DevOps software development promise aided by OpenStack

The promise of DevOps software development is being helped along by OpenStack, which is creating more opportunities for automation of operations.

Vancouver -- This certainly isn't a DevOps conference, but after sitting through morning keynotes and spending afternoons speaking with attendees at the OpenStack summit, one can't help but realize that the design, development and advancement of OpenStack technologies such as Swift and Nova lead to a world where the benefits of DevOps software development moves from hype and buzzwords to a reality with tangible results and quantifiable benefits.

For many, the mere mention of the term DevOps triggers a rolling of the eyes. If you're part of the eye-rolling camp, don't worry; you're in good company. Consider ZeroTurnaround CEO Jevgeni Kabanov's thinking: "I have a bit of trouble with the term DevOps because I'm not sure it's well defined." This is a great quote, not simply because it hits at the heart of the problem, but because it comes from the CEO of a company that arguably delivers some of the most compelling DevOps tools on the market.

How do we define DevOps?

So if Kabanov doesn't like the nebulous definitions of DevOps floating around the industry, how would he define it? "My thinking is that DevOps is dual. The first part is breaking down walls between development and operations. Both sides have to worry about how they are creating value for the customer -- whether the customer is internal or external. The other part is more of a trend from the developers' side -- using more development techniques in operations."

Regarding the second half of Kabanov's DevOps software development duality, when you talk about using more development techniques in operations, much of what you're talking about is automation. After all, the domain of operations is managing resources, spinning up new virtual machines, allocating more CPU cycles or memory to a given Docker container, deploying applications, monitoring performance and responding to alerts in a meaningful way. If you're programming against any of these use cases, you are automating your operations.

OpenStack technologies make life easier.

During a morning keynote address, Graeme Peacock, TD Bank Group's vice president of engineering, spoke of the challenge of managing technology for a banking empire that somehow managed to use nearly every product from every vendor in at least one of its global IT initiatives. "That kind of diversity means there are a lot of one-offs and a lot of customization, and there is very little automation," Peacock said. Sure, sometimes a given project can make a short-term deadline by purchasing an off-the-shelf tool or by quickly integrating a custom service, but in the long term, managing such a dystopia becomes a disaster.

We moved away from lower cost locations. We actually created an engineering center in Manhattan.

Graeme Peacock,
TD Bank's vice president of engineering

And although adopting a vendor-based product might make short-term sense, in the long term, large-scale cost saving opportunities that could be found through automation are lost. When you're dealing with a multi-billion dollar operation where practically every customer-based interaction is through a computer system, missing out on automation opportunities is an unacceptable cost. So not surprisingly, Peacock wants to see 80% of all TD Bank Group applications hosted on the cloud within the next five years, and if a project doesn't see cloud-based hosting as a fit, that project needs his personal sign-off.

The on-shore development model.

Interestingly, the unintended, although more than welcome consequence of all this automation is the fact that organizations like TD Bank are bringing high-paying IT jobs home. A global cloud-based technology strategy means finding skilled IT workers that have an international mindset, and although the Nevada desert may provide more competitively priced real estate, Peacock knows that cities like Manhattan are where you'll find thought leaders that will push his IT initiatives forward. "We moved away from lower cost locations. We actually created an engineering center in Manhattan, and we did that for a very specific reason," Peacock said. "We need people with truly international experience."

Jevgeni Kabanov is right when he takes issue withthe way the term DevOps gets thrown around like a trendy little buzzword. But when organizations deliver on what Kabanov sees as being a key part of the DevOps software development promise, namely using more development techniques to automate operations, real value in terms of cost savings and data center management can be realized, just as TD Bank Group has found.

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