7 Ways IT Will Change in 2016 to Bring DevOps Mainstream


As we kickoff 2016 at Chef, I’ve reflected on the important changes impacting our industry and the digital world. Last week I penned a byline in sharing my take on why DevOps will gain mainstream momentum in 2016 and I’m excited to share this perspective here with our broader Chef community.

I’d love to hear what else you think is having a major impact on the fast-changing world we live in – leave a comment below or tweet me @Barry_Crist.

  1. The Job of IT Will Change From Infrastructure to Innovation. In the past, IT has been about providing compute infrastructure and applications to run the internal workings of a company. But this has been radically shifting as digital transformation penetrates nearly every company of significance across the globe. As a result, IT is increasingly about driving innovation and customer value through software. We see this every day from our work with large enterprises; indeed, almost half of the global 500 use Chef in some manner. And, in our interactions with enterprise customers, over 75 percent cite innovation, velocity and agility as top priorities for IT — and the company. The common ingredients behind this are almost always automation, cloud and DevOps. In fact, while these three elements are, in many ways, distinct, they form a magic IT trinity in service of innovation-led organizations. If you need further proof that IT is on its way to becoming the pointy end of the innovation-creation spear inside large-cap companies and organizations, just look at the auto industry, where CES may actually be more important than the Detroit Auto Show, where GM is investing in Lyft, and where Google is doing state-of-the-art R&D on a self-driving car.
  1. Continuous Delivery (CD) Will Become Ubiquitous. CD is the practice of rapid software development and iteration through fast, small-batch releases. In its purest form, developers can drive small, incremental software releases quickly, sometimes as often as every few minutes for some very well-known Web sites. Not long ago, CD was exclusively the domain of big Web innovators such as Facebook, Amazon, Google and Yahoo! Not long ago, making even several releases a day sounded insane. And not long ago, a CIO told me that it was ridiculous to contemplate bringing CD into the enterprise. All this has changed, and today it makes absolutely no business sense to shy away from CD because it’s one of the keys for unleashing an organization’s software development innovation engine. The point is that the whole stack — infrastructure, compliance, security, microservices and applications — is being expressed as code now, and  it’s the same as you deliver with work-flow. In the end, whether your company needs to release frequently all the time, or not, every aspect of IT is charged with a business requirement to do something quickly some of the time. CD is a very important piece of the puzzle.
  1. The Public Cloud Will Triumph in the Enterprise. You may think the cloud is old news, but it’s not. In 2016, the enterprise is going to move beyond public cloud experimentation and project-based work and start migrating entire data centers to the public cloud. We’re also going to see more hybrid cloud initiatives (whatever the composition) because dual adoption helps companies avoid vendor lock-in. As for private cloud projects, there are definitely some good teams and technologies out there. But, having said this, I believe that the public cloud will win out. Many of the lingering public cloud issues, like security and governance, have begun to evaporate. And the ease of use, affordability and effectiveness of the public cloud will simply triumph in the enterprise over the next 12 months at the expense of the private cloud.
  1. We Will Enter a New Era of System Administration. The world of systems administration has changed forever. In the IT world that I grew up in, a human being logged onto a system to manage, update or fix it manually. Since then, compute scale has grown exponentially for most organizations, thanks, in part, to both server virtualization as well as the cloud. Most of our enterprise customers have, excluding desktops, tens of thousands of compute nodes. Some have over 100,000. A few have over 1,000,000. Administering systems manually by having humans act on systems is no longer viable or tenable. In the new era, humans act on code and code acts on machines. In fact, code is the system. In other words, humans act on compute resources through code. And this reality creates a whole new universe for the world of system administration. The bottom line? The job and role of the system administrator will change significantly. Watch this trend play out in 2016.
  1. Peace Will Break Out Between Developers and Security / Compliance Officers. This has been a long-running battle inside the enterprise, and there are several theories behind the conflict. One is miscommunication — the  security team doesn’t think the dev team gets it, and the dev team doesn’t think the security team gets it. Another hypothesis is that developers just want to be left alone to write code for the business, but the business is increasingly worried about security — not just IT security. And, lastly, there’s this explanation for the hostility — developers want to go fast, and security teams want to slow everything down to a safe speed. Whatever the reasons, I believe that developers and security / compliance officers will find much more common ground in 2016 because we’re learning that compliance and velocity aren’t necessarily in conflict with each other.  In fact, high-velocity IT organizations can deal with security threats more quickly by assessing vulnerability, creating a fix, testing it and then deploying it rapidly before the damage is done. We’re also seeing the early beginnings of what I believe will be a very important trend in our industry: compliance defined as code. Today, compliance is all too often defined in binders or text documents; what’s a developer going to do with this? But we’re seeing a new idea emerge: define compliance — either to your own security standards or external, regulatory standards in code. If you can define compliance as code, you can then use that code to create a test that can simply be moved into the software release process and managed like any other automated test. Forward-leaning compliance officers will shift their gaze and embrace their developers because it’s through their software developers that they’ll be able to take their craft to a new level.  Keep an eye on this in 2016.
  1. Executives Will Move Into the DevOps Tent. The DevOps tent will expand to include the executive suite in 2016, and executives are excited to join the practitioner-born DevOps movement. “DevOps” makes one think of only “development” and “operations,” but it’s really a movement focused on how we build and operate high-velocity organizations. Frankly, DevOps is meant for the entire enterprise. The results are both clear and definitive. Mature DevOps organizations see increases in both innovation and quality that flow through to business results, including profit and shareholder value — and, quite possibly, security and safety as well. Executives have seen what code can do, and they’re fervently embracing the far-reaching organizational changes that have accompanied this technology revolution. The good news for DevOps practitioners is that they’re going to find strong support in the executive suite and many will see good things happen to their careers in 2016
  1. Container Technology Will Be Improved and Grow Even More. Containers — which bundle entire run-time environments into packages that make it much easier to move applications from a developer’s laptop to the test, production and end-user stages — are becoming invaluable, especially in homogeneous green-fields, because they abstract so many problems away. But most enterprises aren’t homogeneous green-fields, so the challenge is how to deal with a variety of legacy technologies without re-writing all the applications that run. I believe that this problem will be addressed in 2016, and container usage will expand by leaps and bounds as a result.

There will be other big changes in IT during 2016, but, when combined, I believe these seven represent a truly significant tipping point that will catapult enterprises toward the future with a velocity and vigor that can only enhance and enrich growth.

Barry Crist

Barry Crist has more than 20 years of experience in driving enterprise customer success with open source and DevOps software solutions and is a recognized leader in driving a culture of innovation. Barry joined Chef as CEO in 2013 and has been a leading force behind the company’s business operations, culture and technology innovation.