that developers and systems administrators are both working toward the same end, to put food on the table, but you will never be able to effect cultural change just by saying so.

Since no methodology peddler ever wants to say this, I will: there’s a point where you’re simply fucked. Meaning, you can’t solve the problem with the tools available. Sometimes, you have to fire people who aren’t working out. Sometimes, you’re too deep in technical debt and too pressed for time to do it the “right way”. And sometimes, projects fail. It is what it is. This isn’t defeatist, it’s realist.

I am not trying to sell you a book, I am just being honest about the problems you face. None of this amounts to a methodology, as the Devops people would have you believe. If your developers and your sys admins are so culturally different that they can’t agree on a solution to a simple technical problem, then your organization will not be fixed by some sunshine-up-your-ass methodology you read about in a blog or hear about at a conference. You need to change the culture the hard way, or replace people as necessary until the culture works.

The Devops movement smells of a scam in the making, not that I have any problem with that, after all, don’t knock the hustle. However, I’d rather not see people with real problems get roped in, thinking that there’s a magical 12-step program that will solve deep rooted problems. It just doesn’t work that way. Even so, the Devops people have a bit of traction, and they’re failing to capitalize on it. You’ve got a good thing going here, profit from that shit. Books, training, conferences, the whole bit. Get down to it.


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