Build a Foundation for DevOps and Automation

    [Published on DZONE at]

    Organizations struggling with project delivery, application availability and security maintenance  typically also have an IT culture that struggles to understanding its own environment architecture. Many of the big dollar investments in CMDB projects, monitoring solutions, Agile processes and DevOps strategies start by building the proverbial walls and roof without ever pouring the foundation.

    I believe organizations need to build reference architectures for the organization, applications and IT automation framework. However, since these reference architectures are rare and seem to spur passionate debates when discussed, I’m simply going to articulate my view of IT for others to comment.  (APM diagram posted below).

    There are three basic categories for Application Portfolio Management (APM):

    1. Business Environment Applications – provide the strategic business value.
    2. IT Supply Chain Tools – the manufacturing, delivery and maintenance tools for IT, “IT for IT.”
    3. IT Technology Platforms – vendor technologies that all applications are built on. 

    Business Environment Applications:

    The Business Environment includes two categories; Business Applications and Shared Services Platforms.

    Business Applications represent the end-user interfaces that deliver the business functions or support business processes and have four primary categories.

    • Products are IT applications or services that are sold for revenue generation such as SaaS offerings. This may or may not be relevant to your organization.
    • Front Office Applications are the primary business applications that deliver value for the business and are targets for SLA measurements. These can typically be categorized by business functions such as Marketing Services and Manufacturing Services. However, they may also have categories representing cross-functional departments such as eCommerce Services and CRM Services.
    • Business Intelligence Applications are categorized by the applications that deliver business analysis and reporting functions.
    • Back Office Applications are the corporate functions required to run the business such as Financial Services, HR services and IT Services. In this category, IT Services include the IT end-user services such as Email, VPN, Printers, Desktops and Phones.

    Shared Service Platforms represent applications that primarily provide services to other applications. These are typically services that support multiple Business Applications across multiple business departments. Therefore, the availability of these applications have broad business impacts.

    • Frontend Platforms are web proxy farms and repositories for serving media and UI (JavaScript).
    • SOA & Web Services Platforms are typical Service Oriented Architecture solutions, API governance, memory grid and cache solutions, Business Process Management (BPM) solutions and Enterprise Message Queues.
    • Backend Application Services represents a wide range of application services and data management solutions. This includes everything from ETL processes, to FTP file transfers, batch processing, data replication processes, directory services (AD), identity management, authorization and entitlement services; and infrastructure services such as DHCP, DNS. 

    IT Supply Chain Tools:

    IT Supply Chain Tools represent applications used in the development, delivery and maintenance of all other applications. In DevOps these are the applications that represent the IT manufacturing process or the IT manufacturing floor. This is the function of software development, testing, deployments, security, infrastructure management, monitoring, diagnostics and all the lifecycle tools for process management.

    • IT Lifecycle Management Tools provide processes for IT project and program management, requirements gathering, bug and defect tracking, change and release management, incident and problem management.
    • IT Operations Tools provide dashboards, analytics, support and monitoring solutions.
    • IT Security Tools provide security scans, diagnostics, forensics and reporting.
    • IT Systems Tools are utilized for environment management such as “Jump Servers.”
    • IT Deployment Tools provide deployment orchestration, code deployments, configuration management, patch management and infrastructure provisioning.
    • IT QA Tools provide test plans, scripts, functional and load testing solutions.
    • IT Development Tools provide source control, builds and continuous integration.

    This group of applications is rarely well defined in IT organizations and the individual application ownership is distributed between Dev and Ops leadership. In many cases, DevOps initiatives can be simplified down to the creation of small teams that have end-to-end ownership of this delivery chain. And once there is end-to-end ownership, the obvious reaction is to simplify and automate processes. Thus, the adoption of DevOps Engineers and the exploding popularity of tools like Jenkins, BambooChef, NolioUrbanCode and the ElectricCloud suite.

    IT Technology Platforms:

    IT Technology Platforms include two categories; Application Platforms and Infrastructure Platforms.

    Application Platforms represent technologies for software languages and runtime containers.  Many of these platforms are offered from cloud hosting providers.

    • Development Frameworks are the .Net, Java and other software development frameworks, mobile platforms and Integrated Development Environments (IDE).
    • Portal and WCMS Platforms are the portal framework applications such as Oracle WebCenter, SharePoint, and Adobe CQ.
    • Web Servers are the typical HTTP and web routing servers such as Apache, IIS, HAProxy and Nginx.
    • Application Servers provide the runtime environment for application development frameworks such as Tomcat, Jboss, Glassfish and WebLogic.
    • Database Servers provide the data and access protocols for structured and non-structured data such as Oracle DB, SQL Server, MongoDB and CouchDB.

    Infrastructure Platforms represent the core processing technologies for application platforms. I typically describe this as the primary offering from cloud hosting providers.

    • Compute Services are operating systems, virtualization technologies and storage solutions.
    • Network Services are firewalls, routers, switches, proxies, load balancers and wireless infrastructure.
    • Communication Services represents the phone and PBX infrastructure.
    • Facilities are Data Centers, Server Rooms and Network Closets that host the hardware systems. 

    APM Framework Diagram:

    Click the image below for full page view…


    So what value does this have? It provides a standard vocabulary and framework for dev, ops and non-technical resources to communicate.  That common framework can then be institutionalized in the IT tools data structure to align end-to-end logistics as the foundation for DevOps and IT operational management.

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    The Driver for Cloud is Not Cost Savings!

    circumvent dysfunctionThe SaaS and public cloud provider model is an inevitable direction for IT infrastructure, but I also believe the market drivers moving organizations to the cloud are incorrectly portrayed; or at least slightly skewed.  Cost savings and ease of implementation are very real for start-up and small IT organizations, but I’m suggesting that very few large organizations are realizing a level of cost savings to justify the move.

    I say this because a real driver to the cloud is an opportunity for development teams to circumvent dysfunctional infrastructure organizations. There is a belief [and a reality] that infrastructure teams are a bottleneck to enabling business strategy.  They slow down the speed to market and they disrupt the agile development delivery cycle.  If circumventing infrastructure teams is an actual market driver for using cloud services, then the IT organization as a whole is not focused on maximizing the cloud strategy and will not capitalize on potential cost savings. How could they when the strategic driver is to circumvent infrastructure, a huge piece of the organization?

    Historically the IT departments (Dev and Inf/Ops) had to work together out of necessity. However, the public cloud has created a new option for dev departments. It’s an option that allows them to swipe a credit card and “get” their own server without help from any other team. The larger an IT organization is, the easier it is for one obscure team to do their own thing in the cloud.  However, this approach is short sighted and ignores the amazingly difficult life cycle management of infrastructure services; regardless of them being in a private data center or a public cloud.