The next BriefingsDirect DevOps thought leadership discussion explores how continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by — and a benefit to — the Internet of Things (IoT) trend.
To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: Let’s talk about how the DevOps trend extends not to just traditional enterprise IT and software applications, but to a much larger set of applications — those in the embedded space, mobile, and end-devices of all sorts. Gary, why is DevOps even more important when you have so many different moving parts as we expect with the IoT?
Gruver: In software development, everybody needs to be more productive. Software is no longer just on websites and in IT departments. It’s going on everywhere in the industry. It’s gone to every product in every place, and being able to differentiate your product with software is becoming more and more important to everybody.
Gardner: John, from your perspective, is there a sense that DevOps is more impactful, more powerful when we apply it to IoT?
Jeremiah: The reality is it that IoT is moving as fast as mobile is — and even faster. If you don’t have the ability to change your software to evolve — to iterate as there is new business innovation — you’re not going to be able to keep up to be competitive. So IoT is going to require a DevOps approach in order to be successful.
Gardner: In the past, we’ve had a separate development organization and approach to embedded devices. Do we need to still to do that, or can we combine traditional enterprise software with DevOps and apply the same systems architecture and technologies to all sorts of development?
Gruver: The principles of being able to keep your code base more “releasable,” to work under a prioritized backlog, to work through the process of adding automated testing, and frequent feedback to the developers so that they get better at it — this all applies.
Therefore, for embedded systems you are going to need to develop simulators and emulators for automated testing. A simulator is a representation of the final product that can be run on a server. As much as possible, you want to be able to create a simulator that represents the software characteristics of the final product. You can then use this and trust it to find defects, because the amount of automated testing you are going to need to be running to transform your businesses is huge. If you don’t have an affordable place like a server farm to run that, it just doesn’t work. [Watch for Free: DevOps, Catalyst of the Agile Enterprise.]
If you have custom ASICs in the product, you’re also going to need to create an emulator to test the low-level firmware interacting with the ASIC. This is similar to the simulator, but also includes the custom ASIC and electronics from the final product. I see way too many organizations that are embedded and are trying to transform their process giving up on using simulators and emulators because they’re not finding the defects that they want to. Yet they haven’t invested in making them robust so they can be effective.
One of first things I talk about to people that have embedded systems is that you’re not going to be successful transforming your business until you create simulators and emulators that you can trust as a test environment to find defects.
Gardner: How about working as developers and testers with more of an operations mentality?
Gruver: At HPE and HP, we were running 15,000 hours of testing on the code base every day. When it was manual, we couldn’t do that and we really couldn’t transform our business until we fundamentally put that level of automated testing in place.
For laser printer testing, there’s no way we would have been able to have enough paper to run that many hours of testing, and we would have worn out printers. There weren’t enough trees in Idaho to make enough paper to do that testing on the final product. Therefore, we needed to create a test farm of simulators and emulators to drive testing upstream as much as possible to get rapid feedback to our developers.
Gardner: Tell us how DevOps helped in the firmware project for HP printers, and how that illustrates where DevOps and embedded development come together?
No new features
Gruver: I had an opportunity to take over leading the LaserJet FW for our organization several years ago. It had been the bottleneck for the organization for two decades. We couldn’t add a new product or plans without checking the firmware, and we had given up asking for new features.
Then, when 2008 hit, and we were forced to cut our spending, as a of lot of people out in the industry at that time. We could no longer invest to spend our way out of problems. So we had to engineer our solution.
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We were fundamentally looking for anything that we could do to improve productivity. We went on a journey of what I would call applying Agile and DevOps principles at scale, as opposed to trying to scale small teams in the organization. We went through this process of continually trying to improve with a group of 400-800 engineers and working through that process. At the end of three years, firmware was no longer the bottleneck.
We had gone from five percent of our capacity going to innovation to 40 percent and we were supporting 1.5 times more products. So we took something that was a bottleneck for the business, completely unleashed that capability, and fundamentally transformed the business.
The details are captured in my first book, A Practical Approach to Large-Scale Agile Development. It’s available at all your finest bookstores. [Also see Gary’s newest book, Leading the Transformation: Applying Agile and DevOps Principles at Scale.]
Gardner: And how does this provide a harbinger of things to come? What you’ve done with firmware at HP and Laser Printers several years ago, how does that paint a picture of how DevOps can be powerful and beneficial in the larger IoT environment?
Gruver: Well, IoT is going to move so fast that nobody knows exactly what they need and what the capabilities are. It’s the ability to move fast. At HP and HPE, we went 2-3 times faster than we ever thought possible. What you’re seeing in DevOps is that the unicorns of the world are showing that software development can go much faster than anybody ever thought was possible before.
That’s going to be much more important as you’re trying to understand how this market evolves, what capabilities customers want, and where they want them in IoT. The companies that can move fast and respond to the feedback from the customers are going to be the ones that win. [Watch for Free: DevOps, Catalyst of the Agile Enterprise.]
Gardner: John, we’ve seen sort of a dip in the complexity around mobile devices in particular when people consolidated around iOS and Android after having hit many targets, at least for a software platform, in the past. That may have given people a sense of solace or complacency that they can develop mobile applications rapidly.
But we are now getting, to Gary’s point, to a place where we don’t really know what sort of endpoints we’re going to be dealing with. We’re looking at automated cars, houses, drones, appliances, and even sensors within our own bodies.
What are some of the core principles we need to keep in mind to allow for the rapid and continuous development processes for IoT to improve, but without stumbling again as we hit complexity when it comes to new targets?
Jeremiah: One of the first things that you’re going to have to do is embrace service virtualization and strategies in order to quickly virtualize new technologies and to be able to quickly simulate those technologies when they come to life. We don’t know exactly what they’re going to be, but we have to be able to embrace that and to bring that into our process and methodology.
And as Gary was talking about earlier, the strategies of going fast that apply in firmware, apply in the enterprise as well about building automated testing, failing as fast as you can, and learning as you go. As we see complexity increase, the real key is going to be able to harness that, and use virtualization as strategy to move that forward.
Gardner: Any other metrics of success? How do we know we’re succeeding with DevOps? We talked about speed. We talked about testing early and often. How do you know you’re doing this well? For organizations that want to have a good way to demonstrate success, how do they present that?
Gruver: I wouldn’t just start off by trying to do DevOps. If you’re going to transform your software development processes, the only reason you would go through that much turmoil is because your current development processes aren’t meeting the needs of your business. Start off with how your current development processes aren’t meeting your business needs.
The executives are in a best position to clarify exactly this gap and get the organization going down a continuous improvement process to improve the development and delivery processes.
Most organizations will quickly find that DevOps has some key tools in the toolbox that they want to start using immediately to start take some inefficiencies out of the development process.
But don’t go off to do DevOps and measure how well you did it. We’re all business executives. We run businesses, we manage businesses, and we need to focus on what the business is trying to achieve and just use the tools that will best help that.
Gardner: Where do we go next? DevOps has become a fairly popular concept now. It’s getting a lot of attention. People understand that it can have a very positive impact, but getting it in place isn’t always easy. There are a lot of different spinning variables — culture, organization, management. In an enterprise that’s looking to expand in the internet of things, perhaps they’re not doing that level of development and deployment.
They probably have been a bit more focused on enterprise applications, rather than devices and embedded. How do you start up that capability and do it well within a software development organization? Let’s look at moving from traditional development to the IoT development. What should we be keeping in mind?
Gruver: There are two approaches. One is, if you have loosely coupled architectures like most unicorns do, then you can empower the teams, add some operational members, and let figure it out. Most large enterprise organizations have more tightly coupled architectures that require large numbers of people working together to develop and deliver things together. I don’t think those transformations are going to be effective until you find inspired executives who are willing to lead the transformation and work through the process.
I‘ve led a couple of successful transformations. If you look at examples from the DevOps Enterprise Summit that Gene Kim led, the common thing that you saw in most of those is that the organizations that were making progress had an executive that was leading the charge, rallying the troops, and making that happen. It requires coordinating work across a large number of teams, and you need somebody who can look across the value chain and muster the resources to make the technical and the cultural changes. [Read a recent interview with Kim on DevOps and security.]
Where a lot of my passion lies now, and the reason I wrote my second book is, that I don’t think there are a lot of resources for the executives to learn how to transform large organizations. So I tried to capture everything that I knew about how best to do that.
My second book, Leading the Transformation: Applying Agile and DevOps Principles at Scale, is a resource that enables people to go faster in the organization. I think that’s the next key launch point — getting the executives engaged to lead that change. That’s going to be the key to getting the adoption going much better. [Watch for Free: DevOps, Catalyst of the Agile Enterprise.]
Gardner: John, what about skills? It’s one thing to get the top-down buy-in, and it’s one thing to recognize the need for transformation and put in some of the organizational building blocks. But ultimately you need to be have the right people with the right skills.
Any thoughts about how IoT will create demand for a certain set of skills and how well we’re in a position to train and find those people?
Jeremiah: IoT requires people to embrace skills and understand much broader than their narrow silo. They’ll need to develop an expertise in what they do, but they have to have the relationships. They have to have the ability to work across the organization to learn. One of the skills is constantly learning as they go. As Gary mentioned earlier, it’s not a “done” for DevOps. It’s a journey of learning. It’s a journey of growing and getting better.
Skills such as understanding process and understanding how things are working so you can continuously improve them is a skill that a lot of times people don’t bring to the table. They know their piece, but they don’t often think about the bigger picture. So it’s a set of skills. It’s beyond a single technology. It’s understanding that that they are really not in IT — they’re really a part of the business. I love the way Gary said that earlier, and I agree with him. Seeing themselves as part of the business is a different mindset that they have to have as they go to work.
Then, as they apply their skills, they’re focusing on how they deliver business value. That’s really the change. [Watch for Free: DevOps, Catalyst of the Agile Enterprise.]
Gardner: How do you do DevOps effectively when you’re outsourcing a good part of your development? You may need to do that to find the skills.
For embedded systems, for example, you might look to an outside shop that has special experience in that particular area, but you may still want to get DevOps. How does that work?
Gruver: I think DevOps is key to making outsourcing work, especially if you have different vendors that you’re outsourcing to because it forces coordination of the work on a frequent basis. Continuous integration, automated testing, and continuous deployment are the forcing functions that align the organization with working code across the system.
When you’re enabling people to go off and work on separate branches and separate issues and you have an integration cycle late in the process, that’s where you get the dysfunction — with a bunch of different organizations coming together with stuff that doesn’t work. If you force that to happen on a daily, or multiple times a day, basis, you get that system aligned and working well before people spend time and energy working on something that either don’t work together or won’t work well in production.
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