Quantifying the value of DevOps

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In my experience when you work in IT the executive team rarely focuses on your team until you experience a catastrophic failure – once you do you are the center of attention until services are back to normal. It is easy to ignore the background work that IT teams spend most of their days on just to keep everything running smoothly. In this post I will discuss how to quantify the value of DevOps to organizations. The notion of DevOps is simple: Developers working together with Operations to get things done faster in an automated and repeatable way. If the process is working the cycle looks like:

DevOps

DevOps consists of tools, processes, and the cultural change to apply both across an organization. In my experience in large companies this is usually driven from the top down, and in smaller companies this comes organically from the bottom up.

When I started in IT I worked as a NOC engineer for a datacenter. Most my days were spent helping colocation customers install or upgrade their servers. If one of our managed servers failed it was my responsibility to fix it as fast as possible. Other days were spent as a consultant helping companies manage their applications. This is when most web applications were simple with only two servers – a database and an app server:

monolithic_app

As I grew in my career I moved to the engineering side and worked developing very large web applications. The applications I worked on were much more complex then what I was used to in my datacenter days. It is not just the architecture and code that is more complex, but the operational overhead to manage such large infrastructure requires an evolved attitude and better tools.

distributed_app

When I built and deployed applications we had to build our servers from the ground up. In the age of the cloud you get to choose which problems you want to spend time solving. If you choose an Infrastructure as a service provider you own not only your application and data, but the middleware and operating system as well. If you pick a platform as a service you just have to support your application and data. The traditional on-premise option while giving you the most freedom, also carries the responsibility for managing the hardware, network, and power. Pick your battles wisely:

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 11.50.15 AM

As an application owner on a large team you find out quickly how well a team works together. In the pre-DevOps days the typical process to resolve an operational issues looked like this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 11.49.50 AM

1)     Support creates a ticket and assigns a relative priority
2)     Operations begins to investigate and blames developers
3)     Developer say its not possible as it works in development and bounces the ticket back to operations
4)     Operations team escalates the issue to management until operations and developers are working side by side to find the root cause
5)     Both argue that the issue isn’t as severe as being stated so they reprioritize
6)     Management hears about the ticket and assigns it Severity or Priority 1
7)     Operations and Developers find the root cause together and fix the issue
8)     Support closes the ticket

Many times we wasted a lot of time investigating support tickets that weren’t actually issues. We investigated them because we couldn’t rely on the health checks and monitoring tools to determine if the issue was valid. Either the ticket couldn’t be reproduced or the issues were with a third-party. Either way we had to invest the time required to figure it out. Never once did we calculate how much money the false positives cost the company in man-hours.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 11.50.35 AM

With better application monitoring tools we are able to reduce the number of false positive and the wasted money the company spent.

How much revenue did the business lose?

noidea

I never once was able to articulate how much money our team saved the company by adding tools and improving processes. In the age of DevOps there are a lot of tools in the DevOps toolchain.

By adopting infrastructure automation with tools like Chef, Puppet, and Ansible you can treat your infrastructure as code so that it is automated, versioned, testable, and most importantly repeatable. The next time a server goes down it takes seconds to spin up an identical instance. How much time have you saved the company by having a consistent way to manage configuration changes?

By adopting deployment automation with tools like Jenkins, Fabric, and Capistrano you can confidently and consistently deploy applications across your environments. How much time have you saved the company by reducing build and deployment issues?

By adopting log automation using tools such as Logstash, Splunk, SumoLogic and Loggly you can aggregate and index all of your logs across every service. How much time have you saved the company by not having to manually find the machine causing the problem and retrieve the associated logs in a single click?

By adopting application performance management tools like AppDynamics you can easily get code level visibility into production problems and understand exactly what nodes are causing problems. How much time have you saved the company by adopting APM to decrease the mean time to resolution?

By adoption run book automation through tools like AppDynamics you can automate responses to common application problems and auto-scale up and down in the cloud. How much time have you saved the company by automatically fixing common application failures with out even clicking a button?

Understanding the value these tools and processes have on your organization is straightforward:

devops_tasks

DevOps = Automation & Collaboration = Time = Money 

When applying DevOps across your organization the most valuable advice I can give is to automate everything and always plan to fail. A survey from RebelLabs/ZeroTurnaround shows that:

1)     DevOps teams spend more time improving things and less time fixing things
2)     DevOps teams recover from failures faster
3)     DevOps teams release apps more than twice as fast

 

How much does an outage cost in your company?

This post was inspired by a tech talk I have given in the past: https://speakerdeck.com/dustinwhittle/devops-pay-raise-devnexus

 

 

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