DevOps Survey Says!
What our recent DevOps surveys tell us about the state of DevOps, Reliance on Scripting and IT Automation
Scripting and IT automation
A lot of IT Operations teams including Application Owners, Configuration Managers, Middleware Specialists, and Database Administrators are managing infrastructure configuration change with manual processes, spreadsheets and scripts. They are spending a lot of time writing and maintaining a lot of scripts. Even with all those scripts, spreadsheets and processes and the resources they consume, teams are still not getting the visibility, control, and error-proofing that they require.
That is the message from five recent surveys conducted by Orcaconfig among IT industry pros. Perhaps these results should not be that surprising. But several years into the DevOps and IT automation movements, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
About one third of respondents said they spent more than half of their time writing and maintaining scripts.
In complex application environments with multiple relationships and dependencies between applications, databases, middleware, and operating systems, “changing this can easily (and unwittingly) change that.” Gartner refers to this as a domino effect. So, scripting to deploy changes becomes more and more tricky and thus, requires more and more time to do, test, redo, and retest.
Because of the risks involved with release or configuration-related scripting errors in production environments, some organizations hand these typical operations responsibilities to developers. The question is worth asking: is release and configuration-released scripting the best use of Dev or Ops’ time?
With all these scripts holding key configurations together, are organizations at risk of “losing the recipe” if key employees leave? Apparently so. In our surveys, thirty percent of respondents admitted “It’s a problem, we don’t really have a solution in place” when asked about maintaining the spaghetti-works of scripts if some of those key employees suddenly leave the organization. Nearly half mentioned that they rely on Transfer of Information (TOI) before a key employee leaves.
Employees exit companies for a number of reasons and some are in a bigger hurry than others to move on. Does TOI provide all the safeguards needed for the enterprise?
Scripting might consume a great deal of IT resources and introduce a considerable risk with the loss of key talent. But does it at least accomplish the functionality that teams need? The next few charts provide insight to how well scripting achieves the visibility and error-proofed automation that teams need.
Configuration Drift Detection
For performance, security and audit reasons, organizations have an ongoing need to maintain configuration compliance in their application ecosystems. So detecting configuration drift is essential. Automatically detecting configuration drift is the goal. Despite complaints about the method, approximately half of respondents relied on scripting to accomplish drift detection.
Mapping Databases to Applications:
Sometimes IT operations are asked simple sounding questions like “what are all the applications that use this database?” – and vice versa “which databases support this application?”. Once again, nearly one third of respondents admitted, “We really don’t know which databases are being used by which applications. Wish we did.” Another 36% relied on scripting or other manual processes to get that answer.
Is it reasonable (in 2017!) to still rely on scripting to get basic information about interrelationships between applications, databases and middleware? Is it acceptable to operators, managers and auditors simply do without this information? Will Visio and similar static files always provide up-to-date information that IT Operations needs?
When moving an application through pre-production stages and into production environments, Release Managers want to ensure that the new release will just work…as planned…drama free. This requires among other things that
1) the configurations are up to date and production-ready and 2) that those business-critical applications are promoted simultaneously with their production-level configurations.
Thirty eight percent of respondents said they relied on scripting and other manual processes to try to accomplish environment-aware releases. To ensure ‘everyone is on the same page’ many organizations use multiple planning meetings, sharing and updating spreadsheets and SharePoint files with (hopefully) the latest configuration information. Even among this group, respondents commented that scripting just does not work well for them.
Despite the security, compliance and performance implications of configuration and release problems, 15% of survey respondents admitted they “really don’t achieve environment-aware releases.”
Scripting isn’t Free. IT Ops needs more.
Scripting is quite naturally the go-to method for many application owners and IT Ops teams. The cost of scripting or even finding and fixing a scripting-based error hardly ever appears clearly in budgetary line items. In the moment, it can feel like it is free. But over time, maintaining scripts and homegrown tools can build a hidden but costly mountain of technical debt. It might well be worth these costs and risks if scripting effectively resolved ongoing operations needs like ecosystem visibility and drama-free deployments. However, time and again our respondents said they lacked basic capabilities like configuration drift detection, mapping applications to databases and middleware or ensuring environment-aware software releases.