Jim Bird

About Jim Bird

Jim is an experienced CTO, software development manager and project manager, who has worked on high-performance, high-reliability mission-critical systems for many years, as well as building software development tools. His current interests include scaling Lean and Agile software development methodologies, software security and software assurance.

Devops and Maintenance go together like Apple Pie and Ice Cream

One of the things I like about devops is that it takes on important but neglected problems in the full lifecycle of a system: making sure that the software is really ready to go into production, getting it into production, and keeping it running in production.

Most of what you read and hear about devops is in online startups – about getting to market faster and building tight feedback loops with Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment.

But devops is even more important in keeping systems running – in maintenance and sustaining engineering and support. Project teams working on the next new new thing can gloss over the details of how the software will actually run in production, how it will be deployed and how it should be hardened. If they miss something the problems won’t show up until the system starts to get used by real customers for real business under real load – which can be months after the system is launched, by which time the system might already be handed over to a sustaining engineering team to keep things turning.

This is when priorities change. The system always has to work. You can’t ignore production – you’re dragged down into the mucky details of what it takes to keep a system running. The reality is that you can’t maintain a system effectively without understanding operational issues and without understanding and working with the people who operate and support the system and its infrastructure. Developers on maintenance teams and Ops are both measured on

  • System reliability and availability
  • Cycle time / turnaround on changes and fixes
  • System operations costs
  • Security and compliance

Devops tools and practices and ideas are the same tools and practices and ideas that people maintaining a system also need:

  • Version control and configuration management to track everything that you need to build and test and deploy and run the system
  • Fast and simple and repeatable build and deployment to make changes safe and cheap
  • Monitoring and alerting and logging to make support and troubleshooting more effective
  • Developers and operations working together to investigate and solve problems and to understand and learn together in blameless postmortems, building and sharing a culture of trust and transparency

Devops isn’t just for online startups

Devops describes the reality that maintenance and sustaining engineering teams would be if they could be working in. An alternative to late nights trying to get another software release out and hoping that this one will work; and to fire fighting in the dark; and to ass covering and finger pointing; and to filling out ops tickets and other bullshit paperwork. A reason to get up in the morning.

The dirty secret is that as developers most of us will spend most of our careers maintaining software so more of us should learn more about devops and start living it.

Reference: Devops and Maintenance go together like Apple Pie and Ice Cream from our JCG partner Jim Bird at the Building Real Software blog.

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