What to Expect from DevOps This Year: The Experts Weigh In

Written by: Anders Wallgren

5 min read

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Like the rest of the world, last year was a wild ride for those of us in DevOps. Will the craziness continue this year? I invited these industry analysts to join us and weigh in at this special edition of the Software Delivery Leadership Delivery Forum. 

2020: A Year of Transformation

COVID-19 dominated the headlines in every part of the tech world last year, including DevOps. Virtual DevOps organizations seemed to spring up overnight and, in the process, they taught teams a valuable lesson. “You don’t necessarily have to be on-site to do DevOps anymore,” says KellyAnn Fitzpatrick, an analyst with RedMonk. “It really changed the relationships among the people who take part in DevOps,” including the switch to juggling at-home spouses and kids. 

The pandemic saw DevOps teams pivoting at breakneck speed. “We had to make quick decisions about collaboration and meeting software, contactless and home deliveries – everything needed to support the workforce,” says Mitch Ashley, CEO and managing analyst at Accelerated Strategies Group (ASG). The new work-anywhere strategy isn’t going away, he says. “We’re now living in a hybrid world.” 

Despite the turbulence, it wasn’t all bad news. Analysts say the pandemic accelerated digital transformation projects across industries and spurred the broader adoption of DevOps and agile methods. “It illustrated the need to go faster and respond quickly to changes,” says Jay Lyman, senior research analyst at 451 Research. “The relationship between DevOps and digital transformation got closer than ever.” 

2021: The Beat Goes On

What’s on tap for DevOps in 2021? Our analysts take a look at some key trends. 

Jon Collins, VP of research at GigaOm, predicts the low code movement will continue to gather momentum this year. “It really plays well to the DevOps world,” he says. “I expect to see more people using low code, and also a greater realization that low code is just code. It’s more of a way of thinking rather than just throwing things away.”

Garrett G., a senior business technology leader from a large financial services firm, shared his experience with fellow attendees."I found many engineers adverse to the notion of low-code, whereas business leaders are very excited.” He adds "I have also observed that low-code is still figuring out how to "play well" with the DevOps practices and methods."

Analysts also expect DevSecOps to gain more traction, which will allow organizations to create policy-based “guardrails” for applications upfront. ASG’s Ashley sees a huge opportunity around protecting DevOps toolchains to help thwart the new breed of financially driven hackers. The greater focus on bolstering security comes in the wake of last year’s attacks on software supply chains.

This is something I agree with and I’d go a step further to say more organizations will start treating security as an integral part of quality management. You’ve got to design it in. It’s everybody’s job to care about quality. It’s the same for security.

Chris Condo, principal analyst at Forrester, expects the concept of value stream management to “blossom” this year. “Companies are really putting some muscle behind it and more users are seeing the value in using these applications,” he says. “Everybody wants to understand what’s going on in their software delivery process to help drive improvement and agility.”

David M, a tech evangelist at a large software company who was in attendance, agrees. “I predict pipeline analytics and monitoring (SDLC tools) gain in importance [in 2021],” he said.

451 Research’s Lyman sees DevOps becoming more business-driven in 2021, with an emphasis on customer satisfaction and user experience. “End users have a lot more impact now,” he says. “DevOps is being viewed increasingly in terms of return on investment rather than the total cost of ownership.” 

This year, analysts see DevOps organizations raising the bar on automation. “We really need to see an acceleration in unified automation strategies, which will come to the forefront in 2021, says Jen Thomson, senior research director at IDC. “We need to start to shrink the release and developer effort that’s involved.” This effort will parallel DevOps’ drive for better scalability. It’s crucial that teams “gain alignment on commonality of architecture and business roadmaps,” Thomson says. “This will allow us to have repeatable approaches to things like risk and security.” 

New Year’s Resolutions

This year, many of our analysts are vowing to get into shape, DevOps-wise. We’ve spotlighted a few of their New Year’s resolutions:

  • GigaOm’s Collins resolves to help more people do DevOps at scale. “Everyone has to work at developing their competencies,” he says. 

  • Rather than try to change cultures, IDC’s Thomson will try to focus more on reskilling and empowering teams. She wants to understand “how you can shift from authorized development to empowered innovation.”

  • “My personal resolution,” says Lyman from 451 Research, “is to use the word DevOps less often!” Is it about automation? Organizational agility? Is it about infrastructure as code? If we can be more specific and granular, that will be a big step forward.”

  • Forrester’s Condo wants to dive deeper into value stream management. “I really want to dig under the covers and understand what clients are saying about it.” 

  • This year ASG’s Ashley wants to encourage software teams to “strive to connect the dots” between the work they’re doing and how it's delivering business results. If software groups can’t make that connection, he says, “then the business won’t value us, it’ll be a cost.” 

For my part, I have set a simple goal for myself for the year ahead: Write more code. Nothing re-energizes my love for DevOps, more!

Watch a recording of the roundtable discussion here. The Software Delivery Leadership Forum (SDLF), sponsored by CloudBees, is a series of online, open and interactive events focused on topics related to DevOps and Continuous Delivery. Visit SDLF’s webpage to sign up for upcoming events.

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