The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the ongoing trend to migrate tools and systems to the cloud, Clearvision CTO Matt Muschol told virtual attendees of Computing's latest Deskflix event - but it may also upset the fragile balance between Dev and Ops.
With the huge rise in remote working, and inability to access on-prem systems, the drive towards virtualisation has picked up the pace - even for firms that, before the pandemic, were adamant that they would remain offline.
Clearvision is a service provider and Atlassian partner, focusing on the UK and USA. Much of its focus is on DevOps, a key target for virtualisation. Muschol said, "DevOps is not a particular team; it's not a set of automations, not a job role [and] not a toolchain. You need all of that...but in reality, DevOps is a culture. It's a culture of development and IT operations collaborating to build a faster and more reliable release pipeline. Without that culture of ownership and collaboration, all the other bits - like tools, automations and dedicated DevOps job roles - mean very little."
Earlier this year, as countries went into lockdown and firms were forced to close their physical locations, many discovered major shortcomings with their DevOps practices. A classic example is co-location: having Dev and Ops sit together has been a major tool for facilitating collaboration, but it was no longer possible with remote working. Another example is firms keeping essential parts of their stack, like CI systems and artefact repositories, behind their firewall.
The Atlassian stack has a number of ways to deploy tools, including SaaS, third-party managed hosting, private cloud and on-prem (often on bare metal). Most customers use a combination of two or more such systems, and this mix has meant that some teams have found themselves with different access rights to systems, now they are not all working from the same location. Muschol said that the walls and silos companies had been working to demolish were growing again as a result, with Dev and Ops teams "throwing problems over the wall" to each other.
To avoid this, managed service provider customers have started to engage with companies like Clearvision "very differently." The firm normally has a very structured route to its work with customers, incorporating a discovery & design phase, design sign-off, budget approvals and so on; but the pandemic made the urgency so overpowering that a radical and more agile approach was required in many cases.
Muschol described a retail customer with both physical stores and an online presence. The customer had a problem with their online solution, as the helpdesk was primarily email-based, which they previously had spoken about replacing with a Jira solution. When the pandemic hit, the normal approach was turned on its head, and the discovery phase was scrapped. "It was decided that anything was better than nothing," said Muschol. "[They said] ‘Let's just get on with it, and we'll deal with problems as we go along.'"
The second change that Clearvision has noticed is that cloud migrations have become more popular than ever, whether that is through Atlassian Cloud or Clearvision's own managed hosted solution. Customers opting for the latter, including finance, healthcare and UK government customers, tend to do so because of concerns around data residency and additional security requirements.
Finally, customers Clearvision had worked with in the past - who had said cloud was completely out of the question at the time - approached the firm again to say, "That thing we said we couldn't do last year? We have to do it, and we have to do it now."
Muschol closed with some key takeaways. For service providers, this is the right time to help customers move their Atlassian stack to the cloud; and for users, you must continue your journey to the cloud - now more than ever - and pick the one that is right for you.
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