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Hackers Discuss 'AWS Killing the DevOps Profession'

If you want a tough coding question answered, you go to Stack Overflow. If you want a more open-ended development question answered by an active community full of subject-matter experts, you go to Hacker News.

Chalking up reader comments this morning on the forum site is the following "Ask HN" question:

How do you define DevOps and is it dead?
I keep reading about AWS [Amazon Web Services Inc. cloud] killing the DevOps profession and was wondering what were your thoughts on the matter? Is DevOps dying as a profession?

Although post author "zabana" didn't specify where he or she is reading all that "AWS killing DevOps" talk, it's likely a reference to the year-old HN post "Managed services killed DevOps," which references a TechCrunch article and does indeed discuss AWS amid 148 comments.

Today's post, meanwhile, might be heading for that level itself, as some readers are still struggling to define DevOps, which started being a thing around the end of 2012 and early 2013, according to Google Trends. And they aren't the only ones still trying to figure out exactly what the term means.

Google Trends Analysis of 'DevOps': 5 Years in and Still No Definition
[Click on image for larger view.] Google Trends Analysis of 'DevOps': 5-Plus Years in and Still No Definition
(source: Google)

Here's a selection of proffered answers to today's post:

  • "It's a good time to step back and define (or re-evaluate the definition of) 'DevOps.' It's an interesting word for an interesting movement, but (I think sadly) it has come to mean just 'Ops.' "
  • "If we define 'DevOps' as an approach that develops software in response to operational tasks, then we allow other kinds of operations, like handling check-in and check-out of books from a library."
  • "DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to our end users."
  • "DevOps is when a single person or team is responsible for developing the software; standing up , configuring and maintaining the instances it runs on."
  • "I see dev-ops as a way a company has shaped its delivery process. This means a devops profession does not exist. In short it means that a developer has direct contact with an operator and tester or vice versa."
  • "It means the empowerment of a solo developer through (intelligent) use of modern methods, hardware and software tools to achieve that which required a team of about 10-20 in the past."

For what it's worth, Wikipedia defines DevOps as "a term used to refer to a set of practices that emphasize the collaboration and communication of both software developers and information technology (IT) professionals while automating the process of software delivery and infrastructure changes." It also says the term was first coined around 2009.

Top Four Pressures Causing Organizations To Invest in DevOps
[Click on image for larger view.] Top Four Pressures Causing Organizations To Invest in DevOps (source: Delphix Corp.)

Anyway, moving on to meatier question of whether the AWS cloud is killing the DevOps profession, the consensus now -- as it was a year earlier -- seems to indicate "no."

The highest-rated answer to the question at the time of this writing reads:

As a 'DevOps Engineer' at a growing AWS-focused consultancy, I can say that DevOps is not dead, and AWS is not killing it. AWS is our toolbox. We use it to design, build, and deploy powerful, cost effective, and scalable solutions to our clients' problems. I know that sounds like a line of marketing BS, but that's our real focus. Along the way, we'll automate everything that makes sense in the process, especially deployment and scaling. So, maybe our definition of DevOps wider or more holistic than how most of the industry defines it. Either way, AWS is not automatic, and automating/orchestrating ALL of its parts still requires some human smarts.

Here are parts of other answers:

  • "Any worry that devops is going away, regardless which standpoint you have, I think is unfounded. I might have to change my opinion in the next 5 years or so but for now I am quite confident the devops way is firmly not dying."
  • "The movement is far from dead. There are MANY large orgs that stand to gain a lot from adopting this mindset. The biggest issue is that change is difficult for many people."
  • "Not dead at all and definitely not killed by AWS."
  • "Hell no. If you're in DevOps and use AWS, that means you need to know the AWS API."
  • "No devops is not dead. It is a way to work."
  • " 'DevOps' is a hype-word now, so yes in some places it is dead. The need to get flexibility and share skills remains."
  • "My not very technical CTO told me that 'all developers will be devops in the near future', so I guess it's dead."
  • "DevOps was never a profession. But I think it's dead anyway."

So there you have it: No one still knows what DevOps means, but it isn't being killed by AWS. Can we at last put the "killing" question to rest now, if not the definition?

Of course, there are always the contrarians opposed to any claim about anything. For example, one answer read: "There is no DevOps profession. There are people who work in computers, and they specialize in various ways."

Gee, thanks. Now all you DevOps pros can go back to doing ... well, whatever.

Are you a DevOps pro? Is whatever you do threatened by AWS? Drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on April 24, 2017