Discover Performance

HP Software's community for IT leaders // January 2014
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Fortune 500 company’s 4 DevOps secrets: Eliminate the monkeys

Unum Group’s Tim Durgan explains why following “disruptive” DevOps principles is imperative in today’s borderless enterprise.

The latest HP Discover Performance podcast examines how a Fortune 500 company adopted a DevOps approach to improve its applications delivery and deployment capabilities. Unum Group, an employee benefits provider, was stymied by an enterprise architecture that was “operating in silos,” said the company’s enterprise application architect, Tim Durgan. Meanwhile, Unum “began to realize that there were smaller companies starting to chip away in segments of the market.”

During the podcast with analyst Dana Gardner, Durgan outlined his basic principles for DevOps success—a roadmap to better, faster delivery and real business value.

Q: How do you define DevOps?

Tim Durgan: I have a couple of principles that I use when I talk about DevOps that are a little disruptive, so [that] people pay attention.

For instance, I’ll say, “eliminate the monkeys,” which essentially means you need to try to automate as much as possible. Machines are very good at objective criteria. Let’s save the humans for subjective things. As an architect, I recognize the automation of business process. But somehow I missed the fact that we need to automate the IT process, which in a lot of ways is what DevOps is about.

Another principle is “fail fast.” If you’re going to deliver software fast, you need to be able to fail fast. A lot of companies struggle with that. Unum does. We want to put a product out quickly, but if it’s going to fail, we would love to know it’s going to fail very quickly, and not make millions of dollars in investments.

Another one is visibility throughout. In a lot of companies … each team has a monitoring tool. You have to have a secret decoder ring to use each monitoring tool. While diversity is normally a great thing, it isn’t when it comes to monitoring. You can’t have the ops guy looking at data that’s different from what the developer is looking at. That means you’re completely hopeless when it comes to resolving issues.

My last one is “Kumbaya.” A lot of IT organizations act competitively. Somehow infrastructure believes they can be successful without development and without QA, and vice versa. Business sees only IT. We are a complete team, and we have to work collaboratively to achieve things.

Q: Does DevOps put you in a better position vis-à-vis what we all seem to see coming down the pike?

TD: It [does], if you think about movement to the cloud, which Unum is very much looking at now. And you start to think, “I’m going to take this application and run it on a data center I don’t own anymore.” So the need for visibility, transparency, and collaboration is even greater. If you think about DevOps and that visibility, data is great, but if you don’t have any idea of expectations, it’s just data.

You start to hear this phrase now, the borderless enterprise (reg. req’d), and it’s so true. Whether it’s mobile, cloud, or providing APIs to your customers, brokers, or third parties, that’s the world we now live in. If you don’t adopt DevOps principles, and do some of these things around failing fast and providing holistic visibility and shared data, I just don’t see how you change the game, how you move from your quarterly release cycle to a monthly, weekly, or daily release cycle. I don’t see how you do it.

Listen to the full podcast or read the transcript from this edition of the HP Discover Performance Podcast Series. For more on HP’s approach to DevOps, check out hp.com/go/devops.


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