Current Mode of Operations within some IT Service Providers
Throughout my experience on the operation’s teams working for an IT Enterprise-grade Service Provider, I have seen and learned a lot of different technologies, such as Operating Systems, Servers, Networking, Storage concepts, Processes and Security, and the only constant I can see is: Change. Everything changes on the IT Infrastructure.
On the current IT Service Provider business model, once a deal with a customer is made, and once operations teams have taken responsibility for the customer’s IT Infrastructure (ex. Wintel, Unix, Databases, Networking, Processes, Management) traditional operations will be the dominant culture. For example, from Linux & Unix Operating Systems operational view, the operation’s team will need to take care of keeping everything running, through the compliant of ITIL processes (Incidents, Change, Problem and Configuration Item Management). Having different Linux Flavors, some of them in different patch version, only some customers having their services splitted in Dev, Testing and Production environments are just a few of the variables you as a Sysadmin must deal with.
For some years now, I’ve been following IT trending topics, being DevOps one of my favorites, the mindset and new culture it represents, and the tools needed to start getting benefits from this approach. I’ve done my own home-labs, and tried tools like Puppet, Chef, Capistrano, and although sometimes the learning curve its long, I’ve been able to taste the “automated” feeling of IT Infrastructure or as top DevOps gurus named it: Infrastructure as Code.
Is the IT Enterprise Service Provider’s SysAdmin aware and ready to join DevOps culture?
From my point of view, most of the tools, and the culture created by DevOps, are better achieved when used in Software Development oriented Companies and those related with this industry. From my experience things are quite different if you are a SysAdmin looking to somehow standardize for example your patching cycles, packages versions in your servers, security compliance settings, but you have to deal with so many flavors, so many custom settings, so different clients, different IT Infrastructures some virtual some physical and so on.
Bottom line: I think only the most innovative Service Provider’s SysAdmins, those who can make of DevOps their competitive advantage and those who can quickly adapt their skills to different markets will survive in the future.
What are the main inhibitors for IT Enterprise Service Provider’s SysAdmins to join DevOps adventures?
1. Cultural Change
As I stated before, change it’s always necessary, but also it’s one of the hardest things to achieve. Every change will take long time to take effect. As a SysAdmins I think we all have the opportunity to show our top managers what we are doing. Sharing experiences, proposing small changes at the time. Reading and researching by our own will, innovating and documenting everything we do, will make us just part of this cultural change.
2. Scripting and programming skills
Automating your IT Infrastructure will require new set of skills, specially programming and scripting. I know most of us, were just used to deal with operations, but now we must see ourselves as Software Developers too!, now we are suppose to “code” how the IT infrastructure must behave. Taking your time to learn scripting and some other languages will just make you feel you can do whatever you need with your IT Infrastructure.
3. Better communication
We must improve our communication skills, now we must talk to managers, colleagues, customers, and let them know about what we are doing, how we are doing it, and how can they help us to speed things up. It’s now our responsibility to take the lead and spread the word of the new culture, the new skills, to finally start Versioning Controlling our IT Infrastructure.
If you are on the traditional IT Service Provider company, doing things without automation, and have just bored of doing the same thing over and over, now you have a chance to embrace a new culture, and start loving your job again. Facing new challenges, and feeling all right with your daily tasks, will make you feel just better… Happy DevOps’ing !!