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DevOps is not just an excuse for the firing of developers

Mon 23 Sep 2019

Bill Kleyman says DevOps is about creating jobs, not eliminating them

Across the board, the bottleneck-reducing philosophy of DevOps has become the central approach for cloud-native enterprise software development and deployment, ushering in a cultural shift in how processes, code and technology are delivered.

According to the 2019 Accelerate: State of DevOps report, companies who get DevOps right deploy 208 times more code, deploy it 106 times as fast and are able to recover 2,604 faster from incidents. This has not stopped DevOps attracting critics, criticisms that I put to Bill Kleyman, EVP of Digital Solutions at Switch.

One of sharpest criticisms levelled at DevOps is that it’s just another justification for the ‘firing of a lot of people’. The charge emerges when you consider DevOps’ ultimate end goal: End-to-end automation of engineering tasks, a journey that, at least logically, will slowly erode the need for human input. It is a challenge that has gained traction due to wider scrutiny into the impact of automation on society as a whole.

Kleyman said this couldn’t be further from the truth. He points to the mushrooming job market for DevOps engineers, agile experts, and scrum masters, many of which are offering lucrative salaries as organisations of all stripes look to embark on application refactoring or re-platforming projects.

Such organisations are incessantly hunting for people who can align development culture with entire business processes, develop cloud-native solutions, and above all else improve key service delivery to customers, he said.

“Sure, at the heart of DevOps are powerful concepts around automation and orchestration. But, that doesn’t mean we’re firing people,” he said.  “If you’re concerned that your legacy development mindset might make you lose your job, it’s possible your concern is real. However, if you’re fluent in the DevOps culture, you’ve got a bright future.”

Even so, it’s hard not to foresee the gradual attenuation of developer jobs as DevOps adoption increases. But Kleyman says it’s wrong to view the process as a decline and instead advocates an evolutionary perspective: There may be an inevitable reduction in demand for certain skills, but one offset by an increase in demand for others — an economical truth that has time and again persisted throughout the history of capitalism. Kleyman looks to his own background to illustrate:

“I grew up in the world of virtualization, VMware, and Citrix. To the extent that those technologies have ‘cooled,’ things like DevOps have really increased in popularity. In working at EPAM, I applied a lot of my data centre, cloud, and virtualization expertise to the application software development life cycle mindset. That is, I learned about the processes, I picked up on the language, and I learned what organizations expect from true DevOps delivery. I evolved.”

If traditional developers evolve their skills, they are well-positioned to help the increasing number of organisations that are adopting a DevOps mentality, ultimately supporting job security and growth, Kleyman said.

“If you’re a traditional developer still doing things with manual run-books and checklists; you’re going to need to put those down and look at a new way of working with code quality and managing CI/CD pipelines.”

Kleyman finishes with message to the business community and detractors who claim DevOps is nothing more than a new form of marketing-speak:

“If we break away the marketing language and really look at what DevOps is, we begin to understand that it’s a critical part of the engine that’s actually driving the digital transformation process. I need to make this clear – it’s not just a technology term for developers.

“If you’re a business person reading this, learn about DevOps and understand what it can do for your business. As “marketing-y” as the term might be at this point, it’s a very real technological and cultural shift that’s truly driving digital transformation.”

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