Facilitating DevOps with automation

Skills shortages and the difficulty of bringing together an entirely new team are frequently cited as the biggest barriers to effective DevOps culture. Andy Barrow, CTO, ANS Group, explains how this can be overcome. 

Big businesses used to have the competitive advantage over small. More resource often meant that a company would triumph over its smaller competitors. The digital revolution changed that, and now it’s those who are able to rapidly adapt to changing markets and customer demand who succeed – a change which is now enabled by technology.

Access to utility-based cloud computing has allowed organisations with fewer resources to access the same technology as large, corporate businesses, meaning they are able to disrupt and respond faster than larger competitors.

The DevOps challenge

For many, speed is the result of a DevOps culture, which creates a continuous customer feedback loop in order to refine and enhance their offering.

DevOps is, by definition, about uniting developers and operations staff to create one efficient team. However, for a traditional business looking to adopt this type of culture, the process of bringing people together can often be the biggest barrier to successfully embracing this new way of working.

This significant change in organisational structure also means that board-level buy in and significant investment is needed, which some companies may struggle with. There’s also the issue of creating the perfect large team of developers, designers and testers who are likely used to keeping themselves to themselves, which takes time and a lot of work. It doesn’t help that DevOps is a slightly cloudy concept which makes it difficult to explain to employees their new role and job description.

However, even when a business can create the perfect DevOps team, who work seamlessly together, they can only take on feedback, identify and executive solutions if they have the technology in place to streamline the entire process. To achieve high-quality products with as much speed and efficiency as possible, an effective physical working environment needs to be supplemented by a virtual one.

The automation goal

Launching new or enhanced products with maximum velocity and in the quickest time possible, is the ambition underpinning DevOps. Therefore, the way to best achieve this goal is by automating the parts of the development process which don’t require evaluation from different teams, and offering the development team their own tools.

This approach has worked well for Netflix, which is the perfect example of a company that has fully and successfully embraced a DevOps culture. Its product development cycle is extremely fast, which enables the company to tweak and adapt its platform multiple times a day as it strives to stay ahead of its competitors.

However, if your company has not always been focused on the customer feedback loop, selecting the right tools and deciding which processes to automate can make moving to DevOps complicated – let alone creating your own tools. Companies that are looking to move from a traditional waterfall software design model to an efficient DevOps culture should look to pre-built infrastructure to streamline the entire process.

Utilising the cloud

Cloud hyperscale providers or pre-built cloud infrastructure are both viable options, providing both operations teams and developers with a common platform to work from. This brings them together and allows them to work on projects simultaneously via automated staging environments. With plenty of people working on different projects at the same time, collaboration is important.

The successful and efficient development and deployment of apps is becoming increasingly crucial to businesses across every sector. The way that consumers interact with businesses will only become more digital and if the products and applications that they use are clumsy, difficult to navigate or laden with bugs, customers go elsewhere for the services they need.

DevOps is so popular because it helps to prevent this from happening, but it does require continuous attention from an integrated and efficient team. It’s a change that also requires input from outside the IT department, investment, and changes to organisational structures. For traditional businesses, it is a difficult change that they need to be ready for – and pre-built infrastructure can provide the foundations to help them abolish the belief that slow and steady wins the race.

Edited for web by Cecilia Rehn.