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Using Culture and Technologies for DevOps

This interview with Jim Tyrrell, Principal Solutions Architect at Red Hat, is an excerpt from our recent “Guide to DevOps in Government“. The full guide is available for download at this link.

If your organization is used to managing projects in a linear, siloed process, the idea of implementing the collaborative, iterative DevOps approach can seem daunting. While there are significant benefits to the methodology, it does require significant changes across an organization. How do you manage those changes to achieve DevOps success?

In a recent interview with GovLoop, Jim Tyrrell of Red Hat, an open source solutions provider, talked about how to tackle DevOps without overwhelming your teams or disrupting your organization’s operations. He said the best approach is a low-risk, step-by-step process of encouraging cultural shifts and giving teams the tools to make those changes.

Starting Your Cultural Transformation

Many people assume that, because DevOps is a process focused on improving technology, the main focus should be on the technology itself. However, Tyrrell emphasized that deploying DevOps requires an investment in cultural change first and foremost.

“You’re not going to buy DevOps in a box,” he said. Nevertheless, you can seek partners to assist you in tackling the human dynamics of DevOps. For instance, Red Hat’s professional services can provide the training and mentoring necessary to facilitate that cultural change.

Tyrrell outlined the approach Red Hat encourages at organizations pursuing DevOps. The first thing they recommend is to build a small team who is willing to test and champion the process. “You want to find the leaders in your organization – the people that can really help drive the DevOps change across the organization,” he said.

Then, pick the right project. Tyrrell suggested starting with a straightforward initiative that gives your team room to test their new process. “You don’t want your 100 percent mission-critical application to be your first foray into this,” he said. “It should be that app that’s used one day a month when people are doing some sort a reporting or some other small subset of functionality in your organization.”

Picking a low-impact project minimizes risk in your first attempt, allowing your team to really dive into DevOps practices without the concern that a mishap will disrupt important operations. Moreover, Tyrrell said that selecting a project with narrow parameters allows the team to test unique process variables more easily. “From a good science perspective, if you’re changing all these variables at once, how do you even know which variables are right? You have to limit the number of variables you’re changing in an experiment to ensure success,” he said.

Once your team has learned how to incrementally make the process work for them and the organization, they can begin applying DevOps to more dynamic, impactful projects.

Applying Tools to Transitions

As your team becomes more involved with DevOps, Tyrrell advised investing in tools to support your endeavors. “You want things like platform-as-a-service where your IT infrastructure is malleable and quickly able to be scaled up, scaled down, and provisioned for your developers,” he said.

A platform like Red Hat’s OpenShift allows developers to quickly develop, host, and scale applications in a cloud environment. With OpenShift you have a choice of offerings, including online, on premise, and open source project options, which you can interchange as needed for different projects and requirements.

“It’s really just building blocks that can be instantaneously allocated to different operational problems or developer programs, so that coders can start playing with an idea,” Tyrrell explained. “It automatically builds a scaffolding for you to start the project as quickly and simply as possible.”

For organizations that have taken an incremental approach to DevOps transformation, this frictionless environment is key. It removes barriers for teams to start transitioning to a DevOps workflow, and it allows them to start small and then build capacity as the increase the scope of their new processes.

And by combining those applications with middleware like Red Hat’s JBoss, which seamlessly integrates software from myriad open source communities, teams can automate production and testing to even further accelerate the DevOps process. “You’ve completely removed all the friction of deployment out of your pipeline of software development, such that any changes or ideas you have to your applications as you’re running them, can be quickly and efficiently implemented and put into production,” said Tyrrell.

By matching technologies and services to your organization’s unique approach to DevOps adoption, you can transform both the culture and operations of your teams without overwhelming either. “And that is DevOps Nirvana,” Tyrrell concluded.

Be sure to check out our newest guide on DevOps, available by clicking here.

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