Microsoft study finds everybody wants DevOps but culture is a challenge

Resolving cultural barriers between developers and operations is the biggest obstacle


Everybody wants to join the DevOps movement. Everybody wants their developers and their operations people to work more closely together and take advantage of greater internal IT harmony with the result of higher agility and a faster time to market. 

But a new study sponsored by Microsoft finds that while everybody wants to adopt DevOps, the cultural barriers between developers and operations are way more of an obstacle to getting there than any shortcomings of technology. The study -- conducted by Saugatuck Research and given the lofty title of Why DevOps Matters: Practical Insights -- found that overcoming those barriers are both the primary challenge and biggest opportunity for helping customers get there.

The survey polled "over 300 development and IT operations professionals and managers," and found that 71% of IT shops had pockets of automation, and 54% were testing DevOps practices on individual small projects. That's a good start, but only 37% say they have formal DevOps strategies.

Why? Because getting people to overcome personal habits and established workflows is a huge challenge. More than half of respondents said that "overcoming cultural habits inside my organization/company" was the primary hurdle to formalizing DevOps practices, with 37% saying that the real issue is that they simply don't understand it. 

"Technologists are good at new technology, but less at introspection and changing themselves," says Mike Baukes, co-founder and co-CEO of configuration management startup ScriptRock, which advised Microsoft on this study in particular and DevOps in general.

In other words, the issue isn't a lack of good, mature tools -- just look at the big success of products like Chef, Puppet, Ansible, and ScriptRock's own GuardRail. The problem is getting people to use them across the entire organization and not just in isolated pockets. The network effect is real and strong, and change can only occur when everybody's invested. 

The real way forward, says Volker Will, Microsoft's chief DevOps evangelist, is to push tools that help the disparate operations and development teams work together. He also says that you know,  users of the Microsoft platform are uniquely positioned to better join the movement toward agile, flexible development and management thanks to the extensibility of Microsoft tools on the Microsoft platform, especially once the DevOps mindset is extended to the Microsoft Azure cloud.

It's a Microsoft-sponsored study, after all. But it raises yet more evidence of the newer, developer-friendly Microsoft: Will says that it's the company's position that real DevOps change will only come when the huge population of Windows-running IT shops out there are allowed to use the tools they want to use on the platform. If developers can't use the tools they want to use, it just makes more headaches for operations and deepens the divide. But it also leads to enabling the integration of the kinds of third-party, open source, collaborative tools that makes DevOps possible.

"It will enable all the players to get what they really need," Will says.

The study concludes with the finding that maybe, just maybe, Windows shops are more likely to successfully adopt DevOps, just because a more homogenous platform makes it easier to find and deploy the necessary tooling. But the real takeaway here is that DevOps is desirable and coming, and getting people to actually work together isn't easy. The study's advice: Start with small projects and grow your DevOps culture from there. 

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon