By Christopher Calnan
As the demand for software rises, a methodology to guide its development has skyrocketed in prominence.
DevOps, a compound contraction of (software) development and (software) operations, is spiking in popularity as companies take a more collaborative approach when creating or updating software. It’s an approach that closely mirrors enterprise architecture, or EA.
DevOps is designed to keep the two business units synchronized and cross-functional with a more compartmentalized form of EA. Companies are frequently combining the organizational benefits of EA with the collaborative approach of DevOps to maintain quality while quickly delivering the latest software products.
That speed has become more crucial in recent years as mobile technology coupled with cloud computing has fueled a greater demand for app and on-demand applications. Updating software with plug-ins and security patches can now be a daily occurrence. Such frequency makes better alignment and communication more important than ever, and industry observers differ in how the two methodologies—DevOps and EA—should co-exist.
Some say the adoption of DevOps is overcoming EA in terms of popularity—or even necessity. Others say there’s been no better time for them to work in unison.
An impressive demand for DevOps is being driven by the changing nature of software. It’s no longer commonly installed on premises. It’s usually downloaded via the Web and automatically updated on a regular basis. Such changes benefit from communication and coordination among a company’s business units. That’s where DevOps comes into play, said Jason Bloomberg, president of Intellyx LLC, a Virginia-based consulting firm focused on what it calls “agile digital transformation.”
However, Bloomberg questions the importance of EA compared with DevOps. EA is too “framework centric,” which isn’t conducive to the quick changes needed by frequent updates to software. “The field requires a re-think,” Bloomberg said. “EA has under delivered on business value.”
Genesis of EA
The EA modeling approach and business development strategy was introduced 30 years ago by John A. Zachman.
“Architecture is not one thing,” he wrote. “It is a set of things, in fact, a set of 30 descriptive representations relevant for describing a complex object such that it can be created (that is, engineered and optimized so it meets its design objectives) and relevant for changing (that is, improving the object over time).”
The San Francisco-based Association of Enterprise Architects, which was founded in 2005, now represents about 35,000 members in about 45 regional chapters. In recent years, more US colleges such as Penn State University and Carnegie Mellon University have established EA programs. Leonard Fehskens, editor of the Journal of Enterprise Architecture, expects a university to someday offer a full-blown graduate degree in EA.
Meanwhile, technology and the speed of its development continue to influence the business world in significant ways. The term DevOps was reportedly coined about 2008.
In 2011, tech investor Marc Andreessen famously wrote, “Software is eating the world.” The comment may have understated the dynamics given the increasing role software is playing in both consumer and enterprise products. The outsized growth is being fueled by the proliferation of sensors and the massive amount of information—Big Data—they produce in the realm of what’s become known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
Companies in nearly every vertical are competing on the technology front to remain competitive and retain customers. Coffee shops enable online ordering, parking fees are paid with mobile applications, and transit systems provide riders with real-time scheduling information via the Web. The shift has led some industry observers to claim that all companies are in the technology business today. They can’t afford not to be.
“In 2018, industries such as financial services, healthcare, retail, and automotive will fully embrace IoT,” wrote Eran Kinsbruner, lead technical evangelist at Massachusetts-based Perfecto Inc. (previously called Perfecto Mobile Ltd.) “A critical step in delivering flawless UX (user experience) is testing, and lots of it. Never has there been more to test, measure, and develop than in this digital revolution we are seeing today.”
DevOps can have a range of effects on a company’s product. It’s implemented to improve both the quality and the velocity of sales. Companies should not only enlist enterprise architects for general DevOps. They can be useful on software quality, software engineering, and operational activities, Kinsbruner told Architecture & Governance.
“All enterprises are shifting from being associated with a particular vertical to technology,” Kinsbruner said. “They’re competing on features now to give value the fastest.”
The role of DevOps has taken on greater importance and is fueling a cultural shift in companies and organizational principles while operating as part of EA. But, Bloomberg said, “Most organizations haven’t connected the dots yet.”
The goal of both DevOps and EA is to align both the technical and the financial sides of companies. They’re designed to improve communications between a company’s various departments and promote the benefits of collaboration for the greater good. In short, remove the silos and share processes and data.
Globally, the DevOps market is projected to reach $8.8 billion by 2023, rising at an 18 percent compounded annual growth rate, according to a report by the KBV Research, which operates offices in India and New York.
Major vendors include CA Inc., IBM Corp., and HP Enterprise Co., the report indicates.
A Need For Speed
At Datical Inc., an Austin-based maker of database management software founded in 2012, company executives said DevOps can be instrumental in modernizing its business. The methodology of DevOps coupled with EA can provide serious firepower for a company needing to make automated updates and software development, said serial entrepreneur and chief technology officer Robert Reeves.
“DevOps is one of the tools in the kit of an enterprise architect,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a competition to be better than EA. There’s a problem with using DevOps as a bully club.”
The DevOps method has been adopted widely because it enables faster software development. And “speed is the new standard” for developers, Reeves said.
The future of EA and DevOps appears bright as long as it’s important for technologists to enable their companies to reduce the amount of time to market. And that’s almost a given since competition will always exist.
Speed to market is a crucial factor for more established companies being disrupted by startups. Such companies need to respond to changes as quickly as possible so they don’t lose customers to the latest technology developments. That’s where both EA and DevOps can come into play with a tech-based, one-two punch, Reeves said.
“They realize they’re not going to come up with the new ideas,” he said. “But they want to follow fast. These large companies need to do the same with their software.” A&G
Christopher Calnan is a veteran technology journalist, who most recently spent 10 years with the Austin Business Journal covering the technology beat.