The logic of adopting DevOps for digital is fast becoming unassailable. For those areas of the business where transformation is a must, the agility and flexibility embedded in DevOps make it a great match for handling rapidly changing requirements, as well as taking advantage of new cloud native tools and platforms such as containers and Kubernetes.
But unless you happen to be a Silicon Valley behemoth or a VC-funded rising star, you may find it difficult to attract - or afford - the premium talent with the skills, experience and maturity you need. Skills are one of the biggest bottlenecks to DevOps and a key reason for the steady rise in popularity of DevOps as a Service. We spoke with James Dunn, Head of Platform Development at cloud services provider Cloudreach, to find out more about the sort of services available and when it makes sense to delegate.
Skills at a premium
The first reason why companies are reaching out has already been mentioned: skills. Cloud engineering and architect roles have been at a premium for more than five years now and additional demand brought by the pandemic has only tightened the squeeze.
The main problem roles are DevOps engineers, cloud architects, DevOps leads and anyone who has experience building out the cloud - James Dunn, Cloudreach
"The main problem roles are DevOps engineers, cloud architects, DevOps leads and anyone who has experience building out the cloud, because there just isn't enough talent for the demand," said Dunn.
This scarcity is reflected in the salary demands. In the UK, DevOps engineers are paid £72,500 on average, according to CWJobs, rising to £92,500 in parts of London, with cloud architects commanding similar rates of pay, if not higher.
What's more, in most cases cloud architects are skilled in only one major cloud platform, whereas organisations of any size will likely use more than one public cloud provider as a result of developer preferences, mergers and acquisitions, global reach or simply to avoid being over-reliant on one provider, bringing the prospect of having to double up. Companies like Cloudreach can fill the gaps for as long as it takes firms to recruit or train the skills they need.
A second reason that organisations seek assistance is to get over a bump in the road. Often this is right at the start of transformation, because there's a lot to learn in a short space of time, but needs vary according to the type and size of business, said Dunn. Companies already experienced in DevOps and Agile practices most commonly reach out during the scale-up stage, whereas more traditional or larger firms often seek help earlier on.
You need to start by learning to engineer in the right way, using the correct processes and tools and then building the culture
"Many digital-native companies are already really far down the line using all the principles of DevOps, so they may only require consultancy when it comes to expansion.
"Large enterprises are looking at an earlier stage in their digital transformation journey because they aspire to be agile using DevOps methodologies, so want to create an entirely new culture. You need to start by learning to engineer in the right way, using the correct processes and tools and then building the culture."
The length of a DevOps contract will also depend on the organisation and its outsourcing strategy. For example, if a partner is brought in during a specific transformation process, typically the relationship will last until the primary goal has been reached, often a year or two, said Dunn.
"Throughout that time the organisation will need the help of the DevOps engineers to support the process of cloud migration within the business. After that the customer wants to be self-sustainable and may recruit to fill the role themselves."
From back end to UI
DevOps services are generally adopted at the ‘back end' - migrating operations to the cloud as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible - but as those set-ups bed in, Dunn believes the sector will pivot to have more of a customer-facing focus.
"It will definitely become more of a sellable product as IT organisations evolve," he said. "Companies will lean on their third-party DevOps partners as their understanding of the service develops. I expect we at Cloudreach will be asked to do more complex, embedded tasks like integrating DevOps within customer products and services, to help them build and engineer what's on the market."
Another area where he anticipates a heightened focus is security and availability.
"We'll see examples of DevOps aligning with Google's Site Reliability Engineering. This concept has existed for a while, but it's relatively unharnessed because it relies on the customer being quite mature in their digital transformation process."
This article was written in collaboration with Cloudreach.
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