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March 28, 2012

Healing The DevOps/NoOps Divide: A Rational Perspective

By John Willis

Last Thursday night in Sunnyvale, CA, the recently founded Cloud Center hosted a DevOps Kanban Meetup.  It started off as a casual discussion, but it soon became clear that some of the best minds in the community were present and contributing.

When someone asks “So, what is DevOps?” it’s relatively problematic.  Most of the leaders in the DevOps movement would agree that at this moment, there is no clear widely accepted definition of “DevOps.”  When forced to come up with an answer, many will quote Adam Jacobs, saying “DevOps is a cultural and professional movement.  The best way to describe devops is in terms of patterns and anti-patterns.”

One of our goals is to capture and codify how to start and finish DevOps transformations, and capture the observed patterns have worked.  As part of that journey, we’ll have to pick a definition of DevOps that the community agrees with.

However, no one pattern is a defines the movement.  For example, a pattern for configuration management that doesn’t employ a tool like Chef, Puppet or cfEngine can still be a devops pattern or best practice.

Adrian Cockcroft has also shown that another pattern has also worked at Netflix.  And Netflix isn’t the first to use this pattern:  it’s worked at other organizations like Wealthfront.

So where does this leave us?

What we do know is that most leading thinkers in the DevOps space dislike the term NoOps for a number of reasons.  First and foremost,  it implies that operational expertise is unnecessary this new cloud/web-scale world.  The term is also divisive in replacing “Dev” with “No.” However, like it or hate it, this similar and reactionary terminology implies unity.  For similar reasons, the term “NoSQL” is not used as often now, as it implies that one way is better than the other.

To paraphrase Ben Rockwood at the end of the meetup, with DevOps we finally have something that we can agree on, are proud and happy about.  Why do we want to pollute this message by creating new walls [DevOps vs NoOps]?

DevOps is about destroying these kind of walls.

Stay tuned.  I’ll be working with my coauthors Patrick DeBois, Gene Kim and Mike Orzen on more position statements.  DevOps is a great movement and we all want to improve it, not slow it down.

- About The Authors
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John Willis

John Willis has worked in the IT management industry for more than 35 years. Currently he is an Evangelist at Docker Inc. Prior to Docker Willis was the VP of Solutions for Socketplane (sold to Docker) and Enstratius (sold to Dell). Prior to to Socketplane and Enstratius Willis was the VP of Training & Services at Opscode where he formalized the training, evangelism, and professional services functions at the firm. Willis also founded Gulf Breeze Software, an award winning IBM business partner, which specializes in deploying Tivoli technology for the enterprise. Willis has authored six IBM Redbooks for IBM on enterprise systems management and was the founder and chief architect at Chain Bridge Systems.

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1 Comment

  • Mark Coleman May 7, 2013 2:50 pm

    Hey John, I fully agree that we should be tearing walls down instead of building them up. I'm seeing two things in DEVOPS discussions right now: 1. A lot of time spent trying to define what it means. 2. A lot of time spent explaining that this is a cultural movement (as opposed to a technological one) but without anybody really digging that far into subjects that I would expect to be covered in a cultural debate: anthropology, sociology and psychology. As for the first, what is the value of determining the meaning of the term? Are we as a community doing this so that we can more easily educate others about it? Or maybe so we can know what is and what is not DEVOPS in an attempt to fine-tune our focus on the subject? For the latter point, I think we'd be better inviting some professionals in these fields to our meetups rather than trying to figure it out ourselves. After all, we're not the first group of humans to build walls between 'us' and 'them' only to regret it later! Mark

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