By Angela Jajko

Recently I had the chance to sit down with Taos principal architects Tim Clark and Brandon Knitter, the hosts of our Harness the Power of DevOps webinar (watch the recording here), to hear their thoughts about our live presentation and to delve into some deeper DevOps concepts. We talked about what DevOps really means, its impact on companies throughout every industry, and how it’s shaping the future of business.  

Let’s talk about the audience questions received during the webinar because you were both taking turns giving thoughtful, specific answers to each one. Which topics stood out the most for you? 

Tim: Everybody had high-level questions, but one that stood out for me was “what is the impact to your business when you embrace a DevOps culture,” and another was “what are the various team dynamics around DevOps?” 

Brandon: Some of the questions I saw included senior leaders asking about value, time to market, and culture; whereas the engineers asked, “how do I implement this?” 

Tim: If you take all the technology aside, DevOps is just a better way for people to work together more effectively. That’s the crux of it. DevOps is a cultural journey, and at the end of the day it’s about getting teams to work together as a single unit. You have people who bring a wealth of knowledge around infrastructure and people with a wealth of knowledge around the application architecture. They’ve been focused myopically on those two subject matters. When you bring those two teams together, you create a more cohesive, strategic, and more reliable product. 

Brandon: Yes, and there’s more than just the development or engineering or operations sides – there’s release engineering, engineering support, QA, etc. All of this is wrapped up into DevOps. DevOps is a modern way of looking at it, but all these components that make it up have always existed. We’re just now getting good at it.  

So DevOps is really about a collaborative culture rather than just the technology or tools. Do you think people misuse the term “DevOps”? 

Tim: You have to be careful of the buzzword approach. Lots of people can say “I want to do DevOps” but have no idea what it really means. 

Brandon: The culture starts with all these people saying, “Let’s work together.” And the process comes in to say, how are we going to work together? And the tools are what enable all of it. But the tools are where most people start. Or they start by looking for new skill sets rather than figuring out how preexisting roles are going to work together. 

Going back to those questions from senior leaders, how would you help them understand DevOps and the business impact? 

Tim: For, say, a CIO, you would try this approach: it’s not about tools. It’s not about automation. It’s about collaboration. It’s about allowing each individual in your line of business to be responsible for deploying whatever you are producing. When something fails, we as an organization will build a strategy that’s going to mitigate that problem for the future. It’s also ensuring that everyone on the team is accountable for the end result of the product they are creating. If not enough testing is done to ensure maturity and viable integration, then even the people who don’t like to get on calls or deal with things face-to-face have to be brought into the process. The people have to be on board with and behind the collaborative effort. 

Brandon: That is really a key point that everybody has a responsibility here, that it is not engineering throwing it over the fence and letting ops handle it. If you are an engineer, you are ultimately responsible for the destiny of your own service. Another interesting question, Angela, is how do senior leaders sell down the benefits of DevOps to their teams? You’ve heard of this thing call DevOps, you know it is successful, and it can be demonstrated many times how successful it is, but how do you get your employees to integrate all these different technologies and tools and work together? You must build the momentum to get people engaged in a DevOps culture.

While tools are not the foundation of a DevOps culture, picking the right ones for an organization requires expertise. What is the process for selecting the best DevOps tools? 

Tim: It all depends on a lot of different factors. Your tools should align with what your enterprise is doing. Often, I try to identify the team’s current skill sets–not necessarily if they’re technically strong, but are they capable on their own? Are they willing to learn new things? 

Brandon: Every step in the process has its own set of tools you can choose from, and some work better than others. I typically go through a product selection process to meet the specific organization needs. 

Along with our expertise on culture and tooling, what’s the Taos DevOps difference? 

Brandon: DevOps requires upfront investment, which is going to cost money and time and you’ll need people to do it. That’s where Taos comes in. We bring the skills to our clients, educating them, helping them, and rolling up our sleeves and implementing with them. 

Tim: You need deep technical skill set on application architecture and infrastructure design, and there’s a lot of nuances and integration, and someone has to put that together. What Taos brings to the table is the procedure, the technical mechanisms, the cultural shifts, and the team dynamics to make it all happen. We boil it all down and make it more easily transferable to an existing company. 

Final thoughts- what’s the future of DevOps? Will a DevOps culture become just the way we do business? 

Tim: Technology is always emerging and moving forward, right? People will always try to make things more efficient, more reliable, and want to build them faster with more automation. I think cloud providers will give you more functionality and feature sets within the cloud where more will be built into the platform itself. It’s going to be all about just deploying an application. I’ll have to provide some blueprint and some data construct, and all these things are going to be just built automatically. It’s already happening in the serverless foundations that are out there. 

Brandon: I’d say where things are going to start to evolve is as the platforms that we deploy to mature, there will be a requirement for advancements in the release pipelines, forcing more efficiency and better tooling. For example, Spinnaker is a fitting example where a tool was born to solve the release into Kubernetes.  I also think we are going to see how a DevOps culture benefits other parts of the organization. If the engineering machine moves faster, that is a benefit for the whole company.  

Many thanks to Brandon and Tim for taking the time to give their unique perspectives on DevOps. If you have any questions on how a true DevOps culture can impact your business, contact Taos today to talk to one of our experts.