What is DevOps? Kris Buytaert Explains


Kris Buytaert is known as one of the instigators of the current DevOps movement and organizer of several related conferences, including DevOpsDays and Config Management Camp. He is a long-time Linux and open source consultant who often claims that everything is a freaking DNS problem. You can find him speaking at events and consulting as the CTO (Chief Trolling Officer) at Inuits on everything from Infrastructure as Code to Continuous Delivery.

Kris Buytaert is an organizer of DevOpsDays and Config Management Camp.
Linux.com: Why are so many organizations embracing DevOps?

Kris Buytaert: A lot of organizations want to be the cool kids on the block. They want to be like the DevOps poster children: the organizations that don’t have problems deploying new functionality for their users, that don’t have problems with stability, and that are looked at as nice places to work.

DevOps promises higher throughput for software delivery, a more stable platform, and better security. Doesn’t everyone want that?

But it was a trick question wasn’t it? Isn’t the real question, “why do so many organizations claim they are embracing DevOps, but none of them really are embracing it”?

Because DevOps is hard for most organizations, it requires a drastic change in culture, management style, organization, and software architecture. Usually management isn’t ready to make those changes, so they create a new silo in their organization called the DevOps team, put in place a semi automated deployment pipeline with no tests, implement some form of automation but keep doing manual changes in production, and implement standups so they can call their development methods agile too.

Linux.com: Why are individuals interested in participating?

Kris: A lot of individuals see the above mentioned goals as something that would reduce the workload, risk and stress that comes with their job. They see automation through collaboration as an option to reduce the risk, reduce the downtime, and get a better night’s sleep with the side effect of taking away the dull parts of their work, the manual repetitive work, to give them more time to focus on the aspects of their work they never had time for: e.g. really looking at how the application behaves, how users (ab)use it, or improving performance and security. So, they stand up and start the fight to improve their environment.

Linux.com: How can you tell if a company has truly adopted DevOps?

Kris: What does it mean to truly adopt DevOps? Is it 5 deploys a day? 1000 deploys? Is it having security embedded in your pipeline? It’s none of the above. DevOps is a journey. I don’t think you are ever done adopting DevOps. DevOps, much like security, is a lifestyle. If there is one thing that won’t change in today’s technology industry, it is the fact that change will happen all the time, so you’d better be prepared to adapt. An organisation that has figured out that it will be learning and will need to continuously be improving collaboration between people with different skills in order to improve their quality, whether they call it DevOps or not, is probably one that has truly adopted DevOps.

Linux.com: What is the overwhelming hurdle?

Kris: People and inertia. A lot of organizations have trained people for years to do X, and when those people suggested they do Y, or tried to do Z, many of them got “no” as an answer, or even worse, they got punished for it. We have a whole generation of people that are trained like this and now we want to see the opposite behaviour. Corporations have taught engineers not to solve problems for themselves, but to buy a 3rd party as insurance. However, this also won’t solve their problem; it’s just becomes not their problem anymore (often called proprietary software). And now, we want self-supporting teams that take responsibility for what they build and ship and who are expected to run and manage it themselves. It’s going to take a while for those people to break their habits and for their management to actually encourage them to change when the managers themselves will also need to change. That is the biggest hurdle for most organizations. It’s going to take a long time for some organizations to change, if they change at all.

Linux.com: What advice would you give to people who want to get started in DevOps?

Kris: The first part of my advice would be to find a local DevOps meetup or a local DevOpsDays event. These are put on by the community to teach people about DevOps. You’ll meet people there with experience and with ideas, but you’ll also meet other newcomers.

Secondly, a story told way too often is that the DevOps movement started out of the open source world back at the very first DevOpsDays in Ghent in 2009. Most of the people present had a strong background in open source, and most of the success stories were from people leveraging the power of these open source tools, but also the mindset of collaboration came out of the open source community.

So the best advice I can give to people is to start looking into those open source projects, yes there will be vendors trying to catch your attention, uh money, by claiming their 15 year-old legacy tool now is DevOps ready, but really everything you need is open.

Learn more about DevOps from leaders in the field.

Read this Q&A with Michael Ducy, co-host of the Goat Farm podcast and blog and Chef’s Manager of Solutions Architects.

Read this Q&A with Patrick Debois, best known as the founder of DevOpsDays and as a creator of the DevOps movement, which explains why some refer to him as the “Godfather of DevOps.”