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The words "Most IT organizations  implemented DevOps, So why  is DevOps dying?" beside of an image of an infinity symbol drawn in the sand with the shoreline nearly reaching it.
March 26, 2024

Killing DevOps: The Rise and Fall of a Transformational Giant

The majority of IT organizations have implemented DevOps principles and ways of working. Sounds amazing, right? Then why is DevOps dying? Read the blog to find out.

Why is DevOps Dying?

The Briefest History of DevOps

DevOps has conceptually been around for nearly twenty years, but wasn’t formally recognized until the first DevOpsDays in Belgium, October of 2009. Patrick Debois and Adrew Clay Shafer may argue who came up with the term, but Patrick usually gets the credit. Since then, hundreds of different DevOpsDays conferences have been hosted in different cities around the world, and more centralized events like IT Revolution’s DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES) have served as a place for leaders across the DevOps space to gather and share successes and ideas on how to improve their organizations.

DevOps has proven to be truly transformational. Entire organizations have been built to study and research DevOps (DORA), and hundreds of books, and millions of DevOps jobs exist to support it. Over the past decade, thousands of enterprises have benefited from the DevOps movement and continue to see real, measurable value from the improved automation, communication and collaboration it has brought to their organizations.

This has been awesome for us as well. Liatrio has held a primary focus as a DevOps professional services firm for almost a decade at this point and our experience within the industry goes back farther than that. We’ve led DevOps transformations and partnered with many large enterprises in upskilling, bringing in new technology accelerators, and seeing them establish foundations for the next several years with a modernized approach to software delivery. The conversations we had 4 short years ago could start with “DevOps” and everyone was excited to JUST GO. But today, the industry isn’t looking for DevOps; they’re looking for what they missed with their Agile or DevOps transformations the first time around.

Where Did DevOps Miss?

The value proposition of “DevOps transformation” has managed to reach most IT organizations, but the effectiveness of DevOps as “THE transformation agent” within the industry has decreased significantly since its peak; somewhere around early 2019. It’s been a driving force for so long, the majority of enterprises may have embraced DevOps to some degree, but they often fall into the trap of treating their DevOps transformations like any other project.

I’m not going to pretend like it hasn’t had an impact, though. DevOps has brought measurable improvements for many organizations - and we do have some awesome success stories. However, like most enterprise projects, they don’t maintain a high level of excitement or intensity for long enough to maintain their momentum as permanent change agents.

After the energy and excitement around DevOps has died down, many enterprises have ended up leaving the “DevOps work” to a small team of engineers who sit between dev and ops rather than building and expanding these capabilities within each delivery organization. So even though it’s not perfect, many organizations have still benefited greatly from this approach. Unfortunately, they also have seen diminishing returns by not continuing to invest in expanding these capabilities to accommodate the rapid advancements in cloud technology and increased scale required for modern software delivery.

Even if you argue that DevOps can’t die, it has lost much of its influence, becoming watered down or overloaded over time. It means many things to many people at this point, and when you can’t easily align on what DevOps is, it is difficult to align on a common North Star and direction for change.

If DevOps isn’t Dying, is it Rebranding?

Late last year, Gene Kim of DOES announced its renaming to the Enterprise Technology Leadership Summit (ETLS).

One of the things that we have heard with increasing frequency over the years has been, “Wow, this conference is so much more than DevOps. It’s not just Dev and Ops anymore!” I think they’re alluding to the fact that we have actively sought out technology leaders from QA, Information Security, Internal and External Audit, Regulators, and most importantly, Business leadership.
Gene Kim on rebranding the DevOps Enterprise Summit

When Gene Kim chose to drop DevOps as the title track to his enterprise transformation mixtape, you knew it was over. The next thing doesn’t need to be DevOps 2.0. This time, it needs to stick.

The Shift to Platform Engineering

DevOps is and always has been about not only solving technical problems, but also removing barriers with organizations to help speed up processes and improve culture. Unfortunately, in many organizations DevOps is often limited to a subset of specific technical skills or capabilities; things such as CI/CD, Infrastructure as Code, building Kubernetes clusters, cloud ops, or simply managing all the tools and environments that developers need to ship code.

Today, most of what DevOps is known for is that space between Dev and Ops, or the “+” between Dev + Ops.

But this isn’t a bad thing; it’s actually turning out to be pretty awesome. The biggest value enterprises are seeing today is when we really lean in on these capabilities and treat them with the attention and care that traditional product development has seen. We’ve been asking, what does Platform Engineering accomplish that DevOps didn’t? It turns out that by being deliberate about enabling specific capabilities in software delivery, Platform Engineering delivers on what DevOps is often being asked to do extremely well.

The State of DevOps Report 2024: The Evolution of Platform Engineering

Enterprises are now adopting Platform Engineering as a strategy to build and maintain high-quality internal platforms as products, with a focus on other developers and engineering teams as true customers. This has brought terms like Developer Experience (DevEx) to the forefront of the conversation, with research and data on how DevEx improves developer productivity. Where we were previously seeing all of this work directed to “the DevOps team”, Platform Engineering and an organizational move toward Team Topologies gives platform teams the opportunity to provide best-of-breed, self-service products that would otherwise be a huge challenge for either developers or existing DevOps teams to manage and maintain.

Preserving the Spirit of DevOps

We may see movement toward new trends like Platform Engineering, but it’s up to us to make sure that what DevOps accomplished doesn’t get left behind. Transparent communication, collaboration, and the effort in enabling a generative culture in IT organizations must be maintained. The needs of development, operations, security, audit & compliance, and so many others must be considered to have the enterprise platform (and platforms within the platform - that’s another topic) meet their needs. 📷

This means we will need to continue to push to provide those teams the ability to build their own platforms, raise pull requests (innersource), attend meetings, or voice frustrations asynchronously so other platform teams in the organization can accommodate them. There is much more to this, but fortunately, we’ve got plenty of great examples to lean on to help set our course. All of the great DevOps literature and success stories still apply here.

Is DevOps Dead?

DevOps will never be dead, and anywhere you see Liatrio, we’ll be pushing for true transformation. But we do believe it is time to embrace the evolution of DevOps. For this reason, we will be aligning our efforts, and our brand, to emphasize a shift towards modernization and Platform Engineering over leading with DevOps as “the” transformational change agent.

Our decision with this direction reflects our commitment to ensure that our focus on helping enterprises deliver real value for their customers remains central to our mission. Most importantly, we’ll be doing this in a way that improves the quality of life for everyone involved so that a strong culture of innovation, collaboration, and empathy persists long after we’re gone.

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