Three Big Takeaways from DevOpsDays Seattle

Erik Meyer

In attending (and sponsoring) Seattle’s DevOpsDays this year, I quickly realized a turning point is under way. A transition in the industry is happening. With a sold out crowd of 350+ and 80+ on a waiting list, DevOps concepts are now mainstream. Even though I still hear some with the opinion that DevOps and Continuous Delivery don’t work well in established enterprises — it’s a start-up or small company thing — the established, large enterprises had a significant presence at the conference. From Microsoft to Starbucks, T-Mobile to Dell EMC, these large industry leaders are in varying stages of shifting the way they deliver products and software. Every one of them is employing some form of DevOps practices or Continuous Delivery within their SDLC. We even heard a great talk from Nell Shamrell-Harrington on how DevOps is helping shift the landscape in major political campaigns.

This year, the number of DevOps Days events almost doubled from just three years ago to 30+ cities around the world. Not only did the number of events increase significantly, attendance at each event has grown considerably. Companies sent large groups of people from across organizations this year, whereas just a year ago colleagues paid their own way to attend.

A shift in DevOps has been building for some time, as evidenced by industry reporting. For the last several years Puppet Labs, in partnership with other industry leaders, has been compiling the State of DevOps Report, and, from year to year, the maturation has been quite noticeable. Going back to 2013, much of the focus was around bringing Development and Operations together to reduce Mean Time To Resolution (MTTR) for issues, increase the frequency of deployments, and improve organizational performance. Though much of the information was sourced through surveys, and in some cases numbers were cited, the earlier reports were more focused on highlighting the pain points in the traditional Development and Operations models and how DevOps can help remediate those.

With the 2016 report, the focus was all about the numbers. Not only that, the focus shifted from how DevOps could bring Development and Operations together while solving problems to the financial value DevOps brings to the enterprise. The report was able to articulate that high performing organizations fully employing DevOps concepts see a reduction of unplanned work by 22% which results in more time available for new features or enhancements. Also, the research findings showed a staggering differential in downtime costs between low performing and high performing organizations — a differential of >$2.7m annually. Beyond IT, there are dramatic differences as well. High performing organizations are enabling significantly reduced lead time, faster time to market and, in turn, around 50% higher market capitalization growth over three years.

Gene Kim presenting some things learned since The Phoenix Project came out.

Based on the evolution we have seen in the State of DevOps report and what we saw at the conference, it’s pretty clear. Business results are being realized and what some felt was more of a niche movement has started to turn the corner to become mainstream. This year’s program highlighted the journeys several large enterprises have taken in Continuous Delivery and DevOps as well as several discussions around taking DevOps, Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery to the next level. Gene Kim and Jez Humble were great as keynotes and continue to be thought leaders in the DevOps and CD space. I was particularly impressed by the presentation from Suzie Prince from ThoughtWorks. “Continuous Integration: A Bittersweet Love Story” illustrated that the industry shift is on, but the reality is that organizations face a lot of difficulties on their journey.

Suzie Prince presenting “Continuous Integration: A Bittersweet Love Story”

I feel that was a good summation of what I saw this year. The shift is underway and conversations are moving from “why should we do this” to “how we best approach it to reduce the challenges and hurdles.”

The three big takeaways from DevOpsDays this year were:

  1. There is a transition underway. This is no longer just for start-ups and small companies. Large enterprises are moving this direction as well.
  2. This isn’t just about trying something different to reduce some of the IT pain points. There are solid metrics showing these practices make a significant difference.
  3. The interest is no longer just in IT Ops and Development teams – the benefits are observable by business units now too, and it’s helping to change companies and industries.