Is DevOps BS? Reporting from Cloud Field Day

Last week I was invited to attend the very first Cloud Field Day in the Bay Area. The way it works is a selection of relevant tech influencers are invited to the headquarters of tech companies who demo their products. 

Our first visit was to Cisco. We arrived a bit early and Cisco was nice enough to provide us a conference room where we could film a couple of podcasts. One of them in particular was provocative and interesting to me.

It was called, “Is DevOps a load of BS?. Considering we recently did a joint venture with the nearshore team we used for years to handle our DevOps and are now bringing them to the US, we’re obviously biased TOWARDS DevOps.

 I was pretty new to the group, unsure of everyone’s tech chops and a little shy to get into a heated debate in my very first hour at this event. But it was interesting to hear the passion of the Ops side of the equation. Clearly a group of people who have been put through the ringer. And it touched close to home.

A few days before Cloud Field Day, a friend of mine and close friend of the family passed away in tragic circumstances. Another techie gone. Another ops guy. He was a software architect on MySpace’s infrastructure team back in the day. His team provided 24/7 support for thousands of servers. 

I still remember him coming over to our Shiva house about 3 years ago with his girlfriend to console us when My Dad passed away. Not even 40 yet and we have to put him in the ground. He was so vibrant, one of the most charismatic happy go lucky fellows you could ever meet. He would have you laughing in two minutes. And being brilliant technically, he had a bright future ahead. No words could convey how incongruous it is to know his personality and imagine he’s gone. This picture gives you a good flavor of what Franklin was like.


RIP my friend.

 So I was happy, selfishly, to leave Los Angeles and be among a group who knew nothing about what was going on. Perhaps it was more about blocking feelings than anything else… It’s emotional just writing this.

 As I’ve discussed in a PHP Architect article in the past, the ops teams are traditionally placed in an awful role. They get the blame if disaster strikes. They are the adults who take away the toys that the application team wants to use in building product. And unlike the app team, they don’t get credit when something succeeds. A great ops person is someone no one notices.

At the time of my article above, I was blaming burnout on the tragedies that seem to befall the tech industry. Now that I’ve lost two friends in a couple years, and a close call with a third one, I’m wondering if it’s more about correlation than causation. Friends who treat mental illness tell me there’s nothing any of us could have done. Chemical imbalances that require meds are the cause. Convincing them to actually take the meds can be a challenge sometimes. But still. I can’t let go the feeling that we need to study the correlation and understand if the pressure causes a switch to flip.

Before I return to the topic of this post, I urge those of you who haven’t read my php architect article to watch Lars’ presentation on Ops and Burnout.  

He presented the talk at SCALE one year before our mutual friend, Carlo, passed away before the next SCALE. They ran LADevOps together. I found out the morning I was going to head out to SCALE when I got an invitation to this. The web can be brutal sometimes. 

Anyway, coming back to the topic at hand, I was pretty surprised to hear so much hate for DevOps. The foundation of the DevOps movement was to address a couple of things. Not only “shadow ops”, where developers circumvent operations by doing things like setting up their own AWS machine and running production systems in an unsanctioned environment. But also to get operations IT talking to developers. Respect operations, security, and scaling applications.

Over time, it seems to me that DevOps specialists came from devs who happened to know a bit about networks and ops, as well as ops people who have some development chops. The concern that was brought up is that devops teams will believe and behave like they have their act together, but when production fails, the operations team will wind up having to suffer the consequences, and be the ones dealing with it. That it provides the entire organization a false sense of security.

I do believe that is valid. While DevOps is an attempt to get two sides with diametrically opposed viewpoints together, it’s not the be all and end all. At least not in enterprise environments. We cannot be complacent.

Here is another article about the podcast.

Topics: DevOps