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The DevOps paradigm shift: Avoid obsolescence in IT

DevOps is an appealing paradigm shift in IT, part and parcel with app componentization and containers. But despite the hype, IT pros still face a few hurdles to actual implementation.

BOSTON -- The DevOps paradigm creates growth opportunities that many organizations leap toward, but some still resist changes they think aren't necessary or beneficial.

A panel of IT professionals in a Tuesday morning session at the Red Hat Summit here addressed the ups and downs of DevOps adoption. The consensus around DevOps is that tool installation and training are easy. The hard parts are to change company culture and convince upper management the outcome of a DevOps paradigm shift will be worth the price tag.

Start with an easy win

DevOps is a natural fit with application modernization, but approach with caution.

"Do not take the problem child [and] modernize that first," said Gareth Jenkins, solutions architect at Red Hat. Decades-old monolith applications are a beast to modernize, especially without a well-planned roadmap prior to the project start. Determine a path to identify where and what pieces to carve away from legacy applications in the drive toward componentization: Even if the entire application is difficult to transform, identify and emphasize pieces that can be updated.

A better plan is to start with smaller, simpler applications to get comfortable building an application in a microservices architecture, with containerized deployment through a CI/CD pipeline. This trial run enables IT admins to make mistakes and learn to correct them before they tackle the aforementioned problem child. DevOps practices and culture will develop and grow without the pressure of applying it to a high-visibility, business-critical application.

Expect to invest in DevOps

One attendee asked the panel how to convince his organization, which works with the government on IT projects, to embrace the DevOps paradigm when it sees no business advantage or cost benefit. In fact, modernization is a significant advantage for government-adjacent or government-contracted organizations.

DevOps adoption isn't often completed in just a few months, the panel noted; it often takes one or two years, if not longer, to fully implement and streamline DevOps practices, such as cross-discipline collaboration and application componentization.

Do not take the problem child [and] modernize that first.
Gareth JenkinsSolutions architect, Red Hat

Moreover, the cost of a transition from siloed development, operations and other IT groups to collaborative DevOps can be enormous. Rob Libbert, the director of DevOps solutions at BoxBoat Technologies, a managed DevOps service based in Bethesda, Md., said one client requested $10 million from his CEO and CFO to commit to the DevOps paradigm shift.

Nevertheless, the payoff is a strong competitive advantage as other companies' applications and infrastructure slowly sink into obsolescence.

Focus on what matters

Done properly, DevOps yields faster and more accurate application deployments and more illustrative monitoring metrics than those on which the organization functioned before. IT gets a broad view into the application, alongside user-experience metrics for the business side.

"One tendency is to monitor too much, and the wrong things," said Larry Gordon, co-founder of XOps, a DevOps managed service provider headquartered in New York. If your IT team can't draw a straight line between a metric gathered from the development, test or operations environments and a business outcome, then that information is probably irrelevant -- what Gordon called "vanity metrics" in the session.

Culture comes from structure

When an organization's biggest hang-up is in-fighting between multiple departments, or divisions under the corporate umbrella, IT must ask itself if every organization needs to update, and if upper management shares the same goal.

DevOps paradigm adoption is often restricted by cultural muscle memory and scar tissue from monolith operations. The organizational structure must shift and stretch until there is no longer an us versus them mentality between groups and from one part of the business to another.

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