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What is devops?

A cultural environment

What is devops? First off, it’s a lot more than a buzzword in the telecom industry. Despite the widespread attention devops has received, the concept lacks linguistic clarity. Numerous organizations have adopted the term with conflicting perceptions about what it actually means.

Originally coined by Patrick Debois in 2009, devops is a title encompassing two different communities: developers and operations staff. The idea behind devops is to meld these teams to deliver quicker time to market applications with lower costs and better quality.

Unlike other tech trends, devops isn’t a purchasable product. Rather, it is a practice with a people dimension, a technology dimension and a processing dimension. While there are multiple schools of thought to devops, they are tied together by a set of values including safety, content, knowledge and people over products.

The benefits of devops

Devops recognizes developers and operations staff depend on each other. Software developers write codes, whereas operations staff ensure those codes run smoothly. Devops breaks down the barriers between developers and operations staff.

For example, devops allows developers to create their own servers. Traditionally, developers would have to go through an operations department to request a server. This request would often take weeks to fulfill, making developers fall behind competitors pumping out services at a faster clip. With devops, software developers can deploy and update apps on their servers quickly. This takes some of the workload off the shoulders of operations departments, while giving software developers greater autonomy.

By the same token, devops enables operations staff to take on some of the duties of software developers and manage more servers. Operations staff save time when software developers can spin up their own servers, which helps normalize office hours for both departments.

Moreover, devops is particularly pertinent to the telecom industry with the shift to network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN). In a virtualized networking society, software developers are recognized as providing additional services with NFVs. Operations staff are recognized for promoting those additional services. As NFVs are deployed, devops is seen as a way to provide closer collaboration between developers and operations teams.

Tools for devops

Trust is needed to ensure a devops culture can flourish. Both sides must willingly choose to forge a mutually beneficial synergy. Several tools have been developed to help cultivate such a culture, including Chef Server, Puppet, Ansible and Saltstack, to name just a few. While these tools aren’t necessary to grow a devops culture, they are helpful. The number of servers operations departments have to administer grows alongside the number of services deployed by developers. This challenges operations staff that do not have the tools to manage a large amount of servers. These tools automate several tasks that operations staff can oversee on neither their time nor dime.

Devops teams would automate everything from code testing to infrastructure provision. Chef, for instance, is an automated platform designed to create systems that decrease the people needed to manage servers and increase service applications. The source of Chef’s power lies in its ability to transform infrastructure into code that can configure and maintain company servers. This is known as configuration management.

It is important to emphasize devops tools are intended to serve, not replace people. Both developers and operations staff need to work together on the infrastructure planning. By automating repetitive and tedious tasks, both teams can commit to duties demanding the full resources of their minds.

A new movement

Devops is still a budding movement but is spreading like wildfire in the open networking ecosystem. Establishing close communication between developers and operators can deflect conflicts of interest and boost the delivery of applications. Although devops is one of many tech trends, it isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.


Nathan Cranford
Nathan Cranford
Nathan Cranford joined RCR Wireless News as a Technology Writer in 2017. Prior to his current position, he served as a content producer for GateHouse Media, and as a freelance science and tech reporter. His work has been published by a myriad of news outlets, including COEUS Magazine, dailyRx News, The Oklahoma Daily, Texas Writers Journal and VETTA Magazine. Nathan earned a bachelor’s from the University of Oklahoma in 2013. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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