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DevOps – The next 5 years

Recently I was asked the question on LinkedIn: “Where will DevOps be in 5 years’ time?” Let’s explore the topic in more detail in this post.

The adoption of Agile

Whenever I hear this question the first thing I think about is the adoption of Agile software development. The Agile Manifesto was published in 2001, and the term DevOps was coined 8 years later in 2009. If we look at Google Trends as a proxy for adoption we can see that interest in DevOps is rising rapidly but is still well behind Agile.  

But the adoption of Agile (even after nearly 20 years) is still unevenly distributed. The 2020 State of Agile report shows that 84% of organisations still have a long way to go with their Agile adoption.  

Where do I think DevOps will be in 5 years?

I suspect that the distribution of DevOps adoption will look very much like the Agile graph above.  

The majority of organisations will be trying to adopt DevOps, but very few will be doing it consistently well. I think the rate of DevOps adoption will be faster than the rate of Agile adoption due to the adoption of hyperscale cloud driving interest in DevOps. If we add AWS (green) and Microsoft Azure (yellow)  to the trends graph we can see the explosive growth of interest in cloud technology. DevOps will continue to ride this wave too.  

DevOps is now firmly on the agenda of almost every Enterprise organisation we talk to so in that sense the acceptance of the need to change the way orgs deliver IT services has “crossed the chasm” and gone mainstream.  

How will DevOps technology, patterns and practices evolve in the next 5 years?  

I think that if we look at the first 10 years of DevOps a lot of the agenda around DevOps has been driven from the Dev side (despite it originally been called “Agile Infrastructure”!).   

It’s quite common for customers to tell us they are “doing DevOps” but then you find out that they haven’t even spoken to anyone in Ops at all . This could be because Ops is outsourced to a large GSI, but that’s a topic for a different post. Often the people who are leading a large scale DevOps transformation agenda tend to be from software development (Dev) side, not Ops.

I think the next 5 years will bring a resurgence of innovation from the Ops side of the house. Episode V: Operations Strikes Back if you will.  

The work that John Allspaw and others are doing on the cognitive side of operations and incident management is ground-breaking (read the Stella.Report from SNAFUcatchers for a foundation).  

I think event-driven automation (e.g. Puppet Relay) will grow rapidly and be important in making “every day” automation much more accessible for traditional ops people.  

All the major cloud vendors are investing a LOT of money in AI & ML.  This will radically change how we manage our environments and applications. You can watch my session on the Future of Ops from CodeCamp Romania if you want to learn more. 

Over the next 5 years the novelty of the “as-code” approach (infrastructure-as-code, configuration-as-code etc) will wear off and this will become very much more the “norm”. A lot of this will be driven by the massive benefits this brings from a governance and compliance perspective, and hence the internal Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC) teams will start asking why AREN’T you using these techniques rather that not. Puppet Comply is a good example here.  

The “DevOps Sucks” wave

Over the next 5 years, we’ll inevitably see a wave of “DevOps sucks” or “DevOps is Dead” contrarian viewpoints do the rounds because (1) being contrarian is great clickbait and (2) we still have a lot of learn about HOW to deliver a successful DevOps transformation.  

If you go back to 2018 Gartner was already forecasting that 75% of “DevOps initiatives will fail to meet expectations due to issues around organizational learning and change.”.  

Change is hard, right. And we have a lot more to learn about HOW to do ANY type of organisational change effectively, not just a DevOps transformation. You can start by reading this blog post to increase your chances of success.  

So, in summary: 

  1. Will the next 5 years be radically different to the last 5 years? No, albeit DevOps has crossed the chasm and gone mainstream 
  1. Where will the innovation in DevOps come from in the next 5 years? It will be all about Ops.  
  1. Will DevOps fade away in 5 years? No, in exactly the same way that it’s 8 year older sibling Agile has not. 
  1. Will someone invent a Scaled DevOps Framework that will promise DevOps nirvana? Yes, of course, consultants have to make money, right, but it’ll will be an overly prescriptive pile of crap. Which is why our DevOps Framework (the Adaptive IT Framework) is very explicitly a set of building blocks and things to think about rather than a prescriptive formula). 

What do you think the next 5 years of DevOps will hold? Give us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Linkedin.

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