5 ways devops can help companies crank out better code faster

With the right tools and processes, as well as removal of cultural barriers, devops can deliver huge benefits to companies

Companies worldwide such as Pinterest, Google, Amazon Web Services, and the International Securities Exchange are cranking out code 30 times faster with 50 percent fewer failures by bringing devops -- IT admins with developer and IT operation skills -- into their folds. Of course, simply hiring someone with an impressive list of devops-related skills won't make much of a difference if an organization doesn't embrace appropriate processes and foster the right culture for faster, more agile development.

Such are the findings in the newly released "2013 State of DevOps Report" from Puppet Labs and IT Revolution Press. Puppet Labs specializes in IT automation software and may has a personal agenda in issuing the report. Still, the findings, insights, and advice within the report -- based on survey responses from more than 4,000 IT professionals in 90 countries -- are worth a look for growing number of IT shops exploring the devops route. Per the report, there's been a 26 percent increase in rate of devops adoption by organizations since 2011, while job listings for "devops" are up by 75 percent.

According to the report, organizations that have implemented devops practices are "up to five times more likely to be high-performing than those that have not." The report defines high-performing organizations thusly: First, they "deploy code 30 times more often and 8,000 times faster than their peers, deploying multiple times a day, versus an average of once a month." Second, they "have double the change success rate and restore service 12 times faster than their peers."

Among the ways organizations manage these feats is by reducing code-change lead times. High-performing organizations make changes within minutes, not days or weeks, according to the report; they're also able to recover from costly outages within minutes.

The report offers several pieces of advice to help organizations make good use of devops. For starters, the report pushing automation as "the single biggest driver of high performance, increasing the overall quality and speed of code deployments." Again, Puppet Labs' bread and butter is IT automation software, so take the importance of the advice with an appropriate dash of salt. Specifically, the report recommends that companies automate a single pain point such as DNS, NTP, or root passwords: "Start small, prove the value, and use the visibility that success brings to tackle bigger projects."

Second, the report recommends that companies consolidate multiple sources of information into "one source of truth" by creating synchronization scripts for their HR system, CMDB, asset database, policy database, and so forth. "Whether you use a service, a database (SQL or Hiera on disk), or pure data in version control (YAML or JSON file), the important thing is that all data inputs to your configuration state are stored centrally and accessible via your configuration management system," according to the report.

Third, the report stresses the importance of develop and using metrics to assess how well development teams are performing and whether the investment in devops is paying off. "Use agility and reliability metrics such as deploy rate, change lead time, change failure rate, and mean time to recover to show business value," the report advises. "Use functional metrics like test cycle time, deployment time, defect rate in production and help-desk ticket counts to demonstrate your success."

Fourth, the report urges organizations to promote a devops-friendly culture in a number of ways, including promoting interaction among development teams and IT operations in the name of getting everyone on the same page, working toward the same goals. In that vein, the report also recommends fostering a culture of direct communication among peers: "Often, the best ideas will bubble up from the bottom, and the more people that are collaborating, the more dynamic the exchange of ideas."

Having teams share a common toolchain can help foster communication, according to the report.

Fifth, the report recommends that organizations foster their current employees' devop skills. "You almost certainly have people with devops skills already working for you," the report notes. "You don't need to hire a devops team and create yet another functional silo. Instead, experiment with embedding ops and dev people on the opposite team, or creating a cross-functional team responsible for delivering a specific product or service."

As to which skills the ideal devop possesses: 84 percent of respondents cited coding and scripting as high on the list, and 60 percent pointed to people skills as essential to success. Just over half said process reengineering skills were valuable, "indicating a need for a holistic view of the system, rather than one-off solutions."

"Interestingly, experience with specific tools was not a priority. You can teach the tools more readily than you can teach the other skills," per the report.

You can download the "2013 State of DevOps Report" for free.

This article, "5 ways devops can help companies crank out better code faster," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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