Enterprise IT & DevOps: You’re Not a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake

This post was originally published on Goat Can.

“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying Enterprise IT Org as everyone else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of IT.” — Apologies to Chuck Palahniuk

Enterprise IT, The SnowflakeI’ve seen a few exchanges from “Enterprise IT” vendors on twitter about the need for “a different kind of DevOps” for Enterprise IT. This culminated with a blog post from Andi Mann from CA on “Big Enterprises Need Big DevOps“. I’ll avoid the proverbial piss taking that could take place on the title alone and instead focus on the content.

First, let me say that Andi is spot on in the problems he mentions with Enterprise IT. Andi highlights that code cannot be “streamed into production” because of change controls. Audit and Compliance is critical for many large IT organizations. Enterprise IT can’t go buy cloud services with a credit card, and so on. In the end, Andi proposes that a new form of DevOps, Big DevOps, is needed to handle the unique nature of Enterprise IT.

But like a first year med student that is trying to impress the professor with an intelligent response, Andi is focusing on the symptoms of the problem, rather than the causes of the problem. Giving a patient a prescription for pain killers because he has a headache will do nothing if the cause of the headache is the patient constantly banging his head against his desk. The only people who benefit from that scenario is the doctor who gets to pay for his boat with the extra office visits, and the prescription drug salesperson that is making their quota (and taking the doctor to steak dinners).

The problem with many Enterprise IT shops is that they think they are a special and unique snowflake. They won’t stop talking long enough to understand how they might actually be their own worst enemy in creating all this process that is not “small DevOps Compliant”. Instead of understanding how the tenets of DevOps can achieve the same goal as many of their legacy processes, they are immediately dismissive.

Take for instance the issues around audit, compliance and change control. Many legacy change controls were put in place because changes to the environment were impossible to track across one or hundred systems. But the ideas of automation and Infrastructure as Code have evolved to help alleviate this problem. Wrapping things like Source Control Management, and Test Driven Development around your automation allows you to 1) have tested infrastructure code, 2) audit what is changing in your environment , 3) have an audit trail of who changed things, and 4) know exactly when it changed. Compare that to legacy change control processes if you will.

If you want to be successful with any large scale organizational change, you need to assume that everything you are currently doing is wrong and be open to change. Attempting to conform the organizational change to the organization just leaves you with the same organization you had in the first place.

Which brings me around to this post from ZeroTurnaround on “Why your organization hates DevOps and won’t implement it this year (again)“. They make excellent points that echoes and reinforces the points made in this post. Enterprise IT won’t do anything about DevOps or Cloud or anything else this year. They are too happy with the status quo. They want the change to conform to them and their processes. But change doesn’t work like that. Change is often hard, but if you dislike change, you’ll dislike irrelevance even more*.

*Props to @jonisick for that great quote.

Author Michael Ducy

Michael Ducy currently works as a Director of Product Marketing for Chef focusing on helping companies understand Chef, DevOps, and IT transformation. Previously, Michael focused on designing and implementing automation solutions for customer’s Cloud, IT Automation, and Continuous Delivery needs. Michael has also worked in a variety of roles in his career including Cloud Architecture, Systems Engineering , Performance Engineering, and IT Instructor. Michael holds a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Chicago and an MBA from The Ohio State University.

  • hypernovae

    Enterprise IT is special and Unique. Much different problems of scale, much different user bases, much different ideas on silos and operating units and often abstracted away from anything even remotely familiar to traditional “Devops” cultures. Often time enterprise/corporate IT has the sole purpose of supporting the CFO and maintaining legal reporting requirements, those controls are there for a reason and they’re often compliance – but those same controls echo through the organization because change isn’t always good but even good change has to happen methodically because that change may impact 250,000 internal employees in independent operational units. Enterprise IT has charge backs, cost centers, business units, operational units, legal entities, reporting entities, multiple sets of books and so many more concepts that set them uniquely apart for entirely valid and legit reasons. Enterprise IT is unique, should be recognized as such but that uniqueness doesn’t imply that one can’t have “Tactical devops” ideas and embrace cultural changes to automate, share & measure. Corporate/Enterprise IT is very mature and in many ways for very valid “Snow flake and unique” reasons. Just as devops isn’t the magic bullet to success.

    • Aktar Ali

      Agree with everything you’ve stated. However, parallel cloud strategies with DevOps methodology can be implemented. Simplification of old and often times very draconian rules/procedures etc needs to be re-looked at in order to redefine the working model. Large organisation with individuals who have been in the company for many years and have become part of the furniture will be very reluctant to make this transition.

      Therefore, it has to be driven top down with vigour. The old saying of “if its not broken, dont fix it” does not ring true any longer. Welcome Chaos monkey. We need to be in a constant cycle of improvement. No matter how big or old an organisation is.