The DevOps movement is so widespread that it’s surprising it’s only a few years old. But it formed out of a fundamental need and is based on a simple philosophy—business works best when efforts are coordinated and collaborative—so its growth has been rapid.
DevOps emerged from an effort by businesses to respond more rapidly to market changes. The new approach was designed to ensure that high-quality updated software gets into the hands of users more quickly. Continuous delivery requires that everyone—from developers to testers to employees in user experience, product and operations—collaborate effectively throughout the delivery process, using multiple feedback loops.
Here are some highlights in the short and eventful history of DevOps.
- Software developer Patrick Debois has a resume that reads like a map of IT nirvana. Over 15 years, the Belgian consultant has assumed different roles within large enterprises—developer, network specialist, system administrator, tester and project manager. Debois helps plant the seeds of the DevOps movement at the Agile conference in Toronto, where he thought there must be a better way to resolve the conflict between the software developers and the operations teams when it comes to getting great work done quickly. Debois soon became an influential early DevOps thought leader, and inspired others to take on these challenges. “In the IT industry, or perhaps to be more specific, in the software industry, particularly in the Web-enabled sphere, there’s a tacit assumption that projects will run late and [that] when they’re delivered—if they’re ever delivered—they will underperform and not deliver well against investment,” later wrote Stephen Nelson-Smith, a UK-based tech manager, in a guest post on Debois’ blog. “It’s a wonder any of us have a job at all!”
- At the O’Reilly Velocity Conference, two Flickr employees—John Allspaw, senior vice president of technical operations, and Paul Hammond, director of engineering—deliver a seminal talk known as “10+ Deploys per Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation at Flickr.” The talk is an energetic presentation in which Allspaw and Hammond basically act out the classic “fingerpointy” conundrum of Dev versus Ops—“It’s not my code, it’s your machines!” (and vice versa)—to a roomful of developers. They make the case that the only sensible way to build, test and deploy workable new software is to make development and operations transparent and integrated. The talk becomes widely credited with showing the world what development-operations collaboration can achieve. Viewing the presentation from Belgium via streamed video, Debois is inspired to organize his own conference, called Devopsdays. The buzz continues long after the O’Reilly conference, and the name of the movement soon shortens to the portmanteau “DevOps.”
- Debois launches the first Devopsdays event, in Ghent, Belgium. Early supporters include John Willis, an enterprise system management expert, and Kris Buytaert, a Linux and open source consultant.
- The first US Devopsdays is organized, with the help of Willis as well as other early DevOps proponents like Damon Edwards and Andrew Clay Shafer. The events soon become a regular global series of community-organized conferences and a major force driving the DevOps community forward.
- The #DevOps Twitter hashtag becomes a rich and essential stream of information.
- With the growth of the new movement comes the emergence of leading analysts writing about it. Cameron Haight from Gartner, among others, predicts that by 2015, 20 percent of global 2000 businesses will embrace DevOps. Other important analysts who emerge around this time include Jay Lyman from 451 Research.
- The DevOps community starts to build open source tools like Vagrant (for creating and configuring virtual development environments) that work with existing configuration management tools like Puppet and Chef.
- The application development sector has grown fast, furious and increasingly focused on the enterprise. Total annual revenue reaches $53 billion, according to the London-based research firm VisionMobile.
- Like a desert abloom after a rain shower, various Devopsdays are suddenly popping up around the world, from Bangalore to Boston. They become must-attend events to check in on the latest smart and innovative thinking in the DevOps world.
- One important voice in the DevOps universe belongs to Mike Loukides, vice president of content strategy for O'Reilly Media. He, along with Debois, edits some of the most fundamental DevOps texts. In his report “What is DevOps?”, Loukides notes that “it is always easy to think of DevOps (or any software industry paradigm) in terms of any of the tools you use. In practice, this means that it is easy to think that if you use development programs like Chef or Puppet, you’re really doing DevOps.” Loukides sees DevOps as “an intimate understanding between the development and operations teams.”
- A flood of DevOps-related books begins to appear. Some of the essential texts include “The Phoenix Project” (by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford), “Implementing Lean Software Development” (by Mary and Tom Poppendiek) and “The Lean Startup” (by Eric Ries). They join key earlier and associated works like “Web Operations” (by John Allspaw), “Continuous Delivery” (by Jez Humble and David Farley) and “The Goal” (Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt)
- The ever-evolving tech world presents new challenges and opportunities to the concept of DevOps. The explosion of new devices, applications, content and transactions in the mobile environment brings new focus to both mobile apps and cloud computing.
- DevOps crosses into the enterprise, and established brands like Target, Nordstrom and LEGO embrace the movement.
- In a survey by Puppet Labs, IT Revolution Press and ThoughtWorks, 16 percent of 1,485 respondents say they are part of a DevOps effort within their organization.
- The “DevOps Enterprise: The Agile, Continuous Delivery and DevOps Transformation Summit”, the first industry event focused on helping enterprise software organizations accelerate quality software delivery is held in October in Burlingame, Calif.
What’s ahead for DevOps? The movement has come so far so fast that it’s hard to predict the potential. According to the results of the most recent CA Technologies study on the application economy and the role of DevOps, 88% of 1,425 IT and line of business (LOB) executives already have or plan to adopt DevOps sometime within the next five years. While still in its early stages, DevOps promises to continue to impact business in an important and far-reaching way.