DevOps Disadvantages: Understand the Downsides and Decide

The Top DevOps Disadvantages

It is as important to consider the disadvantages of implementing DevOps in your organization as it is the benefits. The decision to implement DevOps is by no means trivial.

This is the first disadvantage of DevOps, driven by its relative newness. Many definitions of DevOps have emerged, and it is important that an organization achieve agreement as to what their definition will be. This agreement is informed by several things that DevOps is often thought to be but is not.

It’s not just a methodology. DevOps goes well beyond the requirements of a new methodology to include organizational, cultural, procedural, and other changes which must be carefully considered. Is DevOps right not just for your development and operational teams, but for your entire organization? Is your organization ready for such broad change? Is the reasoning driving the decision of great value to you? Who will benefit most? Who will struggle most to achieve the necessary changes?

Technology investments in the automation tools required for DevOps will be costly and take a great deal of time to identify and more to implement. There is also a tendency to implement various “best-of-breed” tools with little or no consideration for how well they interoperate. The pain of changing tools midstream has taught many the value of establish a “DevOps toolchain” that does incorporate high integration and interoperability.

Before the beginning of your DevOps implementation project you’ll want to map out standards within your organization and optimize workflows. In addition to there not being one globally accepted definition of DevOps, there is also no standard set of DevOps processes and procedures. Everyone’s roles will need to be redefined. New processes and new procedures will need to be developed, deployed, and training provided.

At all times remember that imperfect or half-baked DevOps can be far worse than no DevOps at all.

DevOps Requires Culture Change

It’s commonly observed that you cannot just change a company’s culture on command. You can influence the culture, shift it, it can evolve over time, but its nearly impossible to just instruct all employees to simply change the way they think and act about specific things. The culture of any organization starts at the top of the leadership hierarchy and trickles down throughout, filling every empty space.

It’s easy to think that the only people impacted by the implementation of DevOps are the developers who write code and the operators who run that code on the network for the users. But those teams do not exist in a vacuum. The code they write and run serves other members of the group in departments throughout the enterprise. The process is dependent upon those users for the feedback that enables rapid iteration and constant improvement. Since this is a crucial element to the success of a DevOps process they must be ready to absorb the new culture as well as anybody else.

Beyond the silos of information, DevOps may break down and unify are silos of people stuck in their own processes and ways of managing information.

For any culture-impacting change to successfully occur there must be “buy-in” at the top of the organization. For DevOps initiatives to be successful requires “buy-in” from everyone. This kind of all-encompassing whole-organization culture-change can be very disruptive to even the most well-developed companies. That easily becomes an overwhelming disadvantage.

DevOps May Not Solve Your Problem

If your organization only requires software upgrades occasionally, and the speed at which they arrive is not mission-critical, you may have no need to stress your operations to implement DevOps.

There may be less expensive ways to achieve the same results. Good DevOps experts are in big demand and are, therefore very expensive. That’s if you can find them. The automation and other software tools they require, and other operational costs add up quickly to a very expensive initiative. A half-baked, insufficiently-funded DevOps “effort” will likely leave you worse off than when you began. In other words, if you’re going to “do” DevOps, you must be prepared to “do” it right.

The Four Categories of DevOps Disadvantages

The challenges and potential disadvantages facing those considering the implementation of DevOps generally occur within four categories:

Organizational

Traditional developers worked hard to become proficient with the “full-stack” of protocols and procedures required to develop software. DevOps breaks those multi-disciplinary tasks down assigning each one to dedicated specialists. Over time it will become difficult for those full-stack experts to leverage their many skill sets. At the same time, the organization may find that it has hired and is managing a greater number of people, each assigned to one of a list of tasks that were previously all handled by one.

Also, while the concept of constant improvement through rapid iteration of upgrades sounds fantastic, many users find it difficult to keep up with and start taking advantage of new features as they emerge. Focusing more on delivering working software than on documentation as preferred by both DevOps and its foundational Agile roots, it may become more difficult for developers and operators to keep track of their advances as well.

The entire organization is involved in any DevOps initiative, and the adoption curve may be filled with dramatic ups and downs.

One important way to mitigate this potential downside is to identify a system to track everything, including every task and its outcome, and to facilitate rapid feedback between users, operators, and developers as early in the project as possible.

Processes

One of the characteristics of processes introduced in a DevOps initiative is the sheer speed with which feedback is requested and responding changes are made. This often eliminates all opportunity to “carefully consider” suggested changes as everyone could do before. It will take time for users to adjust to this change in velocity.

Procedurally, the organization will need to be more fault-tolerant at least in the early going. Mistakes must be made and observed to stimulate rapid learning and resolution. This will be uncomfortable to some.

Testing cannot become a casualty of DevOps processes. Instead, faster methodologies must be adopted to fulfill the objectives of rapid iteration and constant improvement. This usually turns into automation of many testing processes which should result in different teams being able to make needed changes rapidly.

Technology

There’s a tendency for people to say DevOps and think automation. DevOps is not just automation, though automation enables evaluation and analysis that leads to improvement quickly enough to satisfy the velocity needs of every DevOps process. Indeed the most important segments of the DevOps lifecycle to automate are the feedback loop back from users to developers and quality assurance testing.

Speed and Security

Speed and security don’t necessarily get along with each other very well. It is critical to the success of your DevOps initiative that you carefully consider a separate plan for security at every stage of your DevOps workflow. Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so it is critical to assure that the security of your DevOps processes is consistently strong across the workflow chain.

Security teams traditionally begin by evaluating the design of a system to determine weak points, choke points, bottlenecks, and other areas of vulnerability. Remember that DevOps inherited from Agile the goal of achieving a minimum viable product (MVP) as quickly as possible, and then preferring iterative improvements of working software over documentation. As such, there really is often no formal design and therefore no design documents for anyone to evaluate and analyze. The security team must then depend upon the advice of the developers and the operations people. This promotes much better teamwork but challenges the achievement of sufficient security from the start.

Because of this, and because neither developers nor operators are necessarily security experts, we have seen DevOps quickly evolving to become DevSecOps.

Turn the Disadvantages of DevOps into Insights

One of the main goals of DevOps is to be first to market with a new idea or feature. This requires maximizing efficiency and eliminating any waste, process delays, or unnecessary costs. The desire is to fail-fast-fail-early and resolve everything as quickly as possible.

Our final daunting challenge is the breaking down of silos. Certainly, the amalgamation of silos of data, but also silos of personnel in various teams, each with their own standards and process preferences. It is far easier to bring together data than it is to bring together people.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Planning a DevOps Initiative? Let Us Help!

Struggling to achieve alignment and collaboration within your organization? Not sure how to begin? We can help. Tiempo has assisted many organizations with adopting DevOps, and completing successful initiatives with minimal disruptive. From strategy and planning to implementation, Tiempo has the resources you need to make your initiative a success.

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