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DevOps and Cloud: How to Make Business Love IT

DevOps and Cloud: How to Make Business Love IT

Can DevOps, a process for fostering a faster and more collaborative software development actually improve an enterprise’s profitability and market capitalization? In the not too distant past before cloud computing infrastructure paved the way for unprecedented business agility, the suggestion that IT could be anything other than a cost center — let alone a business driver — might have seemed improbable. Fast forward to 2014 and the cloud-first strategies that are driving customer acquisition for many large enterprises, and it’s clear that IT has a greater responsibility and larger role to play as a strategic partner to the business. But how?

Enter DevOps.

DevOps is a portmanteau that literally means that development teams and operations teams collaborate more closely together. In one of my prior lives I built and delivered a new SaaS offering for a traditional appliance and software company. The experience of not just building but also being in charge of operating the service made me realize that without the developers and operations folks collaborating very closely, there was no way that the SaaS offering would stay alive, remain healthy, and continue to evolve and grow.

But startups and SaaS properties aren’t the only places you can apply DevOps. Donnie Berkholz, an analyst with Redmonk, explains DevOps as a cultural change for organizations — it’s a removal of silos between teams. But Berkholz notes that DevOps can also be viewed much more broadly in the sense of facilitating better collaboration between businesses and customers.

Although it has proven to be effective for startups, DevOps has stirred some debate with regard to its being enterprise ready. The Wall Street Journal tech blog, CIO Journal, recently featured several articles with opposing views on that subject, most notably a post by At Work-Bench venture associate Rachel Shannon-Solomon on “DevOps Is Great for Startups, but for Enterprises It Won’t Work—Yet” and one by TripWire founder and former CTO Gene Kim titled “Enterprise DevOps Adoption Isn’t Mandatory — but Neither Is Survival.”

Kim’s message is unequivocal: Enterprises ignore DevOps at their peril.

Because DevOps is becoming an increasingly common approach among RightScale customers, we invited Kim, Berkholz, and New Relic Senior Director of Enterprise Marketing Abner Germanow to lead a panel discussion on the topic, which we recorded and made available for everyone:

DevOps Increases the Frequency of Deployments by 30 Percent

Kim, in particular, is passionate about DevOps. He authored The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win and has been a part of a team collecting data on how more than 14,000 organizations use DevOps, specifically identifying the cultural and technical behaviors as well as the business impact of the highest performing DevOps teams. The team published its findings in the Puppet Labs 2014 State of DevOps Report. Kim says the team’s research revealed that the highest performing DevOps teams are significantly outperforming their peers. “We know that high performers are deploying code 30 times more frequently,” he explains. “We know they can complete those deployments in minutes or hours as opposed to weeks, months, or quarters.” And not only are high performers doing more work, but they are also getting far better outcomes, reports Kim: “In a production deployment, high performers are twice as likely to succeed, and once something goes wrong, they can fix the issues 12 times faster.”  

DevOps Impacts Your Bottom Line

DevOps not only favorably impacts IT, but it can also positively impact your bottom line. Emerging data from the Puppet Labs 2014 State of DevOps Report shows that business outcomes can now be tied empirically to high-performing DevOps teams. The findings suggest that high IT performance provides a real competitive advantage, and there are indicators that it plays a role in growing the value of publicly traded companies as measured by market capitalization.

“Our research found that high performers are twice as likely to exceed profitability, market share, and productivity goals, and if you take a look at their market cap growth, you’ll find they are growing 50 times more than the low performers,” Kim says. “DevOps is great for development, it’s great for operations, and it’s great for the overall business because the value creation mechanism inside organizations and the customer acquisition vehicles are almost wholly reliant on IT.”  

Can Large Organizations Benefit from DevOps?

Indeed they can. And our panel gave a number of specific examples of very large high-performing organizations using DevOps.

Kim pointed to SAP, which was able to reduce the lead time from from code committed to product from nine months down to a week (including setting up the test run and starting and finishing deployments).

Enterprises can look no further than fast-growing, scalable startups to see how DevOps can speed up innovation. Abner Germanow from New Relic referenced companies that focus on the ratio of developers to infrastructure: “AirBnB is a great example — all cloud and all AWS. One of the things they talk about is how they have only 7 infrastructure engineers and 100 developers.”

At RightScale, we’ve seen an upward trend in our customers using modern, agile methodologies including DevOps, continuous integration, and continuous deployment. The RightScale 2014 State of the Cloud Report revealed this as well, with 62 percent of companies surveyed claiming the use of DevOps. In addition, DevOps practices increase with cloud adoption, growing to 76 percent among the most mature cloud users. 


Data from the Puppet Labs survey shows that although there is a higher percentage of high-performing IT teams in smaller companies, nearly 20 percent of large organizations also have high-performing IT teams:

Create a DevOps Culture

Typically it takes someone with a lot of energy and passion to evolve a company from the traditional IT model of organization to the more efficient DevOps model. Those who do will succeed in breaking down the silos between dev and ops, between IT and line-of-business, and between companies and their customers. Berkholz offers these high-level suggestions for getting started:  

The professional services team at RightScale frequently takes an active role in helping our customers with their strategic cloud initiatives and can provide you with a free consultation on using DevOps in the cloud.

For information on methodologies related to DevOps, check out the webinar Continuous Integration and Delivery in the Cloud: How RightScale Does It.


"Free Hugs" image courtesy of Grzegorz Łobiński and Kalandrakas (caption added by RightScale). Licensed under Creative Commons.