Is DevOps dead? What the future of DevOps could look like

While some think DevOps has run its course, others say it's just maturing and evolving into what organizations need -- which, for some, might include platform engineers.

There have been murmurs that DevOps is on its way out -- but how much of that is true and how much is just talk?

Since its introduction in 2007, DevOps has brought together development and operations teams to speed up deployments and improve efficiency and collaboration in the software development lifecycle. But many different factors play into DevOps success, such as an organization's size, environment and implementation plan.

As systems become more complex, organizations are turning to new methods to reduce the burden on developers and accelerate releases to keep up with business demands. Instead of focusing on the death of DevOps, the IT industry should shift its focus to the future and whether organizations are ready to move DevOps in the direction of platform engineering.

Is DevOps dead?

The short answer is no, DevOps is not dying. Rather, it's maturing and evolving as organizations do.

In a recent Cloud Native Computing Foundation webinar, Mallory Haigh, director of customer success at Humanitec, explained that DevOps is often a victim of misinterpretation and misapplication. According to Haigh, organizations tend to simply hire a "DevOps engineer" rather than adopting the underlying DevOps principles and culture, which is why it fails for some.

The DevOps ideology of "You build it, you run it at all costs" is what has died, not the methodology as a whole, Haigh said. Instead, DevOps is moving into a second stage that focuses on enablement and engagement, so IT teams can grow within their infrastructure and cloud-native environments in a sustainable way.

Paul Nashawaty, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy GroupPaul Nashawaty

"Organizations are maturing, not for the sake of just maturing," said Paul Nashawaty, senior analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). Many feel the pressure from business KPIs to become more agile and deliver code faster, but are finding that their current structure cannot handle that growth -- which leads to developers quickly pushing out code that creates a poor user experience.

"As organizations try to rapidly release code, they're going to shift left -- not just security, but shift left the DevOps function into engineering," Nashawaty said. To adapt, more mature organizations further along in their DevOps journey are combining DevOps and engineering to perform platform engineering.

Where platform engineering comes in

Platform engineering helps improve the developer experience by creating reusable, self-service platforms to increase software delivery. This helps developers get back to doing what they do best instead of getting hung up on the smaller details. Haigh described platform engineering as enabling IT teams to "build it and run it" in a responsible and sustainable way.

A platform engineer creates and maintains tools and workflows that help developers push code to production as quickly and efficiently as possible. They tackle the complexity that often bogs down developers by building reliable systems to keep things moving smoothly and reduce repetitive work.

Humanitec's research found that 25% of developers waste time operating apps due to increasing system complexity, Haigh said. Platform engineering reduces the amount of time developers are obstructed from their work due to menial issues that automation could solve, which in turn helps reduce developer burnout.

The standardized framework that platform engineers create can cover an application's lifecycle and provide developers with everything necessary to produce software on a day-to-day basis with as little overhead as possible. Focus areas for platform engineers include creating and maintaining software release or CI pipelines, automated testing systems, runtime environments and Kubernetes infrastructure.

Platform engineering vs. DevOps

Platform engineering is gaining attention as a response to increasingly complex infrastructure. By 2026, Gartner predicts that 80% of software engineering organizations will have established platform teams to help bring together software developers and IT operations.

Many say that DevOps is dead with the rise of platform engineering, but it is not a situation where one will replace the other: The two approaches can come together to help organizations. "Think of it more as maturity and growth than one's going to go away," Nashawaty said.

Platform engineering is an evolution of DevOps. As a discipline, it promotes the same goals and can help DevOps be more effective. Like DevOps, it promotes a collaborative environment with a focus on platform creation rather than the finished product. By using both approaches together, DevOps teams can produce code faster within the guardrails created by platform engineers.

While platform engineering might seem like the ultimate end goal, it will take time. "[Platform engineering] takes a different skill set and mindset," Nashawaty said. "The people who run your DevOps today are not necessarily going to be platform engineers tomorrow."

The future of DevOps

Despite the rumors, DevOps isn't going anywhere. According to Global Market Insights research, the DevOps market is projected to grow from more than $7 billion in 2021 to at least $30 billion in 2028 as demand increases for automated testing and development tools.

Nashawaty sees the future heading toward automation that eliminates tedious tasks so that DevOps teams can focus on innovation rather than maintenance. Automating tasks such as incident management, application deployments, security and compliance can improve productivity and ultimately accelerate digital transformations.

In the future, automation could eliminate entry-level work. In turn, this could require software developers and IT ops teams to shift their skill focus toward more complex concepts, such as AI and machine learning (ML). But, according to Nashawaty, this shift could be an issue because the IT skills shortage is still a big problem.

In ESG's "2023 Technology Spending Intentions Survey," for example, a third of organizations surveyed said they lacked AI and ML skills. Respondents reported even larger skills gaps in IT architecture and planning (40%) and IT orchestration and automation (38%). This ongoing lack of IT skills could hinder organizations from growing in the directions they need to.

Platform engineering is likely to become more popular in the coming years as organizations continue to evolve. But the future of DevOps depends on whether companies can maintain their existing systems and adapt to the changing market. It's whatever organizations make of it, which could include platform engineering or not.

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