Unify NetOps and DevOps to improve load-balancing strategy

Research showed that many enterprises struggle with their load-balancing strategies. Unifying NetOps and DevOps teams might help simplify some of this complexity.

The decision to integrate NetOps and DevOps teams has been a topic of contention among experts. Some experts believe NetOps and DevOps team consolidation could help improve network operations management; others argue NetOps and DevOps teams should be in close communication but don't need to combine into a single team. However, another reason has emerged to support the idea of unifying NetOps and DevOps teams: load balancing.

Approximately 52% of 152 IT professionals surveyed in a July 2022 study from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) and Progress, a software provider, reported that having a hybrid cloud is one of their biggest drivers for using load balancing and application delivery controllers (ADCs). These tools distribute traffic among the cloud environments to optimize server and performance efficiency. But enterprises should modernize their load-balancing strategies to accommodate modern demands and unify their strategies across on-premises data centers and public cloud environments, EMA said.

Most enterprise NetOps and DevOps teams operate independently, with the former largely focused on premises and the latter on the cloud. But adopting a cross-functional approach can make it easier for teams to operate applications successfully, said Maurice McMullin, product marketing manager at Progress, in a recent webinar.

Fragmentation between NetOps and DevOps teams

Only 31% of respondents told EMA their NetOps and DevOps teams share control of company load balancers and ADCs. Approximately 18% said their on-premises and cloud teams manage the load balancers and ADCs in silos, while 50% said one group manages both. McMullin said the latter approach appears to be the best practice for managing load balancers and ADCs.

Small and midsize organizations are more likely to have siloed approaches, McMullin said. Also, three-quarters of DevOps professionals said their organization had a siloed approach, and McMullin added they are more likely to report this because DevOps groups often use their own load-balancing tools unbeknownst to other teams.

Siloed teams create problems with load-balancing strategy

Respondents reported numerous problems as a result of divided ownership of the load balancers and ADCs between on-premises NetOps teams and cloud-native DevOps teams. About 46% of respondents reported issues related to operational efficiency.

Some of those issues could include confusion between the teams about which team is responsible for different aspects of the load balancers or complexity surrounding how to implement changes without affecting other groups, McMullin said. He added that teams also typically focus on different priorities. Network teams focus their attention on network availability and might not understand application requirements, for example.

"This is often where we get the conflict," McMullin said. "Both groups need to have a cultural and technical exchange where there's a unified and shared approach to deliver better agility and efficiency around the network and application changes."

Problems relating to team culture, such as low morale and employee retention rates, also ranked as one of the top issues respondents reported experiencing in their organizations. McMullin emphasized the importance of teams unifying on a cultural level.

Although a division among NetOps and DevOps teams has made it difficult for enterprises to manage their load balancers and ADCs, organizations also reported that employees lack skills on certain technologies, with 52% of respondents reporting employee skill gaps as a challenge.

The report found that 71% of organizations use cloud load balancers from their cloud providers, but over half said they deploy virtualized load balancers from traditional on-premises vendors. McMullin said organizations use these services to avoid using multiple cloud load balancers, which typically add more complexity. A unified application approach with services from the same vendor, however, can help with efficiency and provide organizations with end-to-end visibility in their cloud environments, McMullin said.

"Organizations have challenges hiring skilled staff across all areas. But having multiple different and fragmented technologies makes it much more difficult to try and integrate these two different groups if they all have to learn multiple platforms," McMullin said. "Having a single platform makes it much easier to integrate."

Align NetOps and DevOps teams to improve load-balancing strategy

According to the EMA report, enterprises that choose cloud load-balancing services face vendor lock-in, and the services are more suited for single-cloud environments. EMA recommended for all enterprises -- single- or multi-cloud -- to use virtual load balancers from an ADC vendor instead.

Many organizations already follow this approach, and the number of virtual appliances typically increases based on the number of cloud providers an organization has: 38% of single-cloud organizations use virtual load balancers, and that percentage increases to 73% for multi-cloud organizations.

McMullin added that, when separate teams use a common platform for app delivery, like using the same load balancer across cloud and on-premises environments, all teams -- including NetOps, DevOps and security -- will provide visibility and consistency, as well as create a common skill set across all teams.

Closing the skills gap is also a significant part of removing complexity, McMullin said.

"By bringing teams together, they share their skills," he said. "DevOps can impart application insights to the network and security teams that they wouldn't have visibility on beforehand. They're sharing their skills with the other teams, so they have more insight on the challenges the other groups face. It will lead to a much better chance of success."

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