A Devops Case Study
An outline of my forthcoming Agile 2010 workshop was given in the post “A Recipe for Handling Cultural Conflicts in Devops and Beyond” earlier this week. Here is the case study around which the workshop is structured:
NotHere, Inc. Case Study
NotHere, Inc. is a $500M company based in Jerusalem, Israel. The company developed an eCommerce platform for small to medium retailers. Through a combination of this platform and its hosting data center, NotHere provides online store fronts, shopping carts, order processing, inventory, billing and marketing services to tens of thousands of retailers in a broad spectrum of verticals. For these retailers, NotHere is a one-stop “shopping” for all their online needs. In particular, instead of partnering with multiple companies like Amazon, Ebay, PayPal and Shopzilla, a retailer merely needs to partner with NotHere (who partners with these four companies and many others).
The small to medium retailers that use the good services of NotHere
are critically dependent on the availability of its data center. For all
practical purposes retailers are (temporarily) dead when the NotHere
data center is not available. In recognition of the criticality of this
aspect of its IT operations, NotHere invested a lot of effort in
maturing its ITIL[i]
processes. Its IT department successfully implements the ITIL service
support and service delivery functions depicted in the figure below.
From an operational perspective, an overall availability level of four
nines is consistently attained. The company advertises this availability
level as a major market differentiator.
In response to the accelerating pace in its marketplace, NotHere has been quite aggressive and successful in transitioning to Agile in product management, dev and test. Code quality, productivity and time-to-producing-code have been much improved over the past couple of years. The company measures those three metrics (quality, productivity, time-to-producing-code) regularly. The metrics feed into whole-hearted continuous improvement programs in product management, dev and test. They also serve as major components in evaluating the performance of the CTO and of the EVP of marketing.
NotHere has recently been struggling to reconcile velocity in development with availability in IT operations. Numerous attempts to turn speedy code development into fast service delivery have not been successful on two accounts:
- Technical: Early attempts to turn Continuous Integration into Continuous Deployment created numerous “hiccups” in both availability and audit.
- Cultural: Dev is a competence culture; ops is a control culture.
A lot of tension has arisen between dev and ops as a result of the cultural differences compounding the technical differences. The situation deteriorated big time when the “lagging behind” picture below leaked from dev circles to ops.
The CEO of the company is of the opinion NotHere must reach the stage of Delivery over Development. She is not too interested in departmental metrics like the time it takes to develop code or the time it takes to deploy it. From her perspective, overall time-to-delivery (of service to the retailers) is the only meaningful business metric.
To accomplish Delivery over Development, the CEO launched a “Making Cats Work with Dogs[ii]” project. She gave the picture above to the CTO and CIO, making it crystal clear that the picture represents the end-point with respect to the relationship she expects the two of them and their departments to reach. Specifically, the CEO asked the CTO and the CIO to convene their staffs so that each department will:
- Document its Outmodel (in the sense explored in the “How We Do Things Around Here In Order to Succeed” workshop) of the other department.
- Compile a list of requirements it would like to put on the other group “to get its act together.”
The CEO also indicated she will convene and chair a meeting between the two departments. In this meeting she would like each department to present its two deliverables (world view of the other department & and the requirements to be put on it) and listen carefully to reflections and reactions from the other department. She expects the meeting will be the first step toward a mutual agreement between the two departments how to speed up overall service delivery.[i] “Information Technology Infrastructure library – a set of concepts and practices for Information Technology Services Management (ITSM), Information Technology (IT) development and IT operations” [Wikipedia].
[ii] I am indebted to Patrick DeBois for suggesting this title.
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