MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — DevOps, containers, and continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) really can benefit older applications and even older companies, according to some of the speakers at the OpenStack Days: Silicon Valley conference this week.
It takes work. But even though these software-related changes represent a break from normal business patterns, they can apply to established software.
Enterprises shouldn’t make these changes just to be trendy. Even development speed doesn’t have to be the motivator. A shift to DevOps can be a money-saver, said Luke Kanies, founder and CEO of Puppet.
“What you find is that your teams are spending so much of their time and money just maintaining what you have, that you don’t have the time and capacity to work on future projects,” he said, noting that 80 percent of a typical IT department’s budget goes toward maintaining old applications.
“If you want to take some of that back and use it on new projects, you’ve got to find a way to reduce the cost of that maintenance.”
Newer software practices are also designed to make software less risky. CI/CD involves upgrading software in small slices. This means you don’t have to wait for a major software release — but maybe more importantly, it also means a software change is no longer a big event. It’s a small experiment that can be rolled back quickly if something goes wrong.
“Historically, the CIO makes a large strategic bet, they build a three-year plan, and that three-year plan succeeds or fails,” Kanies said. “Since the average tenure of a CIO is 18 months, either way, the CIO’s going to be gone.”
It’s not just old enterprises that could stand to adopt some of these processes. Mirantis, an OpenStack company that offers its own distribution of the platform, is only now starting to veer from doing one software release every six months, as chief marketing officer Boris Renski told SDxCentral last week.
He reiterated that thought yesterday during an on-stage discussion with Battery Ventures partner Adrian Cockcroft. “Pretty much everybody that’s doing OpenStack, they follow this infrastructure-as-code paradigm, which is a completely different delivery model of software,” said Renski (pictured at left, above).
Part of the key is that software is so easy to get. Look how frequently vendors talk about customers grabbing code off of Github.
“The purchasing cycle has collapsed. The deployment cycle has collapsed,” Cockcroft said.
On top of that, upgrading software has become cheap, in terms of operations. “You should be doing it more often. The reason why you bundled it into one big release has gone away,” Cockcroft said.
This brings up an interesting concept. In the not-so-olden days of software, you could cite which version of software was your platform — like talking about running Windows 7 on your PC.
But under CI/CD, “you end up with this situation where there isn’t really a version of some thing,” Cockcroft said. “It’s lots of versions, continuously changing.”
That’s what Netflix had become while Cockcroft worked there. In fact, it was during his watch that Netflix moved its operations onto Amazon Web Services (AWS), and there, too, he had the same epiphany. There is no specific “version” of AWS that Netflix runs on, or ever ran on. Underneath the customers’ infrastructure, AWS is always changing, Cockcroft said.
Partly for this reason, software delivery has become more service-like, a point that venture capitalist Martin Casado noted during his keynote on Tuesday. Cockcroft, in his own work as a VC, is likewise looking for software-as-a-service (SaaS) plays — specifically software categories that startups are deliberately turning into services.
“We go after things that are pretty unsexy, areas that you maybe wouldn’t think of,” he said — such as “a piece of administrative work that is normally done by on-premises software.”