Learning through doing - the only way to truly grasp DevOps

07 May 2016

DevOps Simulation

This blog was originally posted on the ViFX blog on 06 May 2016 - click here to view.

We all have different capabilities when it comes to learning something new. Some can grasp things very easily and some take time, and repetition to get a hold of a new idea. Most of us however, struggle to pick something up when it turns what we’ve been doing for years on its head.

When we have years of programmed “muscle memory” for any discipline, the notion of throwing a whole lot of it out to start again, is not only an affront to our senses, but most likely something we would actively try and avoid.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with the onset of the hottest buzzword in the IT realm today – DevOps. For most of us, we are still trying to define it, never mind practice it in a meaningful way. It must be said that the true DevOps “religion” in an holistic sense is not practical nor deployable given the legacy factors we all have to deal with but, more and more, DevOps practices will become, at least in part, a important piece of our day-to-day lives as apps become the predominant way we interact with IT.

How can we truly grab a hold of DevOps?

How do we therefore truly get a grasp of it to be able to bend it to our wills and make sure it actually delivers a benefit? We believe one effective way is through being a part of a working DevOps ecosystem. This sounds like a sensible and pragmatic approach and it is, but it is more difficult than you might expect. The true “DevOps Illuminati” are famous for statements like “if you define it you will kill it”. Basically implying that DevOps is more of an ideal that is “aspired to” than a programmatically followed, well-defined process – and it is, but this makes the prospect of learning, or teaching for that matter, DevOps a far more challenging prospect than the likes of ITIL.

That said, much to the DevOps Illuminati’s disgrace, the pragmatic amongst us are beginning to define something of a framework. DevOps will never be defined like ITIL, as doing so would kill its inherent power. To employ DevOps holistically, is to be truly flexible and agile in a constant evolution of automation that allows for sometimes-massive amounts of independent code promotions a day (in some instances).

I think we all accept the latter example doesn’t reflect reality for most of us. Not many of the organisations we work for hold the name “Google” for example, but DevOps is here to stay and so, how do we grab a hold of it.

Actions speak louder than words

To answer this, we have to take a step back and understand that while ITIL was a about defining and using process to get an outcome, DevOps is about using tools to get an outcome (as discussed in our previous blogs – Is DevOps the next ITIL? Part One and Part Two).

The threat here is that if we get bogged down focusing on the tools and automation, then we lose sight of the business outcome we’re trying to deliver.  And this goes right back to my original point - an effective way to learn this, is through a simulation.

At ViFX we are excited about a new DevOps simulation that we’ll be offering that is an ideal opportunity, for those in this space, to get a grasp on how they can capture benefit from a DevOps approach.

The image below represents the maturity journey you and colleagues will go through during the simulation:

DevOps Simulation Maturity Journey

Furthermore, through three rounds of simulation, the inherent benefits become even clearer as more applications and business services are delivered during the same period.

Round 1

DevOps Sim Round 1

Round 2

DevOps Sim Round 2

Round 3

DevOps Sim Round 3

In a simulation you get to work in functioning DevOps ecosystem where you can see, through cause and affect, the results of your actions and get a feel for the rhythm of how the tools and automation can be utilised to deliver a business outcome. The simulation, imposes an environment within which one is forced to use the DevOps approach in a way that emphasises the most important factor in all this, still is... the business outcome.

What experiences have you had in your organisation on this DevOps journey, and how are you going about learning this new paradigm in your team? Let us know in the comments below.

Topics: DevOps

Philip Venables

Written by Philip Venables

Phil is General Manager of the Service Dynamics team, championing Enterprise Service Management solutions and services.