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Kit Plummer
Software Engineer :: Techitect :: Evangelist
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Trust as the Cornerstone of DevOps Culture

Patrick Debois’ How to Bootstrap a DevOps Mentality prezo

  • is so good, I can only wish that I’d have been there. Since, I can not catch the next hop to a Euro DevOps meetup, nor execute time-travel a follow-up blog post is the best I can do.

First, let me caveat with saying that I’m a software engineer, and come from a history of Agile attempts (some successful, and some not-so-much). I can’t help but feel like the current buzz around DevOps is tilted towards the Ops functions. Perhaps this is due to the well-deserved attention tools like Puppet and Chef are getting (and the hype revolving around all-things cloud). Automation in the Ops space is very much needed.

I completely agree with Patrick, DevOps is a cultural issue, and subsequently a behaviorial one. Having spent many years working in realtime, embedded software, I can assure you that the current development-operations flux is no different than the current software-hardware riff in the longer running product/widget space. And yes, respect is the “correct” answer. However, changing culture in most organizations with dev and ops shops is an unrealistic expectation. Every organization regardless of a product or service focus, in widget or web form, will be challenged with respect, responsibility, and accountability issues - by the pure dynamic nature of culture. Again yes, there are exceptions to every rule, and there are a few organizations that can overcome culture issues, but they are the minority (especially as the size/complexity of the organization increases).

Trust is paramount.

I love this: trust = f(character,competence)

As both character and competency are fluid with changing teams, changes in organizational structure, and projects themselves it is very important that there is a way to ensure that the values can be made more concrete, improving over time. How we do this is the million [insert_currency_here, !pesos] question, for the DevOps community to debate.

I’ll go ahead and assert that the pivot point (for balancing the relationship between development and deployment) is testing. Testing is the proof of character and competence, the only practice that can provide concrete values to these variables. And, testing is something that can be proven over time. Proof, is the precursor to truth (read trust). Take safety-critical systems for example (e.g. an automated medicine injection system)…ok, bad example…take for example a mission critcal system like a stock transaction processing system. The development and operational activities aren’t left to culture, or behavior to ensure quality (or rate of deployability). These systems are tested, automatically and otherwise, out the wazoo - including the deployment operation. These tests provide the confidence/proof required to create an organizational culture of trust - not member behavior which is susceptible to too many influences.

Trust is derived from proof.

IMHO, bootstrapping a DevOps culture of trust is solely dependent on testing. And thus, DevOps is indeed a technology problem - assuming that testing must be automated as much as possible in order to be of long-term value.

Even within the software engineering microcosm the same issues of trust exist. Agile practices, as stated in my favorite book on the subject, push for respect in the form of humans and technology. Source code management tools enable Agile practices like “commit early, commit often” and continuous integration, which lead to transparency and respect, and thus trust later. Without source control, trust would never survive developer turnover and external technology influences or organizational culture.

In order to build and grow DevOps cultures we need to be more “inclusive” of software development culture and practices, and extend to and accept the technology discussion. The technology solution needs to go all the way to the front-end (requirements/stories) and include automated quality assurance in the middle. If we don’t end-to-end trust and collaboration will be a pipe dream.

I’ll be speaking on this subject at DevOps Day at SCALE9X if you’d like to engage on the discussion. I’d love any feedback, comments, or WTFs.

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