Is DevOps a cold dead fish?

If a certain technology company had invented sushi, they would have called it cold dead fish.

You have probably heard the joke that if a certain technology company had invented sushi, they would have called it cold dead fish. It’s a not so subtle jab at the fact that engineering driven companies are often lacking in marketing muscle.

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the question whether DevOps suffers from a bit of the “cold dead fish” syndrome.

Let’s be honest, DevOps is not a name that any marketer would have picked for a philosophy that aims to increase collaboration, improve software velocity and drive innovation.

In fact, even the “founder” of DevOps, Patrick Debois, has gone on record as saying that not a lot of thought went into picking the name almost 10 years ago:

“I picked ‘DevOpsDays’ as Dev and Ops working together because ‘Agile System Administration’ was too long,” he said. “There never was a grand plan for DevOps as a word.”

So basically the name was picked because the other alternative considered was too long — not the way a typical name is selected.

To be fair, DevOps was never intended to be a brand or product name – where a team of marketers would have spent hours weighing the pros and cons of every word.

Yet, when compared against other similar industry trends or movements, the term DevOps appears to be lacking.

Software defined networking (SDN), agile and cloud computing, for example, are all (in my opinion) at least descriptive in terms of the benefits or what is different.

And some anecdotal research seems to bear this out. A Google search on the word “DevOps” returns 17.5 million pages, which seems like a lot — until you compare to the similar terms I mentioned above. SDN garners 107 million pages, agile 76.6 million, and cloud computing 74.7 million.

As a single data point, this may not mean much but when looked at alongside facts such as that (according to Gartner) only 25% of organizations will employ DevOps in 2016; compared to 76% using SDN (according to Infonetics).

It raises the question whether the name itself lacks the pull required for enterprises to self-identify.

As an example, if a survey asked people if they like cold dead fish, I’m sure the results would look a lot different than if the same people were asked if they like sushi.  

So what then is missing from the name? True, DevOps combines the words development and operations – and the philosophy itself advocates combining those two functions.

But one could hardly say combining Dev and Ops really the end goal of DevOps; nor is that combination something that will have immediate appeal to anyone at a business level.

Perhaps it makes sense at the tactical level… but really the goal and the benefit of DevOps is improving the speed and quality of software releases.

If DevOps wants to see acceptance and appeal beyond the practitioner level, maybe it’s time for a new name – one that conveys the essence of the business benefits rather than the tactical.  

While we all know the DevOps version of cold dead fish tastes great a new name would help make it more palatable to business decision makers, and help enterprises get the approval they need to move forward with DevOps initiatives. 

So who’s with me? Let’s rename DevOps! Now to come up with the name…


Brendan is director of solutions marketing at CA and is responsible for advocating topics such…


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