What is DevOps?

DevOps: some people think it’s a hype, a sysadmin job redefined, other people believe it’s just another skill you get from some training or out of school. It’s neither. I personally would say it’s a combination of skills; you get some from school, other from formal training and the rest from the daily hands-on job.


Why is it not just some SysAdmin job redefined?

  • A “classical” SysAdmin does not use complex automation tools. His/her usual job is to go from one node to the other and set configurations, install software and fix things that do not work;

  • A normal SysAdmin job does not (usually) involve coding, apart from small scripts that run on individual nodes;

  • The “classical” SysAdmin (usually) deals with physical nodes and a good part of his/her daily job is fixing storage issues (rebuilding file systems, restoring from backups), debugging various hardware incompatibilities and applying patches.

Why do (serious, formal) coding skills matter for a DevOps?

The current industry trend is to express infrastructure through Code. You can currenty spawn entire environments (e.g. in AWS) with properly sized hardware configurations and services installed through Code only; this is possible with Automation tools like Chef. This is not about simple scripting skills but there are no complex algorithms either.

As I have just mentioned, DevOps is defined through Automation as the node interaction is no longer almost entirely manual. One now runs commands to multiple nodes at once and employs various automated monitoring tools that raise alarms and (sometimes) trigger tasks that do fix those issues, including, but not limited to, scaling resources or even adding new nodes to some cluster.

Who needs DevOps skills? I think that any organization that employs a large computing environment, large enough that scaling through classical SysAdmin operations is no longer feasible or cost-effective. Or, for that matter, any organization that intends to move its infrastructure to the Cloud. Being a new position that cannot be put in the same category with Devs, SysAdmins or QAs, there may be difficulties in filling up the job requirements, the career path or even deciding the compensation, but things are starting to change.

This was my introduction to the DevOps concept. Thank you for your read!

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