The rise of the DevOps role over the past few years has been meteoric. Entire companies now exist to serve this niche, and, by all accounts, DevOps personnel are in very high demand1.

Wikipedia has a nice Venn diagram showing what DevOps is:

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As a developer, it's easy to look at this and think that it's just a rebranding of IT.

Having worked with DevOps for a while, however, I've realized that it's much more than that. It's not merely that IT has moved closer to development–development has also moved closer to IT.

Everything as a service

The nature of software has changed dramatically over the past few years. More web, more (micro-) services, less personal computer. In many ways, we're going back to Big Iron.

These days, for reasons including:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Scale
  • Customer lock-in
  • Intellectual property rights

companies want everything to be a web service. This means an awful lot of infrastructure–so much so that it's a lot cheaper and more reliable to leverage the expertise of Amazon, Microsoft, and Google than to manage it in-house2.

IT departments, therefore, can manage a lot less hardware. They spend much more of their time with scripts and configurations; in other words, more programming and less wrestling cables.

Change at the speed of human availability

Software that comes as a service rather than in a box is much more under the company's control, which means that it's easier to modify. And if it's easier to modify, it will be modified more often–and blow up more often. Amazon is one of the first companies to embrace the "software as a service" (SaaS) model, and it's not an accident that their developers were among the first to wear pagers.

When software is a service, it's harder to write some lines of code, throw it over the fence to QA, and move on. Developers have to own their code from development, to deployment, to production. Often, there is no one on the other side of the fence. Funding Circle US, for example, has only one dedicated QA'er3 for all development teams–nearly 30 developers in total–and no plans to hire more.

Developers, therefore, have an increased responsibility to be their own QA. Often, they have to be their own IT support as well–if a deployment goes wrong due to some infrastructure issue, it's up to the developer to investigate and resolve it.

A grand unification

I have long thought that software development, like most roles, will become more specialized over time; the current trend, however, points towards less. Development, QA, and operations are entering each others' territories4.

For the foreseeable future, it's less and less acceptable for developers to "only" write code. Spending more time on testing and infrastructure is to be expected.x



Even more so than developers!


Especially for companies that primary consume, rather than produce, software.


A really smart and productive guy


And often stepping on each others' toes.