I often hear people say, "DevOps is about culture, not tools" before immediately launching into how everyone in their organization uses Slack (tool) or how everyone is "empowered" to make changes via github pull request (tool) or how the ops team created a push-button solution that allows the devs to spin up new Docker containers (tool).
While I love Slack, PRs and Docker, I think we have a fundamental problem with the definition of "culture." Perhaps this is our penance for abusing the word in the 00’s when "culture" was often defined as foosball tables and binge-purge cycles of overly caffeinated hack nights followed by crashing in the office nap room.
At O’Reilly, we've played our part in offering definitions for DevOps.
Mike Loukides first wrote that DevOps is cooperation and collaboration in his article, "What is DevOps?" Which I feel is a good definition, though the subtitle "Infrastructure as Code" still muddies the waters with an approach to tooling.
He revisited the question last year, concluding that DevOps is about holistic corporate management and corporate culture.
Jennifer Davis and Katherine Daniels do a fantastic job of defining DevOps-related terms in the first chapter of their book Effective DevOps and conclude that, "it is tempting to try to tie them all together into one simple definition of DevOps. However, if it were that easy, there wouldn’t have been nearly as much debate over the past five years as to what DevOps is and isn't."
I'll follow Jennifer and Katherine's wisdom and avoid an overreaching, simplistic definition, but I will be bold and offer a partial definition: DevOps starts with diversity. I don't just mean diverse technology. It's often been said that a creation is a reflection of its creator and I think the diverse technical systems we create are reflections of the diverse human systems we build and are a part of.
When we discuss cooperation and collaboration; empathy and corporate structures; or simply developers and operations engineers working together; ultimately we're trying to bring harmony to diverse human systems and multiple perspectives, while at the same time leveraging the strengths that each offers the group. Increasing diversity brings challenges, but offers greater benefits.
Earlier this year at Velocity Santa Clara, Laine Campbell offered insight on how to increase diversity by challenging and fixing the meritocracy in technology.
Velocity New York further explores the subject by featuring two sessions that will dive deeper into the benefits of diversity in the human side of DevOps:
In addition to learning more about diversity, you can help us increase diversity. When you register for the conference, you will have an opportunity to participate in our matching donation to Black Data Processing Associates and we offer a diversity scholarship to help underrepresented groups attend our events.
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