Last month, I joined other leaders from the likes of Amazon, Intel, Pivotal, Puppet Labs and others to speak at the IT Cloud Computing Conference in San Francisco, a venue for discussing trends in cloud and DevOps. Needless to say, it’s a topic that I – and the whole team at Nouvola – are immersed in every day. While I was eager to share my own perspective, I also enjoyed hearing from other industry leaders and getting a broader sense of the state of the industry.
I left with several takeaways:
DevOps is eating the world. That’s me, paraphrasing the famous quote that typically refers to software in general. But this was the sentiment that was repeated again and again, that DevOps is no longer an obscure concept but is becoming a main trend that will disrupt IT. Nouvola co-founder and CEO Paola Moretto spoke about this on a panel titled, How the Cloud is going to Reinvent IT. Bernard Golden, author of Virtualization for Dummies, and Jay Lyman, an enterprise software analyst at the 451 Group, were also among those who explained how DevOps is developing into a solid brand. Development teams might have been faster in recognizing the opportunity of the cloud, but the rest of IT is rapidly catching on.
This evolution is somewhat a natural process as IT becomes an intrinsic part of most businesses, from the taxi sector, which has been disrupted by Uber, to hotels, which now must compete with Airbnb. In these scenarios, DevOps play a leading role. Complex and rigid architectures are being replaced by modular and flexible building blocks, which are often complex in their own right. Manual steps are being replaced by automation. And this all suggests that the future is DevOps. As Cornelia Davis, senior technologist at Pivotal said in her presentation, You are either building a software business.. or losing to someone who is.
Speed is more important than ever.. My own contribution to the conference was a presentation titled Speed is Product Feature #1. Essentially, if you are not fast in developing, or if you are not ready to scale from day 1, someone else will. Cornelia Davis described this increased attention to speed as a shift from continuous integration to continuous delivery. In an environment where companies like Amazon Web Services deploy every 11 seconds, speed of iterations trumps quality of iteration, said Amazon technical evangelist Randall Hunt. Of course, you really can’t separate speed and quality, or compromise one for the other, because speed is also important for performance. Speed is product feature #1 for Google, but also for many other companies. As Bernard Golden, Vice President of Strategy at ActiveState, said in his keynote, you need to be ready to scale from day 1.
Automation is essential. Automation was probably the leitmotiv of the conference. In an agile world, what is essential for continuous testing is automation. We saw several solutions that go in that direction (Jenkins, Salt Stack, Shippable, Pivotal, Jfrog, Puppet, Chef). Often, these solutions combine other tools to achieve a more flexible automated environment, or combine with each other, to provide a solid deployment environment. Some tools enable automation in a pre-production environment along with solutions to production in very simple steps, for anyone who needs it.
Testing is part of the development cycle. Testing is no longer something that’s saved for the end of development. Now specs are tests, as in test driven development, and test automation tools are providing integrations with development and deployment tools. It is not just about functional testing, but also performance. Chef Software evangelist George Miranda and ActiveState’s Bernard Golden drove home a message of Test Early and Test Often: Test your infrastructure, test your application, and then test some more. Test. Test. Test. You’ll be glad you did.
And testing on your own machine is inadequate since it doesn’t say much about future performance in the cloud. That’s why we need ways to easily recreate production environments.
Docker, which is presenting itself as a solution not only for fast deployment and portability but also for testing, was another big theme at the conference. Since it can create production environments that can also be used as testing environments, it provides a portable testing scenario that can be equivalent to what you can find in the real product. As a result, errors can be discovered sooner and the whole development life cycle can proceed more quickly. Docker, in fact, was also presented as one of the main building blocks for several solutions, from SaltStack to Shippable.
While many attendees offered a slightly different definition of DevOps, there was a general agreement that DevOps is crucial for the future of cloud applications, and that the role of programmable infrastructures is going to be quintessential for deploying fast and with quality. This is a shift of thinking from the older structure in which there is a developer on one side and production on the other. Increasingly, everyone is on the front line to deliver continuously scalable applications.
And a final observation …
There are a lot of women in the cloud. We’ve all seen the dismal stats on women in high-tech, who account for a small share of computing jobs and are typically even harder to be found at tech conferences. So it was heartening to see women strongly represented at this event. Without taking a headcount, I’d estimate that about a quarter of those in attendance were women, and the ratio was much higher in certain panels. One panel at the conference was comprised entirely or women who are leaders in this field. As a woman in technology who’s fortunate enough to be part of a female management team at a high-tech startup, I celebrate these other women who are forging ahead and playing a key role in such a dynamic and critical sector.