Gene Kim on the Convergence of DevOps


Since 1999, Gene Kim has been studying and benchmarking high performing IT operations and information security organizations. 


For 13 years, he was the CTO and founder of Tripwire, a security software company that commercialized the open source software he wrote in 1992.  While at Tripwire, he also co-authored the “Visible Ops Handbook,” which has become widely recognized as the “good to great book for IT,” which has sold over 200K copies to date.



In 2007, ComputerWorld added Gene to the “40 Innovative IT People Under The Age Of 40” list.  He has helped define IT compliance standards, including SOX-404 and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Gene is currently working on his third and fourth books, “When IT Fails: A Novel” that describes how to fix the dysfunctional relationship between IT and the business, and “The DevOps Cookbook,” a prescriptive guide on how to start and finish DevOps style transformations.


The podcast with Gene is marvelous. Going through it and then the transcription to select out excerpts I found appealing or insightful or funny, was a pleasure. Some of these excerpts are going to be solid for your DevOps kung fu and the up-coming DevOps Cookbook (more to come) is obviously going to be your step from padawan learner to full master.


Tom: Now I’ve asked some of the other folks that we’ve been interviewing on DevOps about their definition about what DevOps actually is. And I’m curious – is it important that DevOps largely be left without a crisp definition? 



Gene Kim:  You know, it’s an interesting question. In my mind, the fact that there is no crisp definition is sort of good and bad news.



Tom:  Yes. 



Gene Kim:  On the one hand, you could say that DevOps has articulated an incredible philosophy, a set of values and cultural norms that have appealed to a broad range of people. It’s helped gain the hearts and minds of some of the best practitioners and thinkers in development and operations and even information security. 



So that’s a phenomenal thing.  In fact, one of my coauthors of the DevOps cookbook, his name is John Willis.  He wrote this amazing blog post called “The Convergence of DevOps.” And he starts it with four years of history of where DevOps came from and to how it’s really a convergence of at three large movements cometogether. 



And one of them is like the ‘infrastructure as code’ people. Yes.  So this – this includes all the Puppets and Chefs of the world who automating the infrastructure andprovisioning processes.  Which has brought people like Patrick Debois, one of your previous guests.  Andrew Shafer and the like.



Another thread was the Velocity thread where, you know, John Allspaw and Paul Hammond gave a talk in 2009 about how they were doing 10 deploys a day at Flickr, which sort of shocked the world.  That created a whole movement inside of the VELOCITY community.



Then there’s this other thread that’s coming from Jez Humble from the seminal work that he’s been doing in continuous integrations and release. So, you know, I think there are even more forces than that converging including the fact that so many of the DevOps patterns that you see I believe are actually the inevitable practices that you’d get as you would apply the Lean principles to the IT values stream.  So to make my point here is that, you know, it’s fantastic that DevOps has cast a large enough umbrella, you know, that’s wide enough that it that can bring all these people from different backgrounds together. 



And I think the bad news is that DevOps is not yet prescriptive enough where it’s not a collection of practices or processes.  You know whether descriptive or prescriptive.  And so organizations that actually want to adopt DevOps-like practices don’t have much to go on.  So the intent of the DevOpsCook book project is to really catalogue what the high-performing DevOps organizations are doing and provide some prescriptive guidance so that other organizations can replicate the results that we’re seeing already.



So – I think the good news is that it describes fantastically a set of philosophies and values.  The downside to that is, ideally, in orderfor DevOps to become mainstream and to be adopted more widely, we do need something more prescriptive.  That’s where the DevOps Cookbook is coming in. 





There is much more goodness to come. Next up is the excerpt from Gene’s interview where he talks about how “DevOps is for ALL of IT”



These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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