DevOps vs. AgileOps: What's the difference?

While AgileOps may seem like a sign that the IT industry has reached 'peak Ops,' the approach could enable DevOps teams to further refine their operations.

There's another new operations methodology in town. Agile operations, or AgileOps, is a digital operating model that combines Agile methodologies with DevOps practices for enterprises seeking improvement in a hybridized work environment.

What is AgileOps?

Although AgileOps has different definitions depending on who's marketing what, in essence, it's the application of Agile principles -- the foundation of the DevOps transformation -- to IT operations. Accordingly, there's a strong relationship between AgileOps and DevOps.

An AgileOps framework typically includes the following phases:

  • Conceptualization. The development team and their stakeholders identify and prioritize new projects.
  • Inception. The project takes form as members join the project team and stakeholders establish budgets, timelines and requirements.
  • Iteration. The development team starts work in accordance with the requirements.
  • Release. QA testing is complete, and the organization deploys the release to users in production.
  • Production. After the software is deployed, ongoing maintenance and operational support begins.
  • Retirement. The organization officially retires the application, or certain features, from production.

In the past, AgileOps was considered necessary for hybrid cloud operations. Fast forward to today, and DevSecOps and cloud management platforms like Kion -- formerly cloudtamer.io -- and CloudBolt are also common for ops teams in hybrid cloud environments.

AgileOps vs. DevOps

Because DevOps developed out of Agile methodologies and principles, it's reasonable to compare AgileOps and DevOps, especially as the differences between the two may not always be clear. For example, Agile might already be the backbone of an organization's DevOps practices, particularly in the areas of delivery and operations. In other organizations, DevOps might only be the cultural element that supports Agile development and operations.

If DevOps is the foundation of a software delivery team's agility, then AgileOps will sound familiar to the IT team, but organizations should be prepared for philosophical discourse about DevOps vs. AgileOps. The DevOps world could learn from the finer points of the AgileOps framework, especially the conceptualization and iteration phases, which don't receive the same emphasis in DevOps models.

The most significant difference between AgileOps and DevOps is that AgileOps better equips teams to manage mid-project changes.

Whereas organizations often lean into DevOps for the cultural benefits, AgileOps provides a development methodology for teams to follow. Depending on the DevOps school of thought an organization follows, it's also possible to craft a custom methodology that meets organizational requirements using DevOps practices alone. Some members of the DevOps community view DevOps practices as adaptable and extensible rather than a prescriptive methodology that should be followed to the letter.

AgileOps and DevOps also differ in how they position project management. The Kanban framework and related tools are the project management standards for AgileOps, whereas DevOps is less prescriptive regarding which project management methodologies should apply in a CI/CD pipeline. The current generation of DevOps tools and platforms offer stakeholders an unprecedented amount of back-end data to support project management in a DevOps environment.

Both AgileOps and DevOps emphasize strong communications and collaboration. While the DevOps documentation discussion is still somewhat lacking, the rise of automated documentation tools, like Hugo and DocToolchain, represents an opportunity to meld DevOps' emphasis on automation and collaboration with AgileOps' communications sensibilities, ultimately benefiting DevOps teams and their stakeholders.

The most significant difference between AgileOps and DevOps is that AgileOps better equips teams to manage mid-project changes. While the DevOps approach can adjust to such changes, more mature DevOps organizations seem better equipped to do so.

The key advantage of AgileOps

The IT field has an ops model for everything, and industry marketers have seized on this phenomenon to alter DevOps definitions to suit their tools' features. AgileOps is likely a DevOps derivative for many enterprises, but -- as with other Ops methodologies -- most DevOps teams and their stakeholders can still learn something from AgileOps and fold it into their own DevOps frameworks.

The primary benefit AgileOps offers enterprises that DevOps doesn't is the formation of ad hoc teams to resolve specific technical issues or pursue innovative projects. Flattening management hierarchy in development is necessary to solve problems in a hybridized work environment.

AgileOps enables teams to focus on tool and process improvements instead of chasing after bug fixes. DevOps teams can learn from this approach in terms of how they manage the people side of development, as AgileOps augments the cultural aspects of DevOps.

Hitting "peak Ops" doesn't have to be a bad thing if development teams can cut through the marketing messages to take advantage of the benefits of methodologies like AgileOps.

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