DevOps Blog

The State of DevOps in 2021: A Report Roundup

7 minute read
L’oréal Hunter

In this article, we’re giving you an overview of the most recent DevOps reports from Puppet, the DevOps Institute, and DORA. We will highlight important information from each report below.

Then, read on for the steps successful organizations can take in adopting DevOps.

(Learn all about DevOps in our multi-part DevOps Guide.)

Puppet’s 2021 State of DevOps

Every year, Puppet reports on the State of DevOps, and it recently released its 10th edition, sponsored by BMC and other industry leaders. Over the last decade, the reports have collectively polled more than 35,000 technical pros, and its annual results hold a lot of sway.

For the 2021 report, Puppet received 2,657 responses from around the world, with the majority—32 percent—falling into the 1,000 to 10,000 employee category and 40 percent in the tech sector.

The report, issued less than a year since the last one, looks at the historical evolution of DevOps and highlights the importance of automation, cloud, and people and culture to its success. Puppet notes that DevOps has evolved to the point that:

“many of the teams that are ‘doing DevOps’ well don’t even talk about DevOps anymore—it’s simply how they work.”

And yet, for the organizations still stuck halfway through their journey, it comes down to getting a better handle on technology and people in order to keep moving forward.

Puppet finds that across that middle group, the blockers and challenges change from a mix of technical, culture, and organizational at the low end to almost entirely cultural (organizational buy-in, risk aversion, imperfect feedback loops, sub-optimal team definitions, etc.) at the high end.

The report also level sets by examining the history of DevOps since it began issuing its reports, and looks at the big picture of what DevOps is and isn’t.

  • DevOps is not just automation. Highly evolved firms are far more likely to have implemented extensive and pervasive automation, but being good at automation does not make you good at DevOps. Sixty-two percent of organizations surveyed say they’re stuck in mid-evolution on their DevOps journey despite high levels of automation.
  • Almost everyone is using the cloud, but most people are using it poorly. Organizations should not expect to become highly evolved just because they use cloud and automation. While 65 percent of mid-evolution organizations report using public cloud, only 20 percent of them are using cloud to its full potential.
  • Team identities and clear interaction paradigms matter. Enterprises are held back from evolving to the highest levels by organizational structure and dynamics. Organizations that are “good at DevOps” have teams with strong, well-understood identities, clear responsibilities with a high degree of autonomy, and well-defined communication channels with other teams.

Other key findings include:

  1. While cultural blockers such as organizational resistance to change, legacy architecture, skills shortages, limited-to-no automation, and unclear goals or objectives still exist for mid-evolution firms, they are most acute for low-evolution organizations.
  2. The presence of “DevOps teams” is confusing for the industry and many organizations, and in most cases doesn’t help organizations evolve. Puppet finds that organizations with less ambiguous team names and more clearly defined responsibilities are far more likely to have a higher performing IT function.
  3. Good security practices and better security outcomes are enabled by DevOps practices. As DevOps practices improve, DevSecOps naturally follows.
  4. Platform teams can accelerate DevOps transformations by leveraging existing automation, and the most highly evolved organizations in Puppet’s DevOps models are adopting a platform model that enables self-service for developers and curates the developer experience.
  5. Modernizing older (legacy) IT infrastructure and applications requires analysis, sorting into easily understood categories, and setting explicit goals and action plans.

DevOps Institute

Next, let’s take a look at the DevOps Institute Upskilling report for 2020. The DevOps Institute conducted the study researching the necessary skills a DevOps human must possess for a second year in a row. The following report goes into detail sharing the result of more than 1,260 individuals globally surveyed who identified which skills are considered critical to DevOps and digital transformation.

Some key findings include:

  • DevOps topologies primarily used today are a huge challenge.
  • DevOps transformation journey is still very difficult for more than 50%.
  • Agile, DevOps, and ITIL are getting strong competition from SRE.
  • The DevOps human as a hybrid job and role.

Google Cloud Platform & DORA

Finally, we have the Google Cloud Platform and DORA (DevOps Research and Assessment), who publish their own State of DevOps report. The most recent DORA State of DevOps report covers the experience of more than 1,800 IT professionals. The survey has been conducted for the past six years, and in total has included more than 31,000 technical professionals from around the world.

Their research identifies the capabilities that drive improvement in the Four Key Metrics, including:

  • Technical practices
  • Cloud adoption
  • Organizational practices (including change approval processes)
  • Culture

Some key findings include:

  • The industry continues to improve, particularly among the elite performers.
  • Delivering software quickly, reliably, and safely is at the heart of technology transformation and organizational performance.
  • The best strategies for scaling DevOps in organizations focus on structural solutions that build community.
  • Cloud continues to be a differentiator for elite performers and drives high performance.

Steps to successful DevOps adoption

Year after year, organizations use these steps as the foundation for their DevOps adoption.

Pre-Step: Build a foundation

It’s kismet that the transformation of DevOps starts with its own evolution, beginning with a foundation that can truly support DevOps through and through. In this pre-stage development, company officers and other stakeholders will:

  • Realize a need for better communication and collaboration.
  • Begin rapid fire approvals to implement various pieces of technology to fill the gap.

While this process may begin hastily, it’s not something that can be accomplished quickly. Over time, businesses begin to fine-tune their approaches and customize technology to meet their goals. Eventually, a platform results that can facilitate DevOps throughout the organization. When this occurs, organizations are at a stage where they share ideas, technology, knowledge, and metrics.

You may recognize a business in this phase, or maybe you’re in this phase yourself. It’s easy to see when businesses enter this step because they begin making large software purchases and implementing new practices quickly.

Step 1: Normalize tech stacks

In the first formal step of DevOps evolution, companies begin to normalize their stacks of technology. As teams organically choose agile practices that suit them and begin considering new methods, you’ll be able to identify this step in the process.

An important tech marker of this step is version control. Teams implement it and other practices that are considered early stages of continuous integration. Normalizing tech stacks may also look like reducing redundancy in the infrastructure or refactoring applications. The need to reduce redundancy comes in the forefront in the next part of the process, but it begins in phase one.

Step 2: Standardize

As eliminating redundancy comes into focus, teams implement more practices geared at reducing variance in a tech stack and standardizing it. In this stage, DevOps teams will limit the number of OSes as a form of consolidation. Here, teams independently consolidating have the opportunity to collaborate. The overarching goal is a standardized family of technologies that work hand in hand to a foster collaboration and development effort.

This phase results in less overall complexity, which gives teams a greater opportunity to work across multiple applications, making the best use of their expertise. Benefits of this phase include:

  • Faster application deployment
  • Error reduction
  • Service quality improvement

For these reasons, standardization is a key figure in the state of DevOps.

Step 3: Try out DevOps practices

During the previous phase, standardization occurs while teams are exploring the inner-workings of their platform technology. Plus, they’re really getting to know the system. In the DevOps practices phase, teams transition from simply exploring the system to being able to make recommendations and exploiting it for DevOps.

This is a good time to evaluate pain points. Typically, this deep-dive approach requires organizations to acknowledge any struggles at the deployment phase. Deployment can be tricky for many organizations that haven’t flushed out DevOps best practices.

A common issue is that the improvements made in previous steps of the evolution have caused developers to move toward deployment faster than the deployment process can support. This causes operations to bottleneck. Addressing it swiftly by implementing additional DevOps practices at deployment is critical. That includes reusing the same deployment patterns over and over, and testing deployment prior to reaching this stage.

Step 4: Automate infrastructure

With high-priority outcomes identified, automation helps teams become even more successful.

The high ticket items most often include provisioning and systems configuration. When teams automate infrastructure delivery, they solve the problem that occurs when developer throughput outpaces deployment. That’s why this is a crucial next step after DevOps practices. Moreover, automating configuration helps teams deploy software faster.

Automation is an important precursor to self-service. It’s the catalyst for the final step in the DevOps process. It stimulates self-service, leading to greater efficiency across an organization.

Step 5: Self-service

In the self-service phase, IT practice occurs throughout an organization and may not be limited to one cost center. This allows for advances within the organization that streamline self-service.

Collaboration in this final phase multiplies the benefits in previous steps. The most significant advances are actualized when application automation transcends standardization and evolves to include cloud migration and other higher level processes. Security also evolves from simply meeting the immediate needs of the team to create a baseline for compliance throughout the organization.

Making sense of DevOps

Keeping track of research on the “State of DevOps” can help IT organizations benchmark themselves and look for opportunities for improvement based on the feedback of others. The outlook for DevOps (and SRE) in 2021 is bright as application delivery and release automation becomes increasingly vital to a successful organization.

BMC: your DevOps partners

BMC offers a number of solutions that help businesses better transition into and succeed with DevOps. As evidenced by the research above, having enterprise DevOps best practices in place in your company is a cornerstone of becoming an agile DevOps organization. With BMC as your DevOps launch partner, you will be able to develop the components necessary to achieve success within your enterprise.

  • Build collaborative workflows
  • Integrate compliance and security checks
  • Automate deployment
  • Embed Jobs-as-Code
  • Easily monitor quickly changing applications

Increase your agility. Learn more about enterprise DevOps with BMC.

Related reading

Free Download: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report

Human skills like collaboration and creativity are just as vital for DevOps success as technical expertise. This DevOps Institute report explores current upskilling trends, best practices, and business impact as organizations around the world make upskilling a top priority.

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

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About the author

L’oréal Hunter

Assoc. Manager, Solutions Marketing
L’oréal has recently started with BMC working on web and social marketing for the Control-M product for BMC. She has over 10 years of experience in content marketing in a variety of industries, including oil and gas, health and fitness and the hotel industry. She enjoys storytelling, traveling and movies. L’oréal has a B.S. in Marketing from Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island and an M.A. in New Media from Full Sail University in Florida.