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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Crossing the DevOps Cultural Divide

Someday, I would like to be a world traveler – to visit other countries, experience other cultures, sample other foods and see other sights.  And while the thought of that journey is very exciting, it is also a little intimidating.   In many places, I won’t speak the language, fully understand the customs or know what to do and when.  

There are similarities between travelling the globe and travelling the road between Dev and Ops.  The potential outcome of the DevOps journey is exciting, but also a little intimidating.  In some cases, we won’t understand the vocabulary, customs or know what to do and when.  Both trips will require us to be open to new learning and new experiences.

Before I embark on a world journey, I must build an appreciation for the unique aspects of each national culture and it’s contributions to the global community.  The DevOps journey is no different - it begins with the recognition of and mutual respect for the unique skills and practices at each stop on the itinerary. It is vital that Dev and Ops are viewed as peers with each function adding its own special value to the provision of IT services. Neither is subordinate or superior to each other.    

To prepare for my world trip, I will need to learn a little about the places I will visit.  To prepare for a DevOps journey, we must also learn a little about the function areas that we will work with.   Each team should strive to understand just enough about each other so as to “talk the talk”, but not necessarily “walk the walk”.  Fluency is not required to navigate the basics.

Understanding is great, but experience is better.    I may read about different countries but until I actually walk the streets, the experience will not be complete.  The same is true for DevOps. It is important for Dev teams and Ops teams to actually cross each other’s border and witness the daily workings of the develop-deploy-release-operate production line.  Engagement can range from passive “shadowing” to active participation.  Consider putting an Ops person on a Scrum Team for a sprint,  ask a developer to work in tandem with an operator for a shift or have developers and operators take calls or observe the service desk in action.     Whether in travel or in DevOps, immersion is the best way to learn to function in a different environment.

Your packing list wouldn’t be complete without some useful technologies.  Automation can be a great travel companion as both an expediter and a universal translator.  In DevOps, automated configuration, testing and deployment can make the transport of software  from Dev to Ops consistent and faster. Similarly, monitoring tools, metrics, reports and dashboards can translate and interpret data that provides a common basis for discussing what’s happening in the environment and why. 

While my world journey will eventually end, the DevOps journey will not.    By crossing the borders into each other’s territories, we will be better equipped to engineer realistic DevOps systems that are lean, with common vocabularies, integrated processes, greater efficiencies and greater success. 

A  DevOps without borders.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

DevOps and Infor’s Journey to the Cloud

 (also posted on

Infor, a leading provider of micro-vertical application suites, has introduced DevOps as part of an initiative to migrate its enterprise application suites to a cloud platform. The significance of this should not be lost.  Infor is not a young, Web 2.0 unicorn that was born with DevOps DNA.   Infor is a 14 year old privately held software supplier with over 70,000 customers across multiple micro-vertical markets.  Infor’s industry-specific applications are mostly deployed and managed on-premise.  The move to a cloud based AWS platform is as much of a paradigm shift for Infor as it is for its diverse customer base.

Infor’s leadership team launched the company’s annual user conference last week with keynote details about Infor XI’s cloud strategy and partnership with Amazon Web Services.   CEO Charles Phillips explained the reasoning behind the move while COO Pam Murphy recounted the technical efforts behind the scenes.   Both acknowledged the necessity of creating a function that would be dedicated to cloud operations. Standing in front of thousands of customers, Ms. Murphy described Infor Labs and how its DevOps practices would ensure that the right operating procedures were inserted into the development lifecycle.  According to Ms. Murphy, DevOps would bring “fully automated hands-free cloud operations that improves efficiency, effectiveness, consistency and security while reducing manpower requirements. “

Infor’s recognition of DevOps as a critical business success factor for its next generation of industry suites is impressive.  Brian Rose, Senior Vice President of Infor Labs and a key member of Infor’s management team for the past nine years provided some insight.  “The motivation behind developing and growing the DevOps team was driven by our ‘Cloud First’ strategy.  Over the last 18 months, Infor underwent a significant transformation to deliver industry solutions in the cloud.   This required development teams to gain a new understanding of the technical operations so that our products operate optimally and cost effectively in the cloud.”

“Our DevOps team worked closely with the development and cloud operations teams to develop standards for the cloud.  Further, they were responsible for setting and maintaining the cloud standards including the development of architectural components  that allowed for the automation of provisioning, patch processing, upgrades, backups, restores, monitoring and the development of a portal to provide a self-service option for these functions,” Rose explains.

Infor Labs has already seen results from DevOps. “The benefits that we have experienced include the reduction of the provisioning of an industry suite from weeks to minutes, decreased implementation time and costs for our customers, and solutions that are optimized from a technical ops perspective that allow our cloud infrastructure to scale so that we can support the thousands of customers that we have today in the cloud and the ability to scale to support the thousands more that we see moving to the cloud in the future, ” says Rose.

While DevOps is not intended solely for applications in the cloud, software providers such as Infor that publicly promote the value of their own DevOps culture increase proof of concept while serving as role models for their enterprise customers.    If the primary objective of DevOps is to improve speed to market and time to value, who better than a trusted commercial software provider to demonstrate real world insight and results.