Why Open Source and PaaS are Key to Drive DevOps Innovation

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By Gordon Haff, Cloud Strategist, Red Hat

With DevOps approaches being used to create and run software across an increasingly broad spectrum of organizations, we’re now at the point where we can gain quantitative insights from early adopters about DevOps adoption that go beyond a handful of oft-referenced Web-scale anecdotes. These insights, garnered from an IDC InfoBrief sponsored Red Hat DevOps, Open Source and Business Agility (June 2015) include open source as a top priority enabler, a wide range of benefits from using PaaS, and significantly faster software release cycles.

82 percent of the 220 IT decision makers surveyed identified open source as a critical or significant enabler of their DevOps strategy. Open source use spanned a variety of technologies including operating systems such as Linux, cloud infrastructure, platform-as-a-service, provisioning, and infrastructure monitoring. Open source benefits for both IT operations and developer team productivity/agility were cited as benefits of open source as were access to innovation and ease of customization.

At the same time, these early adopters strongly (46 percent) preferred to use vendor-supported editions of open source software. Indeed, only 12 percent said that their preferred strategy was to download software from free open source community sites and integrate on their own or with help from service providers.

Many discussions of DevOps talk to the cultural changes required to improve collaboration and increase transparency. However, this survey points to the changes in tooling expected as well. 93 percent of the respondents believed that new enabling technologies are required for DevOps success with 85 percent planning to deploy these technologies onto either on-premise infrastructure (49 percent) or dedicated infrastructure at a co-location, hosting, or outsourcing site (36 percent).

Prominent among the new technologies was Platform-as-a-Service, with 80 percent expecting PaaS to have a critical role in their DevOps initiatives. Among the cited benefits of using PaaS were improved developer and IT operations collaboration (46 percent), more stable and reliable development environments (40 percent), greater standardization of development environments (37 percent), development speed (36 percent), and faster access to open source community-driven innovation (34 percent). According to the Infobrief: “Platform-as-a-service integrates cloud infrastructure, self-service developer platform and tools, and lifecycle management with DevOps processes–speeding time to value for both developers and operations.”

With respect to both PaaS and DevOps more broadly, the impact is seen primarily in terms of growth metrics rather than cutting costs. In IDC’s words, “customer facing benefits lead the way” with increased customer satisfaction and engagement (49 percent), increased employee productivity (46 percent), and increased company revenues (45 percent) the top three responses to the question “By the end of 2017, what impact do you expect DevOps to have on the overall performance of the business?” Reduction of operational expenses gets mentioned as well (44 percent), but it’s not the main motivation.

The expected impact of DevOps on software release cycles is especially notable–specifically an 10x average expected increase in the total number of annual code releases with an average of 30 percent of development projects enabled by DevOps by 2017. The pace may still not be at the level of an Amazon Web Services or a Facebook but it’s still a shift from the majority (63 percent) pushing out two or fewer releases annually per application today to 69 percent having quarterly or monthly releases. At the same time, it’s worth noting that it will be important to enable data sharing and other connections between these new developments and existing applications. 60 percent of DevOps projects will need to integrate with legacy systems according to the survey.

This survey primarily focused on key technologies and technology enablers related to DevOps. However, in DevOps, tools are tightly coupled to process and culture. Agile methodologies (43 percent), implementing common monitoring across dev and ops (43 percent) , and broadly enabling self-service (38 percent) were all seen as organizational responses to a DevOps strategy. Indeed, the open source aspect plays into DevOps in a broader way than its use in popular DevOps tooling. That’s because DevOps mirrors central aspects of open source as an approach to developing software in areas such as collaboration, transparency, and working across distributed teams. DevOps uses open source but it also embodies the open source way of developing innovative software.

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