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DevOpsGroup Blog Is DevOps your defence against Shadow IT?

Is DevOps your defence against Shadow IT?

We’ve been evangelising DevOps quite a bit lately amongst customers and partners and one of the arguments that seems to resonant the most with people about why the current paradigm of IT Development and Operations is “broken” is around the rise of “Shadow IT”.

“Shadow IT is a term often used to describe IT systems and IT solutions built and used inside organizations without organizational approval. It is also used, along with the term “Stealth IT,” to describe solutions specified and deployed by departments other than the IT department.”

“Shadow IT” is nothing new – it’s been around pretty much since the invention of the PC and client/server computing – but what is new is the speed and ease at which “Shadow IT” can be deployed, and the performance, reliability and stability of that “Shadow IT” solution.

“Sally from Marketing”, armed with nothing more than a company credit card, can instantiate an arbitrary number of servers, of varying capacity and specification, from a wide variety of Cloud hosting providers.

Depending on the quality of the internal IT and her choice of Cloud provider it’s quite possible that she will get better uptime and performance from her Shadow IT solution than what she might get internally.

She can then find a 3rd software house to write some bespoke software (and then someone like DevOpsGuys to deploy and manage it… Oooopps!) and her “Shadow IT solution” is up and running (not to mention the many other SaaS solutions that she could consume).

Figure 1 – DevOpsGuys – BrightTalk Webinar

In our recent BrightTalk webinar we spoke about how Gartner predicts that “Shadow IT” is expected to grow, and that there is some evidence (the PwC survey) that there is a negative correlation between “IT control” and organisational performance.

So, in summary, the traditional silo-mentality model of IT clearly isn’t meeting the customer’s needs for flexibility, innovation and time-to-market, and Cloud Computing is enabling the growth of “Shadow IT” on a scale never seen before.

To take a military analogy this is like the invention of highly mobile, mechanised “manoeuvre warfare” during WW II. The entrenched positions of the Maginot Line (think “traditional IT departments”) were rendered irrelevant by the “blitzkrieg” tactics (think “Shadow IT”) of the Wehrmacht as they simply bypassed the fixed fortifications with their more manoeuvrable, dare I say “agile”, mechanised infantry.

What is particularly fascinating, if Wikipedia can be believed, is that “blitzkrieg”, contrary to popular belief, was never a formal warfighting “doctrine” of the German Army (emphasis mine):

“Naveh states, “The striking feature of the blitzkrieg concept is the complete absence of a coherent theory which should have served as the general cognitive basis for the actual conduct of operations”

Naveh described it as an “ad hoc solution” to operational dangers, thrown together at the last moment

An “ad-hoc solution” to operational dangers, thrown together at the last moment” is probably a pretty good definition of “Shadow IT” too but the important fact to remember is that Blitzkrieg worked (whether it was a formal doctrine or not). It crushed the opposition and subsequently became the cornerstone of modern military “combined arms” doctrine.
So, what’s this got to do with DevOps?

Well, clearly Gartner think that “Shadow IT” is working well too, and will continue to “outflank” traditional IT Departments.

Our view is that DevOps can be seen as the perfect defence to “Shadow IT” as it co-opts many of the key “manoeuvre warfare” concepts to provide the user with the speed, flexibility and time-to-market they want, but still within the control of IT to ensure standards, security and compliance.

DevOps, by breaking down the silos between Development and Operations, seeks to create unified cross-functional teams organised around specific objectives (ideally specific products that generate value for your organisation).

Compare this to the Wikipedia definition of “combined arms” doctrine” (bold emphasis mine):

“Combined arms is an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different combat arms of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects (for example, using infantry and armor in an urban environment, where one supports the other, or both support each other). Combined arms doctrine contrasts with segregated arms where each military unit is composed of only one type of soldier or weapon system. Segregated arms is the traditional method of unit/force organisation, employed to provide maximum unit cohesion and concentration of force in a given weapon or unit type.”

Let’s paraphrase this for DevOps…

“[DevOps] is an approach to [IT Service delivery] which seeks to integrate different [technical silos] of a [IT Department) to achieve mutually complementary effects (for example, using [Development] and [Operations] in an [e-commerce] environment, where one supports the other, or both support each other). [DevOps] doctrine contrasts with [Traditional IT] where each [IT Team] is composed of only one type of [technical specialist] or [Technology] system. [Traditional IT] the traditional method of [team/department] organisation, employed to provide maximum [team] cohesion and concentration of [technical expertise] in a given [technology] or [team] type.”

That seems to be a pretty good definition of DevOps doctrine, to me!
The only true defence to “Shadow IT” is to offer a level of service that meets the internal customer needs for speed, flexibility and time-to-market they want. If they can get it “in-house” then the impetus to build a “Shadow IT” organisation is reduced.
The best way to deliver this level of service is, in our view, to adopt the lessons of Blitzkrieg and “combined arms” doctrine as embodied within DevOps by “integrating different teams… to achieve mutually complementary effects” and leveraging new technologies (like Cloud, APM and continuous delivery) to ensure ability AND stability.

4 thoughts on “Is DevOps your defence against Shadow IT?

  1. Interesting thoughts. To push the analogy farther, the get an blitzkrieg was tactically successful, but was not operationally or strategically successful. (The Germans lost in the end). In particular the brilliant tactical. Victories ended up so overextending the German lines that they were unable to effectively capitalize on their gains. Perhaps the equivalent of shadow IT is that if mash provide brilliant and immediate results, but sage hat I’d eventually a cost that cannot be maintained?

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