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Why 2018 is the year of DevOps and how containers paved the way

by David Linthicum

The DevOps development methodology gained ascendance in 2018, largely because of the increasing adoption of other cloud technologies, including containers.

As we head into 2019, technology trends such as multicloud architecture, containerization and DevOps have made their way—full steam ahead—in enterprises.

But it wasn’t always this way. Just a few years ago, these various cloud-enabling technologies—DevOps, containers, and even multicloud architecture—were still view with circumspection. Containers were a development environment that were solely the province of early adopters and DevOps seemed like just another Agile framework. Today, these technology trends are invaluable to building hybrid cloud environments that are agile, flexible and secure.

How did we evolve to this point, and how did 2018 become the year of DevOps?

DevOps methodology strives to bring development and IT operations together. With this agile approach to development, teams can better communicate and collaborate as infrastructure becomes more automated and programmable. Today, DevOps encompasses a series of tools designed to enable more automated, scalable cloud development that works in the context of existing IT operations.

In 2017, the global DevOps market was $2,770 million and it is expected to reach $10,800 million by 2025, with a CAGR of 18.6% during 2018-2025.

How 2018 became the year of DevOps: Three drivers

DevOps began in 2008 as way to automate the Agile software development methodology. Many considered it notable but not applicable for nonsoftware centric organizations. But that changed as the nature of cloud-based development environments changed. As containerization (a partitioning method that enables applications to run in isolation and share an operating system), gained ascendance—because they enabled greater portability and agility in the cloud—DevOps became an important methodology to enable more rapid development within the strictures of IT operations. The year 2018 seems to have been DevOps’ inflection point.

1.       Containers. Many technologies paved the way for DevOps’ ascendance in 2018, but none have had the impact of containers. Containers provide a foundation for building portable distributed applications that use a consistent architecture.

Containers spin up faster than virtual machines (VMs) and are thus more flexible, self-contained and portable. Today’s containers bring along a complete ecosystem, including security, management, governance, and development. Indeed, the container ecosystem itself is far more of an advantage than the containers themselves. (Though there are some caveats to the benefits of containers: They lack isolation from the host OS, so security threats have easier access to the entire system.)

The rise of container orchestration contributed heavily to the ecosystem of containers. Standards such as Kubernetes and public cloud versions of Kubernetes led the way to a cloud orchestration ecosystem that is part of the larger container ecosystem.

Container orchestration allows containers to cluster together so they can be managed in tandem. The number of tools arising for containers, and containers within DevOps, exploded in 2018. Most net-new DevOps processes and organizations are now established based on the need for container development automation, testing, and deployment.

2.       Cloud, microservices. Associated with containers, microservices emerged as the preferred architecture to design, build, and deploy fine-grained services with a high degree of reuse. Thus the need for a DevOps infrastructure that allows developers to find, embed, and build new microservices.

Cloud computing is a major DevOps driver as well. Most cloud deployments are linked to a DevOps process and organization build. Because cloud computing platforms support instant scaling and deployment, as well as business agility, you need DevOps to take full advantage of the benefits of the cloud. A DevOps approach enables you to push forward with innovative development projects while still working in the structure established by IT operations.

If you use a traditional waterfall-type of software development methodology, the value of cloud computing goes way down. Only through DevOps can those who own a cloud-based platform take full advantage. Clearly, much of the DevOps explosion of 2018 can be attributed to the inflection of cloud computing.

3.       New tools for DevOps. Tooling is the third leg of the stool this year. Previously, the vision was to have a developer press a button and the code magically integrates, tests, secures, documents, and deploys. The reality fell far short. The gaps between goals and reality meant that much of DevOps was manually driven, which defeated the purpose.

Today, we can define and populate an integrated DevOps tool chain that will live up to the expectations of DevOps as defined by the original DevOps pioneers. While it’s not as magical as many would hope, this year the number of manual steps were drastically reduced.

DevOps culture is another success story in 2018, and its most important win. DevOps has always been about culture, including people and processes, and the proper use of technology. In the past, most organizations with traditional development cultures and an unwillingness to change overrode any chance for DevOps to be a success.

In 2018, DevOps became so compelling that most development shops did not push back on it. Indeed, adoption of DevOps became “politically correct” and development organizations began the transformation at such an accelerated pace that the going salaries for DevOps engineers went up 100% in 2018.

What went right for DevOps in 2018

So, what went right? 2018 provided the perfect storm of need, supply, and desire. The need for DevOps was built around well-known success stories that emerged around some of the organizations that were early adopters. This led to more venture dollars flowing into DevOps tools and technologies, and thus more and better tools on the street.

Another thing that went right is the adoption of DevOps within organizations, many of which were on the fence and waiting for the 100th Global 2000 company to demonstrates success before they jumped in with both feet. We had that validation toward the end of 2017, which may be why 2018 became the year DevOps exploded.

If anything went wrong it was the lack of information about the purpose of DevOps. As those who defined DevOps first put forward, DevOps is more about people and processes than technology. However, true-to-form, enterprises adopted DevOps by buying the tools first before they figured out the people and culture part of things. As a result, many found themselves behind the eight ball in 2018.

Next year we can expect more of the same. What happened in 2018 will happen next year as well. Plan on other technologies coming into the mix more, such as machine learning and analytics. More cloud influence will be there as well, with many DevOps tools and processes becoming cloud hosted.

All this is a step in the right direction. Development is better with DevOps and it’s really the core enablement technology of so many other technologies, such as containers, cloud, microservices, and so on. I would argue that the value of those technologies won’t be found without DevOps. We can remember 2018 as the year it all came together.

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David Linthicum

David Linthicum is the chief cloud strategy consultant and a longtime contributor to a variety of technology publications.