Case Study: DevOps in Complex Enterprise IT Environments

Gene Kim

Gene Kim

In this article, Gene Kim interviews Curtis Yanko, who has 17 years’ experience in application development, best delivery practices and has become a leading evangelist for DevOps in the enterprise. His past 12 years has been spent working with Fortune 100 insurance companies. Gene is co-author of “The Phoenix Project” and is hosting the DevOps Enterprise Summit on October 21-23.

Why is DevOps important to you?

Curtis YankoBecause IT matters to the business, and DevOps provides a holistic approach to improve IT performance in a profound way. It’s also important in that it’s nothing new but more about a culture of collaboration and empathy.

It’s also important to me that there is a community of practitioners sharing their experiences. At first those stories were hard to understand because they were written by the unicorns and seemed like a fantasy. Thankfully, however, we are hearing more and more stories shared by the horses, making it apparent you don’t have to be born on the web to have a modern IT delivery system.

So for someone like me who has been passionate about helping IT organizations modernize their IT delivery, DevOps has been very affirming while at the same time providing a clear and succinct path.

What are challenges of implementing DevOps in large, complex enterprise IT environments?

The first thing that jumps out at me is the sheer number of applications, services and technologies. Essentially decades of technologies and architectures and everything that comes with large scale complexity accrued over time. But the first real challenge is simply figuring out where to start and what to do.

On another level there is the challenge of overcoming the inertia of how things have always been done. You find strongly held beliefs behind a lot of policies that use words like ‘always’ and ‘never.’  As you talk about things like automated deployment it is hard for folks to understand how it can be done in ‘Prod’ too.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of all though is getting buy-in from all of the stakeholders. Again, the sheer volume of people, each with their own concerns and many who can easily be frightened by outsiders asking them to change.

What did you do to overcome them?

I’m a firm believer that most people can only understand what they can see, so the first thing I worked on was making it real. We started by delivery truly zero-touch deployments for just one component of one app, and built on that until we had a zero-touch application deployment. This took a long time, most notably in the database space. This ‘tracer bullet’ allowed us to show a better way of managing our test environments and at the same time create some discontent for the status quo.

Throughout this process we started building relationships with the folks who were responsible for the platforms–system administrators, security, production support, and QA teams. In each case we showed them what was possible and what the process could offer them.

What was the value you’ve created as a result of putting DevOps patterns into place?

While we can certainly show traditional ROI calculations in terms of dollars based on the removal of idle times and reduced rework, we prefer to think of it as increased capacity. We feel the real value is in enabling our existing IT org to bite off more work without having to also throw resources at it. We still have a long way to go and a lot more value to realize, but that just adds to the excitement as folks realize that same sheer scale of possibilities I alluded to in the challenges section. Once we have dispelled the idea that DevOps is magic and people realize it is just a rationalized, orchestrated workflow, they realize the sky is the limit.

The bigger value though, in my opinion, is watching the culture evolve. As folks see what is possible and get involved as stakeholders, I’m seeing increasing momentum to not just embrace the change but to run with it. In essence, the cultural piece has gone viral as more and more people are hearing the stories or seeing the results their peers are enjoying and then seeking ways to get involved. People start seeing and thinking about things differently and challenging things that have been taken for granted for a long time.

About Curtis Yanko

Curtis Yanko has 17 years’ experience in application development and delivery practices and has become a leading evangelist for DevOps in the enterprise. Curtis’ responsibilities include DevOps strategy as well as architecting and delivering the continuous integration and delivery pipelines that optimize the software delivery lifecycle through the application of lean principles and test driven development. Curtis brings together not only Development and Operations teams but also QA, Legal, Security and Audit as well.

Curtis’ holistic approach to application delivery is a driver for IT Transformation as traditional silos learn how to partner for success. He is the chairperson of the Open Source Working Group responsible for policy and governance of Open Source Software use and contribution. Curtis’ public speaking engagements include AgileCT on Applying XP Practices In Agile Development, Gartner Security Summit on Security At The Speed Of Development, DevNation on How DevOps Protects Brand, and IBM Innovate on How Deployment Automation Drives Cultural Change. In 2013 Curtis was a Luminary Award winner for Vision, Thought Leadership and  Passion and Dedication for working in bringing Open Source Security concerns into the DevOps model.

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