Last weekend, I was invited to Global Azure Bootcamp in Linköping where among the other activities also participated in the panel discussion about the future of Developers and IT-Pros collaboration and ways to make it more efficient. It was a brilliant and sharp discussion the main points of which (or rather my view on them:) I would like to share in this post.
To start with – who are these mysterious creatures? I like the term “IT-Pro” since it covers more than more common dev counterparts – Operations or Ops. It is important to understand that Ops are related to the infrastructure people, while from my perspective, IT Pros include everyone who is NOT a developer. Such brave folks like Security, DBA, Cloud Architects, Consultants, UX designers (why not?!) and many more. Why define a special group for them? It helps to define the boundaries of the conflict – Devs vs !Devs without actually negating developers, since there are more similarities between these two groups than it seems at first.
The key misconception
“Devs create. IT-Pros don’t create”. This is true… in the wrongly built organizations – and there are way too many of them, in the reality. The problem comes from the fact that IT-Pros are usually understaffed. From a dumb manager’s perspective, IT-Pros need the headcount just enough to put down fires. This is a grave mistake – only after the fires are down, the REAL work starts. The upgrades and improvements to everything which was under fire and replacing it with something that won’t catch fire at all the next time. So, IT-Pros are creative, and they do create – when the company is smart enough to let them do so.
The world we live in
The world of modern computing adopted (and spoiled) the famous *aaS – as-a-Service abbreviation. We quickly move to the state of technology where everything could be offered as a service. DBs, compute resources, APIs, security tools, you name it. Which make Devs happy and threatens IT-Pros whos yesterdays tasks were just replaced by a new Azure/AWS/Google Cloud service. So how Devs and IT Pros respond to these changes?
The DevOps movement and its rapid adoption caused the famous shift to the left which basically empowered Developers with the tools which previously were managed by Operations. Simultaneously, Cloud has awakened and brought all power of quick deployments, testing in production and advanced telemetry to the developers. Devs became almighty and now can (almost) do their thing – write the code and never be bothered.
What happened to IT-Pros?
The shift hasn’t avoided the IT-Pro zone – I observe a similar change. Pros start writing their automation and deployment scripts, learning more efficient ways of doing yesterdays tasks by borrowing best methods of development and adopting them for IT-Pro work. They read the code and write own code. UX designers create mindblowing frameworks of design atoms and molecules, put them into source control and use Continuous Integration. There is no more distinction between Devs and IT-Pros based on writing the actual code.
Does it mean, there will be no IT-Pros eventually? Will Devs replace them?
No, not at all. If we look at the root of what Devs do and love doing for a living – it is not about spawning VMs to Azure. They consider it as a necessary evil or something that enables them. What they do is to create. It is like a painter who loves drawing but also has to go to IKEA, buy and assemble her easel. The core knowledge of Devs is the development itself – building complex distributed systems, efficient workflows, secure APIs – for the needs of modern world.
On the other hand, we have IT-Pros who in fact love deploying machines in Azure, and also know thousands of ways of doing it for hundreds of use cases. And now they also start to code and automate. What we get is a powerful combo that can build the virtual world for the products that Devs are writing.
It is obvious, they can’t survive without each other. The world will require more and more complex products – more secure, more resilient, more flexible. And while someone has to build it, others have to create architectures where these products can work at their best. It is not about deploying just a bunch of VMs to Azure and installing SQL server on them. It is about building an identity-controlled cloud with fully automated threat detection, where the product runs in a couple of dozen containers with replication to a bunch of regions, backup and data retention strategy.
And with ever-changing fluffy cloud landscape (it’s cloud, after all), new features become available weekly and sometimes completely change the game in one night. IT-Pros need to be aware of them before they become GA and have the adoption plan.
Cloud offers so many possibilities, all the cutting-edge tech is there up for grabs. But does your product architecture supports it. It should. But it doesn’t. The very common answer which causes months of refactoring, releasing. And – BAM – a newer and cooler tech is out there, and we’re back to the square one. Who could help them devs? IT-Pros! If a dev team integrates a Cloud Architect into their architecture meeting, they will be able to plan the future functionality of the product, target a specific cloud, align with its roadmap and get the best description of limited preview features that will be GA at the time of the product release.
To adapt, IT-Pros need to become more efficient. Previously, Developers solved this issue for themselves by taking part of the Ops work and learning basics of what they did. It is time for IT-Pros to do the same to Devs. With the automation and coding skills, IT-Pros will be able to level up the complexity of cloud deployments and at the same time cut the time required for them.
To adapt, Devs need to integrate with IT-Pros when it comes to Cloud, Security, Design and make this integration continuous that starts from the design stages, goes through development testing and … actually lasts forever.
To adapt, organization management needs to staff IT-Pro teams properly and focus them on creating value instead of putting the fires down.