It wasn't too long ago that the IT department was simply 'there' – a necessary evil tolerated to ensure the day-to-day computing necessities were up and unobtrusively running while the real-world rain-makers did their thing.
Software developers, if they were in-situ at all, were even more niche and their work was often limited to reactive fire-fighting rather than constructively pitching in with any genuine business purpose.
Try running a business strategy along such siloed lines today and see how far it gets you.
The era of applications and online services as bolted on nice-to-haves is long gone. Nowadays – in an overwhelming and growing way – they are the business.
A modern consumer's vote of confidence comes from a click of a mouse or a swipe of a smart device, and if your apps aren't firing on all cylinders they'll waste no time in logging on to your rivals' offering.
There's little or no breathing space for error any more – and rightly so. If you're going to thrive as a business, data-driven intelligence, speed, agility and quality of service are indispensable.
Whether they are customer-facing or behind the scenes, the number of apps in use by businesses is skyrocketing and becoming more and more integrated and interdependent. And the numbers and intricacies are only going to grow as the much-trumpeted Internet of Things (IoT) juggernaut picks up momentum.
With limited budgets to throw bodies at this convoluted and unprecedented problem, IT departments have been forced to adapt.
This is the very reason the notion of DevOps is steadily gaining influence. Essentially, this is a nascent method of software development whereby developers are uniquely attuned to IT infrastructure functions and business strategies – a fluid and empathetic platform to bring better and more relevant apps and services to life for the benefit of both the bottom line and consumer.
The DevOps factor is starting to become difficult to ignore, according to Puppet Labs' third annual State of DevOps Report last year. The 2014 report showed that of the surveyed IT organisations, the high-performers deployed code 30 times more frequently and with 50% fewer failures.
The report went on to explain that firms with switched-on IT teams were twice as likely to exceed their profitability, market share and productivity goals, and that IT performance strongly correlates with such well-known DevOps staples as use of version control and continuous delivery.
What's more, it also explained that the longer an organisation has implemented and continues to improve upon DevOps practices, the better it performs. DevOps inspired culture was also highlighted, including common practices such as good information flow, cross-functional collaboration, shared responsibilities, and learning from failure, were all seen as highly beneficial.
But as a mind-set and methodology, the sustainable success of DevOps is reliant on a robust infrastructure on which it can thrive and deliver tangible results through innovative automation, orchestration and process reengineering.
In order for this to happen, there is a pressing need for powerful application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable infrastructures to be dynamically configured, extensible and flexible.
It is through these APIs and the ability to deliver programmatic extensibility that new and better routes to operational innovation are unlocked and amplified across the ever-expanding numbers we simply cannot do business without.
Clearly, DevOps can and will shine, paving the way for the economies of operational scale required to efficiently meet challenges associated with rapid, explosive growth in both user communities and app deployments.
The trick now is to make sure they are given the chance to do so.
Gary Newe is Technical Director of F5 Networks
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