DevOps has been the backbone of high-performing software development teams for more than a decade. In that time, the methodology has simultaneously improved quality, deployment speed, and customer experience (CX). Moreover, it has improved developer experience (DevX) by prioritizing incremental launches, freeing developers — and their code — from languishing in review.
Yet many experts believe the heyday of DevOps is coming to an end. Many of these observers claim the adoption and popularity of platform engineering will soon overtake DevOps. Others think DevOps — while not dead or dying — is a misleading term, obscuring the daily tasks and responsibilities of developers working under the DevOps banner. So, is it time to retire DevOps entirely?
Only time will tell. But I staunchly believe it's misguided to count DevOps out just yet. Instead, practitioners should expect DevOps to do what DevOps does best: develop and grow with the market.
A Brief History Lesson
Before DevOps' popularity, software organizations suffered from endemic dysfunction between two pivotal departments: application development and operations. Although working toward the same purpose, these teams often miscommunicated due to organizational silos. As a result, deployments were less secure and timely, outages more frequent, and customers were far less satisfied.
Circa 2009, DevOps revolutionized the software world by emphasizing collaboration between software developers and operations professionals. How this is done varies by company: Sometimes you put both skills in the same scrum team, sometimes you have operations teams building development platforms to enable developers to self-service things they couldn't before, and some companies expect the same person to be an expert in both skills. Since then, all these forms of DevOps have been pivotal in promoting agility and continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) during the software development lifecycle (SDLC).
The DevOps mindset has also skyrocketed in popularity: In 2021, nearly three-quarters of organizations had adopted a DevOps approach (74%), up from just 47% in 2017. Even lagging teams have likely adopted DevOps-like practices, such as intelligent automation.
Over the years, DevOps has matured and undergone various transformations, including:
■ A shift to the cloud — The meteoric growth of public cloud infrastructure services has made the adoption and optimization of DevOps accelerate rapidly. More recently, elite teams employing DevOps have shifted toward cloud-native development and deployment and begun leveraging more advanced services, including serverless computing. These trends have been drivers for the continued advancement of DevOps.
■ Automation-first workflows — Early CI/CD tools like CruiseControl and Jenkins pushed DevOps forward by allowing developers to commit code more quickly and reliably. However, these self-managed toolkits have mostly given way to automated CI/CD tools requiring a less manual development pipeline.
■ DevSecOps — Perhaps the newest iteration of the DevOps methodology, DevSecOps does what its portmanteau suggests: It integrates security concerns during the earliest phases of the SDLC. DevSecOps improves customer outcomes by bolstering security parameters and automating as-yet manual security checks.
■ DevFinOps – Another recent iteration of DevOps, DevFinOps brings financial management into the shared responsibility of the DevOps team, not just making it countable for the application's development and operations, but also for its cost optimization.
These maturations have coalesced and transformed DevOps into a different beast than in 2009. I believe similar developments will carry DevOps well into the future — albeit in a different form influenced by modern developer and customer concerns.