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Maximising the Value of the Cloud Through DevOps

DevOpsGroup CPO Stephen Thair talks about maximising the value of cloud through DevOps, and how DevOps drives cloud productivity.

Date: 24th January 2017 | Duration: 09:53

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How DevOps drives Cloud productivity.

So this is what a steam powered factory looked like in about 1860. What you actually see with all those pulleys and stuff on top is what they call a line drive system. You had a big steam engine up in the ceiling of these factories, and this incredibly complicated apparatus of spindles and pulleys and shop floors all driving, driven by a steam engine, driving a massive wheel. So this is kind of what the steam engine looked like up in the up in the ceiling, driving that big wheel.

I think the key thing to remember about the steam engine is that steam engines needed water and they needed coal. So the factories were very limited in where they could be put, they had to be put next to a water supply, and they had to be basically put next to a railway line where you could bring all the coal and stuff in. So it was very limited, and I think also the key thing was that you were generating all of your power effectively. Steam power versus electric power. But you were generating all of your power locally, in the same way that many organisations generate all their compute power locally in private data centres.

So interesting thing I think about the line drive system was because it was a physical and mechanical thing you lost about 25 percent of the power as you went along this line drive, and they estimate between one third and two thirds of the power that was being generated by your big steam engine up in the ceiling was lost in mechanical friction of all of these pulleys and spindles and loops and stuff. In the same way that maybe in a private data you’re only actually using about five or 10 percent of the CPU you power you might actually have available, because you’ve got lots of idle machines sitting there not doing very very much. I think the other thing about to really notice about this factory it’s depressing. It’s miserable, it’s dark, it’s gloomy. All of these machines are clustered together because of this transmission loss across the line drive you know they were trying to cluster everything together. The layout of the factory was heavily influenced by the power generation mechanism.

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So it’s electrification!

So let’s fast forward to around 1880 and these two guys come along. You can probably see anybody. Anybody know who these two guys are? Yep you read the line in the bottom. Good man. So Nikola Tesla. Thomas Alva Edison. The invention of the the AC vs. DC electric wars in the eighteen hundreds, 1880 ordnance basically. And at the same time as this thing is going on you’ve got the Westinghouse Corporation starting to build electric power plants and invention of the steam turbine which means a massively increased the ability to generate power. So it’s electrification! It was the wonder of the modern age you know very very exciting.

So being forward thinking progressive people all of these factory owners they wanted to embrace electrification. They thought all electrification is fantastic. I want to be modern. I want to be right up there. So what did they do with their factories when they moved to electrification? Anybody want to guess? That’s right. They stuck a bigger electric engine on the first floor where the steam engine used to be and changed nothing else. OK. Which is in some ways is a little bit like what some of us trying to do with the Cloud. We’re trying to take the way that we run a data centre and an infrastructure as a service model. We’re trying to keep all our processes the same, all of our procedures the same, and everything the same, and we’re trying to move this lock stock and barrel into the Cloud. And maybe we’re not quite seeing the outcomes that we would like.

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Nothing much really changed

So nothing really much changed in the in the factory. And interestingly when you look at the productivity stats between sort of 1880 and 1920 nothing much really changed. There was some productivity growth. Interesting to note. So this is productivity of labour, this is basically productivity a return on investment capital. Interestingly that line is going down because on spending a lot of money on doing some stuff. So how do we get the benefit from this fantastic innovation. This general purpose technology that electrification represents.

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Complementary innovation

So a lot of people have been studying this for a lot of time. And they talk about this idea of complementary innovation, this guy Erik Brynjolfsson. And this idea that the primary innovation is great, electrification, the primary innovation, Cloud. It’s great, but you need a whole bunch of secondary innovations around the outside of this to really drive the value of what you want. And for my view DevOps is a collection of some of these secondary innovations.

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Change the way we do things

So what happened over this 30-year period? What was really what was really happening? Well we were seeing lots of innovation in the actual AC, the Tesla rented the AC electric motor, and there was this transference in the factory to what they call unit drive. They realised “I don’t need one big engine in the ceiling I can actually put a motor into every single piece of machinery”. And once I put this motor into every single piece of machinery I can now start to evolve the way my factory is designed. I don’t have to have all of those spindles. I don’t have to have my factory laid out, so everything is clustered around the power generation capacity of my steam engine. I can start to redesign my factory for the flow of materials. I can start to spread my factory out. I can improve a whole bunch of different things to make the flow of goods through my factory be more effective.

In the same way than in our modern software factories we’re trying to improve the flow of software, from source control through our automated DevOps continuous integration continuous delivery pipelines into our application pulleys automation in the Cloud. And it’s just a great quote here from this white paper, or journal article, from shaft to wires: “Machinery could now be arranged on the factory floor. A natural sequence.” We now have an opportunity to redesign our factories, redesign our processes, and change the way we do things.

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Benefits of a DevOps enabled Cloud

It’s quite easy to actually almost draw a distinct linkage between some of the benefits of Cloud, in particular of a DevOps enabled Cloud, that enables you to maximise the value of what you’ve got. So, if we think about these things you know, what we’re trying to do with DevOps, you know factory layout. Well we’re trying to maximise for flow. We’re trying to automate some of these processes. We’re trying to realign our software factories the way our teams work in a DevOps model to maximise the flow of material through the system. We’re changing our working environment by pushing out more mastery, autonomy, and purpose, and belonging out to our teams. We’re changing the culture in these multidisciplinary product teams that we like to see in a DevOps model.

We’re going to get more uptime because we’re removing these single points of failure, we’ve got better power generation distributing. We’re getting rid of the data centres we’re giving you space back in the office, if your data centre is co-located back in your office. You’ve got much greater control because I can have a machine size from one core to 60 cores, at the flick of a button really. And I don’t have to worry about machines not working, I can power it down overnight, I can get better control over my costs.

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So this is kind of what we’re starting to see with a lot of DevOps enabled organisations, is that they’re starting to get these increases in productivity. They’re starting to combine these two things, Cloud and DevOps together to get this productivity gain, and they complement each other very very nice.

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Consulting as a value add

So before we just move off this this analogy, one other thing I noticed in the journal articles was this great quote about consulting as a value add. So back in 1905 the Edison Electric Company actually linked motors to their customers. So you’d have a customer who’s signed an agreement with this Detroit Edison this big enterprise. Let’s call that an enterprise agreement. And in return for signing that enterprise agreement you’ve got some some free consulting to the customer. Let’s call those customer hours. And they would understand that the benefit of getting people moving towards this consultancy. So we’re here with our 112 years later we’ve still got a very similar model. You know we still like to use consulting to help us on the journey.

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Get the most benefit out of your investment

So just to summarise that together. Cloud is the new general purpose technology similar to electrification. DevOps is what this bundle of complementary innovations that’s going to help you get the stuff together.


And this idea that people, plus process, plus technology working together is going to help you get the most benefit out of your investment, out of your Cloud migration, or your investment into I.T. is actually nothing new. People have been researching this for quite some time. I.T. is always a catalyst for organisational change.