The Core Challenges in Getting to DevOps

We posted a blog a while back that highlighted a webinar we did with Jay Lyman of 451 Research titled Crush Your Application Release Cycles: How to Get 5 Quarters in a Year. Jay highlighted a 451 Research project and shared some specific insights about enterprise DevOps and cloud adoption.

One of his conclusions was that enterprises wanting to implement advanced DevOps are in need of assistance. Even when starting small with net-new applications, they need guidance to modernize, and will need new tools to migrate existing and legacy applications. Most importantly, the 451 research clearly shows that business strategies that include aggressive enterprise movement to DevOps are essential elements of differentiation and profitability.

Chandra Reddy, our VP of Product Marketing followed Jay’s presentation with an overview of some transition challenges businesses face and an outline of how Actifio can help to streamline and automate DevOps. It starts with the premise that faster release of effective applications is a strategic advantage. And, if you follow Michael Porter’s advice, “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” In the case of DevOps, it means shedding old thinking for the opportunities brought by change. It means data virtualization.

The opportunities that come from faster application releases mean faster time-to-market (TTM). Faster TTM increases sales & revenue, market share and competitive differentiation. It’s a virtuous circle.

Think of the competitive advantage if you could reduce release cycle time by 25%. You’d get an extra quarter every year to sell; to differentiate; to capture more customers. So, what do you need to get there?

Achieving faster TTM is a simple equation: identical development + test + production environments = accelerated TTM. The most critical need of developers is for environments to be exactly the same from build-to-test-to-QA-to-UAT-to-production. That means OS, SP, Patches, App binaries etc. must all match through to production. What is often overlooked is the data.

Too often applications are tested against low-fidelity data, a smaller sample of production data. Organizations use data sub-setting to save time and storage expense. But the problem with low fidelity test data becomes clear as an application moves past unit testing, integration, and QA to user acceptance testing (UAT). Now, code that worked perfectly in earlier phases stops working. The reasons are simple. You can’t do scalability testing early. You can’t test boundary conditions early. Now, late in the development cycle, bugs begin to surface. That means going back to the beginning to work the bugs out, or releasing poor quality code. Not a happy choice. Hmmm.

So, let’s assume you fix this by providing high fidelity production data copies to all test environments. Solves one problem. Opens up others.

For example, now that all the developers and testers have full production data sets, how do you maintain control and security? Without data masking, there’s no control of sensitive data; no audit tracking. You don’t want faster application development to make you the next “target.” Even worse potential exposure increases when shadow IT takes production copies and uses them in public cloud environments. We do see some organizations mask their data. But manual processes make it slow and difficult, so we also see too many just keep fingers crossed that they won’t be exposed.

There is one more obstacle to contend with and that’s cost. Creating all the production copies that developers and testers need means lots of duplication. And if you have a very large database, all the physical copies accumulate to drive huge storage, space, and power costs. On top of that, DBAs are now burdened with some of the most boring and menial tasks in IT. Clone a DB, mask a DB, copy a masked DB. Bring it online and start again. A good way to lose your talented DBAs.

No doubt you have imagined that Actifio has an excellent way to address all of these issues and requirements. We do. Read all about it in my next post.

BTW, it’s important to remember that DevOps isn’t all about developers, it’s really about the business. It’s about gaining advantage through faster time to market. It’s a change in culture and a shift away from command and control. But it’s a profitable change.

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