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Enterprises offer own twist on DevOps adoption

For many companies, DevOps remains a long-term goal, and they are putting their own spin on how to best adopt it.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- DevOps adoption by the average enterprise is still rare but interest is growing, which indicates that IT executives understand how team collaboration and rapid application delivery are crucial to a company's long-term success.

At Gartner's IT Operations Strategies & Solutions Summit here recently, IT architects from a variety of established companies agreed that slow application development cycles don't cut it in a world where immediacy is valued, and they are taking steps to address their own transformation.

That's not to say that everyone will reproduce the brand of rapid IT service delivery using the lean, agile methods popular with start-ups and Web-based companies. Enterprises have unique demands that include government regulation, established cultures and legacy baggage -- not to mention that it's tough to sell DevOps, in which the notion of "fail fast" is part of the process.

"You can't ask companies where failure is not an option to fail, whether it's fast, slow or otherwise," said David Paul Williams, a Gartner research vice president.

Nevertheless, cutting application delivery times is desirable, however it may appear. One of the nation's best-known insurers, Prudential Financial Inc., has begun an enthusiastic revamp of seven applications from its life policies group. Jason Berkowitz, director of infrastructure at the 140-year-old insurance company, advises to start small.

Prudential took its first steps using open source software, such as Jenkins, for orchestration; SonarQube, a quality management platform; and Apache ZooKeeper, a configuration management tool. The project still cost $4 million in labor, "all proof of concept," he said. His next step is to evaluate and choose licensed tools.

For Berkowitz, DevOps adoption is a long-term goal. "Today, companies have to string it all together, pick the right tools and keep up with it all," he said. "That's an art."

One of Western Canada's largest regional banks has undergone an even more extensive update of its financial and legacy application development process, which will likely take more than three years to complete. The bank, which has about 6,500 employees in roughly 170 locations, began reorganizing its IT and development teams into a responsive solutions group just over a year ago.

The effort was initiated by the CIO who was inspired by Gartner's bimodal IT development process, the descriptive term the consultancy uses to describe how enterprises should overlap management of traditional processes with exploratory technologies.

The bank's board of directors endorsed the transformation, which the IT infrastructure director said will pave their way to a DevOps work style -- DevOps defined by the bank not as agile project management but a catchall term for how the development and operations process is managed.

"All organizations will take what works for them from the plethora of options," said the IT infrastructure director, who declined to be identified. "Agile is extreme programming. We are more agile than waterfall, but for us it will depend on the team or the application."

For him, it means that instead of having a year-long application release cycle, it might be every quarter or every month.

Though the bank may be more aggressive than many enterprises, Gartner's Williams said he has noticed a definite uptick in enterprise IT's willingness to adopt DevOps initiatives during the past year or so --though we likely won't see an across-the-board adoption of these practices.

"Enterprise IT sees the value in it," Williams said. "They are trying to wrestle what part of that value they can apply to their app/dev lifecycle" 'Where do I start? What tools do I need? And what sort of practice can I sell to the business community that has to get behind this?'"

Margie Semilof is editorial director for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization media group. Contact her at [email protected].

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