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Are DevOps, cloud made for each other?

DevOps and cloud go hand-in-hand, according to many experts, which means IT's use of cloud computing may make DevOps tools an inevitability.

Although a transition to DevOps doesn't make sense for every IT organization today, most are adopting public cloud computing services, in which both DevOps and cloud go hand-in-hand. According to experts, the cloud facilitates DevOps, which will eventually become the modus operandi for IT.  

DevOps is the merging of tasks done by application development and IT or systems operations teams. "The whole DevOps thing is about building in automation as much as possible to reduce that burden on the Ops people, and I think the cloud facilitates that. It makes it easier," said Michael Azoff, principal analyst at Ovum.

Paul Peissner, director of business development at CollabNet, agreed. "The use of the cloud gives developers the freedom to invent without the unexpected changes that are found in the infrastructure in the past," he said.

The traditional development model isn't working

DevOps is a reaction to the traditional bureaucratic and organizational structure that assumes technology is as hard to run today as it was 20 years ago. For Peissner, the widespread use of DevOps shows that the old model doesn't work. Cloud has also allowed businesses to rent applications and computing environments, eliminating the need for separate specialists.

Today, Azoff said, the cloud is becoming more attractive as new and varied services offerings emerge. Cloud services for developers are definitely driving DevOps adoption. "We're seeing the cloud become increasingly friendly to developers and providing them with environments they can work in," he explained.

The adoption of cloud by developers also has a direct impact on Ops. "If you have a hosted service, you're taking the job away from Ops people," Azoff said.

DevOps and cloud requires collaboration

Jamie Begin, founder and CEO of RightBrain Networks, said this is a positive change for Ops. "[Ops folks] evolve or die. I think it's a net good thing. Change tends to scare people, but people that got into IT did so because they love technology. You're not going to have the guy show up at work every day to install firewalls or IP phones. I don't know anyone who wanted to do that kind of work anyway," he said. "You have to understand how technology works within the business and how it can be applied to solve business problems. The technologists won't be Ops [people] button pushing but enabling the business to accomplish goals in a quicker and more efficient way."

The cloud drives a need for collaborative decision making, Peissner said, "and more stakeholders involved in inventing rather than managing a nirvana environment that never changes."

For Begin, this shared ownership means that Ops' value is more readily evident to the business. "As an IT guy, the only time you noticed when something was broken was when someone was yelling at you or you were being paged in the middle of the night. You go to work every day and expect to either get yelled at or ignored. In DevOps, you're working with developers and enabling the business. It's easier to quantify from a business perspective. Your suddenly enabling things rather than telling people they can't do stuff," he said. "I like doing that. I like being part of a team that is delivering a solution and is aligned with the business itself rather than an Ops guy who is just maintaining."

The future of DevOps

Change benefits Ops as blended development and Ops teams emerge, agreed David Linthicum, senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners. "Let developers deal with infrastructure, scaling, replication -- all these things that have been the bane of Ops," he said. "[Ops] changes from the worst job to the coolest job, because they steward the cloud in order to become the platform for the apps. Their job becomes more interesting, much more creative."

In the future, experts agree that a union between DevOps and cloud will be the norm. "DevOps will become innate to how we do development," Linthicum said. It will become more automated, more tightly coupled with the cloud. "As developers come out of universities and are schooled up in terms of cloud and DevOps, it will become part of the way we do things."

Eventually, Begin said he thinks the IT department will go away entirely. "DevOps bridges technology along with IaaS to get us to PaaS," he said. "PaaS allows you to take an app you've written, press a button and make it magically deploy in the cloud." In his view, PaaS will be the dominant application development and delivery platform in the near future. "We won't need an IT department in the traditional sense we have now," he said. "The bigger focus will be on technologists embedded in the business units themselves."

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