Diving into DevOps

Swimming in DevOps

In which we assess the state of DevOps one survey at a time.

As 2016 comes to an end, we find ourselves with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to DevOps surveys. Here's a sampling from three that I found worth reading (so far):

The fifth annual "State of DevOps Report" offers "a close-up view of deployments, security, stability, and employee loyalty at organizations that have (and haven't) successfully adopted DevOps practices." The free report was commissioned by Puppet and DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA), and sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Thoughtworks, Atlassian, Splunk, CA Technologies, Automic and IT Revolution. It's based on a worldwide survey of more than 25,000 technical professionals. As the authors explain it, the survey sought to "better understand how the technical practices, cultural norms, and lean management practices we associate with DevOps affect IT performance and organizational performance."

This is a 50-plus page report packed with stats and graphs addressing what the authors felt were the most currently pressing concerns of the DevOps community -- things like understanding the ROI of DevOps, the role of experimentation and its value, how to integrate security into DevOps, and the relationship between employee engagement and organizational success.

Those authors, by the way, constitute a veritable DevOps A-Team that includes Alanna Brown, senior product manager at Puppet; Dr. Nicole Forsgren, director of organizational performance and analytics at Chef; Jez Humble, co-author of Continuous Delivery and Lean Enterprise; Nigel Kersten, chief technical strategist at Puppet; and Gene Kim, researcher, DevOps guru and co-author of The Phoenix Project and DevOps Handbook.

Some of the report's key findings:

  • High-performing IT organizations deploy 200 times more frequently than low performers, with 2,555 times faster lead times.
  • They have 24 times faster recovery times and three times lower change failure rates.
  • High-performing IT teams spend 50 percent less time remediating security issues.
  • And they spend 22 percent less time on unplanned work and rework.
  • Employees in high-performing teams were 2.2 times more likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work.
  • Taking a lean approach to product development (for example, splitting work into small batches and implementing customer feedback) predicts higher IT performance and less deployment pain.

I also got a peak at Cambridge, U.K.-based Redgate's "State of Database DevOps Survey," which won't be available officially until January. Redgate develops software for SQL Server, .NET and Azure, so naturally the company came at the subject from a very different angle. This survey sought to measure real adoption rates of DevOps practices among more than 1,000 SQL Server professionals around the world, and how far the database is being included in that process. It provides, the authors wrote, "an accurate snapshot of the promise of DevOps for SQL Server professionals -- and the challenges our customers face."

Some highlights from this survey:

  • DevOps is clearly moving into the mainstream: 80 percent of those surveyed said their companies will adopt DevOps over the next two years.
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of the companies in the survey have already adopted DevOps across some or all of their IT projects, and many more are preparing to follow them. Only a fifth of the respondents have no DevOps plans over the next two years.
  • The main factor holding companies back from taking up DevOps is the lack of knowledge and skills in implementing it. "This is surprising on the one hand, with the wealth of information that appears to exist about DevOps," the authors wrote. "It's understandable in other ways, however, because unless you already practice DevOps, it's hard to simply start doing it, particularly when there are cultural and organizational issues to overcome first."
  • The database brings its own challenges to DevOps -- specifically, hurdles to synchronizing application and database changes, and differences between the ways application and database developers work.

When published, the complete survey will go into more detail about the frequency of database deployments, the drawbacks of siloed database development, and the drivers for including the database in the DevOps process, the authors said.

Finally, Compuware Corporation commissioned a survey from Forrester Consulting to investigate the impact of adopting DevOps best practices on mainframe-based organizations. Conducted in October, the survey queried 182 U.S.- and E.U.-based IT, infrastructure and operations, and application development professionals at the director level or above responsible for app-dev teams at organizations with mainframe systems of record.

Highlights from this survey:

  • 57 percent of the survey's respondents reported that most new business initiatives at their organizations involved mainframes, and 39 percent said the mainframe was involved in at least some initiatives.
  • 48 percent reported moving some applications off the mainframe, but found that such a move resulted in security issues, higher costs, degraded performance and greater project delays.
  • 41 percent said they attempted to work around the mainframe, but found it led to greater complexity, higher costs, duplicate tooling and increased security risks.
  • 40 percent attempted to modernize on the mainframe platform, but struggled with long transition times, Java performance issues and inadequate tools to help with application understanding.

According to the survey's authors, many of the respondents reported that applying DevOps best practices to their mainframe environments solved or mitigated many of these problems.

  • Over 40 percent of respondents claimed that such practices have resulted in shorter development cycles and faster response to business needs.
  • 35 percent said they are achieving improved customer experience.
  • 34 percent said they are seeing cost savings.

The Forrester surveyors concluded: "Organizations face both business and technical challenges on the mainframe preventing them from innovating and transforming into a digital business. To avoid issues with the mainframe, organizations are working around it, re-platforming, or modernizing. However, each of these tactics creates new issues. The good news is that those companies embracing DevOps deliver faster and at a higher quality, all while fostering collaboration."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of Converge360.com sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].