What is devops? It depends on whom you ask

kung fu martial arts

Chef CTO likens devops to kung fu: It has multiple variants, each with their own characteristics


Devops is generally regarded as IT and software development operations working together to more smoothly and quickly implement software changes. But an official at devops tools maker Chef reasons that a precise definition often can seem hard to find.

"There are now lots of people that [are] doing a thing called devops," said Adam Jacob, Chef CTO, during a presentation at the Chef Conf 2015 conference in Silicon Valley this week. But devops is unique to everyone who practices it and can be tough to define, he explained. "Devops now is actually just about the experience of all these people who are doing all this work to transform their businesses."

Jacob compared to devops to kung fu, in which there are multiple variants that are different from each other, but practitioners of each recognize what is and isn't kung fu. "I know devops when I see it." He posited an esoteric definition in which devops was defined as a cultural, professional movement focused on how we build and operate high-velocity organizations, born from the experiences of its practitioners. By way of explanation, Jacob cited the Chef DevOps Style Kung fu repository on GitHub.

The truth, Jacob said, "is we don't need to win the war for a devops definition. What we need to do is make progress on our understanding of what it means to do devops." Devops is reinventing how businesses are run, he said. "Really, devops is a thing that comes from experience and it comes from the doing of your craft."

Chef hosted users of the company's software, including Disney. "The main thing we think about in devops [is] it is about ... breaking through barriers," said Jason Cox, Disney director of systems engineering. Work at the company has to go through different teams and gets bogged down in red tape, according to Cox, so "we thought, how do you break through the red tape?"

Practices like devops were implemented to break down walls between different groups. At Disney, operation engineers work alongside software engineers, and security engineers are included, too. "We're seeing adoption of devops practices occurring," Cox said.

Chef at the conference unveiled Chef Delivery, a devops workflow product intended to enable continuous delivery of infrastructure, runtime components, and applications. It features a framework for automated testing and continuous integration and delivery, with the intent of reducing the time from idea to capturing value. Chef Delivery is to be offered on a subscription basis this year.

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