Rob Stroud - The Past, Present and Future of DevOps

In this episode of DevOps Radio, we're at Jenkins World 2017 with Rob Stroud, principal analyst at Forrester Research. He'll discuss how he became an analyst, DevOps as a trend in open source and enterprise environments, and how microservices and containers are interacting with the DevOps world.

Andre Pino: In this episode of DevOps Radio, we're joined by Rob Stroud, principal analyst at Forrester Research. Welcome, Rob.

Rob Stroud: It's great to be here.

Andre: Rob, how long have you been with Forrester?

Rob: Just coming up to two years now.

Andre: How did you get to that point? How did you get to become an analyst at Forrester?

Rob: It's kind of interesting. Formally to Forrester, I was with CA Technologies, working on strategy for part of the distributive business. One of the functions in my role there, I was effectively an analyst inside the company. So when the right opportunity came, I decided to jump ship and run into the analyst community, which is a natural progression for my career. I basically started in operations many moons ago. I did stuff like set up automation of a datacenter. It's funny how things come around again. We took a datacenter that was run 24/7/365 in the banking industry, and we rationalized that datacenter so it ran lights out over a period of time. So everything was autonomous, and you had to have some people on staff just to make sure it worked, and if you had a fire you could actually deal with it, which is kind of a good parallel to where we're going today, isn't it. Fundamentally from there, I went into security for a long period of time and had lot of fun with the DevSecOps movements. Right now I'm having lots of fun reliving my security background, which got me to North America and ultimately running a startup, a CEO of a startup, which was sold, ironically, to CA Technologies, and that led me there for a period of time. The whole time I was there, I was probably longing for something different, which I guess is the analyst community.

Andre: Nice. It sounds like you've got a strong technical background that probably serves you well in that role.

Rob: Yeah. It's really an interesting space. Being in DevOps, you actually have to have technical background. It's not all about process and procedure. If somebody looks at my bio, they'll see that I was all over a framework called ITIL for some time, and the also DevOps as well. What people don't realize is I spent my whole life contributing to not-for-profits and volunteers, and setting up frameworks and writing frameworks in the industry. I find that a real passionate thing to do. So DevOps is a natural entre for me, as we now look at what the next thing is and we kind of eradicate the past of structures and control and we move it to, sure, structure and control, but automation and we focus on business problems of velocity and quality. It's kind of a natural progression for me and it's lots of fun. Great operational background, but I also spent some time coding as well. I'm not writing too much code these days though.

Andre: What exactly do you cover at Forrester?

Rob: I'm, from the operations perspective, running the DevOps research agenda, which means I cover all things DevOps, everything from CI pushes and ideation even, right through to deployment to production. So we have a bunch of people. It's not just me. There is a whole series of analysts doing DevOps and DevOps-related activities. In that role, fundamentally I'm looking at the business transformation, how we're transforming the way we do things, impact of tools and technologies of course. Then also, for my little side issue, we also have a little side agenda. I'm covering the business transformation of mainframes right now, a little-known topic right now, but you'll see some research on that before the end of the year.

Andre: They still exist?

Rob: Still exist. In fact, last year the total number of MIPS, which is million instructions per second, which we measure mainframes in, actually increased worldwide.

Andre: Interesting.

Rob: One of the most sought after topics, which I got caught in the corridor here at Jenkins World on, was a large financial services organization that was commenting on how they're bringing DevOps to the mainframe, and making the mainframe an equal partner with their distributed chain.

Andre: That's awesome. So these mainframe systems, are they primarily transactional systems?

Rob: Great question. Mainframe worldwide, right now the whole world runs on mainframe. Let's be realistic. I mean our friends at Amazon and Microsoft would like to say it runs on their clouds, but the vast majority of backend high transaction volume systems are run on mainframes worldwide, and that's still true. One of the data points I love throwing around is by 2020 we'll see $236 billion spent annually on cloud, and that only represents about 25 percent of the total IT spend every year. So the rest is running somewhere, and a high percentage of that is running on the mainframe. Now let's be clear. We're seeing organizations transition systems of engagement and systems of differentiation from mainframe to cloud and mainframe to distribute. That's happening. But the high volume part of the business is still on mainframe right now and probably will be for a little while yet.

Andre: Interesting. As you mentioned, we're talking today at Jenkins World. What are your thoughts on the conference?

Rob: Jenkins Worlds, I love it. It's a global DevOps event. One of the things I've been joking around with people is why isn't it the global DevOps event? It's a great collection of people from the industry, across all walks of life, Jenkins bringing everyone together. The discussions have been fundamentally and primarily about how we use open source, how we transition our businesses, how we drive business value forward. We've seen not just vendors, lots of vendors here with the booths; the exhibition area has been unbelievable in terms of the way it's been packed. But we've seen great sessions and great content. The really interesting aspect that I love here is the way that people are sharing information. Everybody is sharing and contributing. Everybody works together. It's kind of amazing. I love it.

Andre: Great.

Andre: We're talking today at Jenkins World. What are your thoughts on the event?

Rob: I'm very happy to be at Jenkins World. One of the things I love about it is its theme is not about a tool or a technology. It's about a global DevOps event, and that's exactly what's been happening here. There's been discussions and sessions and lots of interactions on DevOps, what it is, how to do it, how to get tips and techniques. Yesterday in a leadership panel, for instance, we had great sharing from the panel, where one of the panel members actually gave code instructions to the audience. It was just awesome. I really love that sharing in the community and it really is a community event. Everybody is together sharing. We've had great sessions of just overarching interaction, but then if you want to get into deep technical detail, there are sessions for that as well. One of the things about the event is its surrounding a piece of open source software, freely available, contributed by the community, curated in a well-governed fashion. I think that we've seen everybody here – all agendas are out the door. Once you get in, everybody is sharing. It's great interaction. I think next year you've got to call it "the" global DevOps event.

Andre: The global DevOps event.

Rob: Yeah. We might make some people a bit upset with that, but when I do their event I'll come up with a new name for theirs.

Andre: There you go. So speaking of open source, what are you seeing from a trend perspective in terms of the use of open source in DevOps, but also in enterprises?

Rob: There's been a fundamental shift in open source over the last five years, maybe a little bit longer than that, where we've gone from where open source is bad "Boo, don't use it" – remember, we had the open source police coming around and chopping off your fingers for trying to use it – to a total adoption of it. I'm aware of enterprises now and one of them in the financial services, that really just leverage their whole business on open source now.

Andre: Really embracing it.

Rob: They're really embracing it. We're embracing it as a community. It's no longer taboo to contribute back, and that's one of the things I love. Whether it's a software vendor, an end user, an enterprise or just somebody tinkering around the edges, open source is a true vehicle to actually accelerate the code and share ideas with the community, because at the end of the day we're all adding some differentiation to develop products and services. But open source is really giving us an accelerator to do things faster. Then it's up to your ingenuity around the edges, around the fringes, and you can add that and differentiate in that way. So I'm really excited because there's hardly an enterprise that I talk to on my inquiry calls that has not adopted open source or not supporting open source. Now there are some challenges around it. We're all aware of that, vulnerabilities, bad code, exposures, but we've all adopted and changed our practices using DevOps, so that we pick those up when they happen from time to time and remediate them. As a friend of mine once said, all sufficiently complex code has bugs.

Andre: That's one of the key success drivers for Jenkins is its open plug-in architecture. It's the way that the community can create unique features to the product as well as integrate it with other tools in the chain. I think that's been one of its reasons for success.

Rob: Yeah. And from an analyst perspective, Jenkins itself we see as widely adopted, extremely widely adopted to be sure. You can't go _____. It's an open source product, a tool. We're seeing it become a de facto standard, if you will. I think that's a result of the fact that it's open. You can integrate it easily. The community can collaborate. Before I came into the podcast, I was just sitting and watching some people sitting together and actually coding.

Andre: Cranking out code, huh?

Rob: Cranking out code. I'm not sure if they were bored this morning in the keynote, but I saw some people cranking out code there as well.

Andre: They were probably doing releases online while you were –

Andre: Yeah. I think that's one of the things that's really driven Jenkins World. We had a 40 percent increase this year and I think that's one of the things that's really driving it, is the growth in the use of Jenkins for DevOps, and the whole DevOps movement has grown.

Rob: The DevOps movement is absolutely growing. One of the statistics we recently released is that 90 percent of enterprises we surveyed have either implemented DevOps, are implementing it or planning to implement in the next 12 months. DevOps is no longer the new thing. It's actually business as usual. Organizations, enterprises, software vendors, we all have to adopt DevOps and be aware that we need to release not just with velocity and veracity, but also with quality. I think that's the difference between this year and last year. Last year we were really focused on speed – not so much maybe here, but in the enterprise. This year it's quality, and quality without sacrificing speed. I think when you talk through the sessions, and I've been to a couple of really good ones, they're talking about how do you automate the pipeline, your DevOps pipeline. And do you insert those quality steps, so that you can actually deliver quality at the backend? Because most major enterprises are moving to a situation where they want to release daily, if not hourly, and without quality and the value quality, how do you that?

Andre: Forrester is well known for its research and surveys that it does. What is some of the latest DevOps research that you've been doing?

Rob: We released a lot of reports around DevOps. One of the things that we released a little bit earlier this year is our annual Heat Map. There we measure culture, automation and process. One of the things I can really reinforce is we've seen a change in DevOps from unregulated industries to regulated. Now government aside, they're still a little bit slow, even though _____ would like to tell us that all these working governments, getting them to DevOps, and it is actually; it's making a difference. But the reality of it is that we have seen banking, insurance and finance join telecommunication and utility companies as highly transforming to DevOps. I knew it anecdotally from inquiries, but to get the evidence and the data to prove it, over 1,000 increase, it's really interesting.

Andre: That's really interesting. Do you think that's because they saw the risk coming to the business?

Rob: I'm pleased you mentioned that. These industries, highly regulated industries and verticals, they are really suffering from the technical entrance. So in finance and banking we talk about fin-techs. Most of the large financial organizations around the world have been forced to actually take a position on fin-techs, either fund them, look at them closely. Are they ready to acquire them as they become successful or even start their own? We've started to see that attitude happen where technology is driving financial services. Insurance tech is the same, where we're seeing that rapid transition of insurance companies to become highly technical and highly user-centered. So if you want to do an insurance quote and you're a millennial, I've got a great example of that. My son recently applied for a mortgage. He went through the mortgage companies and the banks, and any one he couldn't do the application on his smartphone he dumped immediately. One of the ones he showed me was really interesting. He only had to enter a couple of data fields, and it actually went off and did the whole financial application for him on its own. Then all he had to do was then do an electronic signature after it was approved.

Andre: Interesting.

Rob: So this is the type of differentiation we've seen. ATMs are another one. When you go to ATM now, maybe not so much in North America, but outside of North America you can do about any banking transaction you can imagine on an ATM now. I'm not sure I'd want to stand in the middle of San Francisco and be doing a transaction on the street, but maybe in one of those ATM lobbies. So the way we use and leverage services is rapidly transforming. You've got to be adding features. You've got to be trying new things. You've got to be ideating. You've got to be effectively experimenting. And DevOps really supports that.

Andre: What are some of the trends you're seeing in the research with respect to enterprise DevOps adoption?

Rob: I'm really happy with enterprise DevOps adoption. We clearly see that across all verticals now. We see it being leveraged and used, typically in the past, starting from development. That reinforces the Agile movement, which started over 15 years ago now. What's happened is they've had a little bit longer. They got used to it. One of the biggest impediments to success of these new approaches to delivering business through technology has been that roadblock, that fence, that stop sign that happened in operations. In the last year, we've actually seen a total difference in operations. This year, I'm very pleased to say our research shows that operations have adopted and embraced DevOps. They are looking at how to leverage it, how to integrate in the pipeline. Now maybe they're not doing it in the same way that the devs would like it, but we are absolutely seeing this transformation happen right now. People are actually focusing on an end-to-end pipeline. I think that's the biggest differentiator, because we suffer from silos of automation. Our research clearly shows that ops have been very, very good at automating absolutely everything, and absolutely automating everything in silos. So one of the things we're seeing, and Jenkins itself is playing a role here, is this automation of pipelines across the whole stack. I think we've reaching that tipping point, where organizations are looking at how to automate the silos, how to bring in the compliance checks, the security checks, those types of things, how to bring them in. We're not quite at perfect pipeline automation yet, but I think we'll get there in the next 12 to 18 months.

Andre: That's great. One of the interesting aspects of your job as an analyst are the inquiries you get from your clients. How have you seen those shift over the last few years with respect to DevOps?

Rob: As I mentioned already, the change in industry to ops, that's been a big one lately. A real huge increase has come – and I'll go back to it again – that probably shocked everybody is the increase in mainframe increase. It's a really huge increase at the moment. We are seeing organizations say, "Why can't the mainframe be an equal citizen in this process to delivering business value, because we have significant business value trapped within our mainframes? We need to bring it out." So we are seeing organizations now apply practices that resemble DevOps or are DevOps on mainframes. You can actually make a mainframe deliver weekly if you want. Believe it or not, I actually have an enterprise I know that's doing that now. Now I'm not sure that correlates to every organization, but if you move from six monthly major releases on a mainframe to monthly, that is a significant advantage. It's a 600 percent improvement in throughput. I'll take that every day. We're starting to see that happen, and then what will happen is the systems of engagement will happen around the outside in terms of the distributed systems. We're certainly seeing that happen. The other interesting inquiry topic at the moment, and I love this, is the inquiry calls are changing from practitioners of both dev and ops to enterprise architects and also CIOs. We did a great document earlier this year on, "Everything a CIO Should Know about DevOps." We named it something else, but that's what it was. That document is really well read. It's amazing. But the enterprise architects are calling me, saying, "Okay. Management says we have to do DevOps. I have no choice, but we now have 400 tools. I need to rationalize the toolsets." That tells me we're moving to maturity, because if I'm having the enterprise architect involved to rationalize toolsets, that's a really good sign for the industry. The other thing we're seeing, which is going to be interesting for all the vendors who listen to this podcast, is we're seeing huge interest in developing business cases for DevOps to invest in tooling and supported tooling. So we still might want to use open source. In fact we do, but we're looking for more approaches to support an open source as well as more value-add there, because we actually can't do testing with 20 tools. We can't do pipeline with six tools. We can't do deployment with eight tools. We're looking for a collection of tools. Maybe we support a couple, but certainly a selection of tools. Then the final thing we're seeing is a change from traditional silos. Like I had my service management team and my dev team, my ops team, my security team to products teams. We're absolutely seeing a transition from a functional siloed mentality to a community to practice plus product teams.

Andre: Interesting. One of the interesting things about what's happening in the world of DevOps today is actually happening outside of development. It is the world of micro-services and containers. How do you see that intersecting with the world of DevOps?

Rob: That's a great question. There is no doubt that containers have increased in velocity in the last nine months of this year. I have seen significant inquiry pickup. We've seen continued use. I would have said a year ago containers were pretty much used for development. That was it. We'd do our development environment, development pipeline, and we'd deliver on that. This year, we've actually seen containers go to production. We have seen them go off. Now also this year, we have seen a continuation of the use of micro-services for net new apps, really not refactoring traditional apps, but new apps. Micro-services and containers move with such velocity, you cannot manually or humanly manage them. Therefore, you absolutely need a practice like DevOps around it, so that you can actually understand where the containers are, how the micro-services glue together, how you actually couple them into applications, and then how you deploy them. And how do you scale them up and down? By the way, one of the value props of containers is I can run it on-premise or I can run it in the cloud or I can run it just about anywhere that supports containers. So I get transportability, so I can make choices of deployment options based on lowest cost provider. We're absolutely seeing increase in acceleration. I'm expecting for 2018 significant uptick in interest in containers. We're expecting significant deployment. We're expecting more adoption of – we talk about the Big Four in terms of open source products at the moment, which includes Docker and Kubernetes right now. We're expecting significant adoption of those, significant use of those, and significant integration with them next year. We're seeing it already, but it's even going to further accelerate as we move along. So we're actually adjusting the DevOps research agenda right now, for the remainder of this year, to really focus on micro-services, containers, and things like very peripheral components that surround the container micro-service environment to help accelerate and drive that sort of velocity.

Andre: Great. As we bring this podcast to a conclusion, is there anything else you'd like to talk about?

Rob: I can talk all day, as you know, but one of the things I love is the – I go back to my early days in IT, which was a long time ago. But the reality of it is that we had a very open and sharing culture. I got in this industry through people who would share their knowledge. I'm really pleased to say we're at that point again. We're at a point where we all get together. I think the open source movement is fostering this, where we actually share ideas. We're very open in what we do. We're not so much fighting about this little intellectual property area anymore. We share and we collaborate and we work together. We go for the common good. So I love this. It's one of the things I really enjoy in this industry.

Andre: That's an interesting point you bring up, because just a little while ago we had a financial services panel discussion here at Jenkins World. The room was packed.

Rob: Absolutely.

Andre: They were packed with folks from all the financial services companies, insurance companies, banking companies, et cetera. Like you said, you would think in a very competitive environment like that people wouldn't want to share. But you know what? They do share and they're really helping each other.

Rob: Yeah. Look, we work together and we rise. We all rise together. At the end of the day, sure, we're competitive, but the reality is it's about the differentiation we had on the top. There are some basic fundamental things we do that we can all share together. We've all got to do them. For example, a lot of my background is in security. One of the things I was very pleased to be involved in, back in the early days of viruses and malware, is the industry worked together to set up a collective sharing of malware threats. That same sharing exists today, still. We counted the industry threat. We worked together and we continue to work together. Now we see that in the industry today, right, your example of financial services. I was with an insurance company industry consortium recently, huge competitors on the TV screen or Netflix, and they're working together for the collective good of the industry. I love it. At the end of the day, it's how creative we are that allows us to create the competitive differentiation. I'd love that fight any day. That's a great battle to have.

Andre: Thanks, Rob. Thanks for joining us today. We look forward to having you at Jenkins World 2018.

Rob: Hey, it's already on the calendar.

Andre: All right. Thank you.

Rob: Thank you.

Andre Pino

Your host: Andre Pino, CloudBees (also sometimes seen incognito, as everyone’s favorite butler at Jenkins World!). André brings more than 20 years of experience in high technology marketing and communications to his role as vice president of marketing. He has experience in several enterprise software markets including application development tools, middleware, manufacturing and supply chain, enterprise search and software quality and testing tools.