Chris Jackson

I Don't Often Blog, But When I Do It's Here…

PaaS – Solving for the Gap

Forget “men are from mars, women are from venus”, think “Devs are from jupiter, Ops are from Alpha Centauri”. The dichotomy of value between Dev and Ops will continue to exist after a successful implementation of DevOps.  Fundamentally, whilst these groups can be incentivised to want the same business outcomes, their perception of value is still radically different.  DevOps just serves to build a more collaborative model where value outcomes are shared. However, when pushed would a Developer pick stability over self-service?  I’m not so sure…

How does this play out in a business where DevOps is not prominent?  The advances in technology and application architecture just serve to separate the teams further. So how can we find ways to build organic relationships where none exist?  People are getting excited about PaaS again, and most of it is because “put it in the cloud” is getting a bit tired as a value proposition.  But I think there’s an opportunity to make PaaS the meeting point for these two groups.

Point of clarification – I am not saying buy PaaS and you get DevOps.  What I am saying is that if the industry gets PaaS right, then there is the opportunity to use it as a common middle ground while you do the hard work to build collaboration and culture in your teams around it.

PaaS right now is loved by Developers and largely ignored or feared by Operators.  That is largely because they tend to be black box affairs, they offer self-service and a platform to run your application.  But they do this at scale by locking down how the infrastructure runs on the back end.  This tends not to sit with many companies who either have obligations to apply governance and control to the infrastructure or who can make significant cost gains by customising and tuning how it runs.

The open source revolution is turning its attentions to PaaS now, with Solum from OpenStack and Cloud Foundry now really building a free foundation away from the shackles of a single owner.  My hope is that this yields a way of using services that gives value to both developers and operators.  The opportunity to focus on the business value by abstracting infrastructure into business components whilst at the same time maintaining choice and transparency of how and where the infrastructure operates.

PaaS could dominate the next 20 years of cloud and IT services if the vendors understand that it must serve both developers and operators.  If it allows all sides of an IT organisation to leverage value then it has the potential to be a magnetic tool that gives teams a common platform around which they can collaborate.

The biggest risk to this is that developers tend to be the one’s on the edge of innovation with the operators playing a never ending game of catch-up.  If only one side of the DevOps conundrum is represented at the PaaS table when critical decisions are being made, we will miss the opportunity to solve for the needs of all of IT’s consumers.

Time will tell whether the balance is struck and we’re only just starting the next phase of “cloud” as a platform service.  I just hope we learn from what has gone before us rather than persisting an anti-pattern for collaboration.

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