Gene Kim: Learn about DevOps directly from the pros

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If you’re interested in learning more about the DevOps movement, one of the best people to speak with is Gene Kim. Kim’s passion for DevOps is contagious, as it should be given that he co-wrote one of the most popular books on the subject, “The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win” and is working on the upcoming “The DevOps Cookbook.”

We recently caught up with Kim to find out why he’s so passionate about DevOps, the barriers that he believes keep organizations from adopting a DevOps model, and why he’s hosting the upcoming DevOps Enterprise Summit on Oct. 21-23 in the San Francisco Bay Area (see promo code for discounted registration at the end of the article). Here’s what he had to say:

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What makes DevOps so attractive to you?

Gene Kim: I believe the DevOps movement is important because it provides an answer to a problem I’ve studied for 15 years, which is “how do we create high performing IT organizations?” Around 2006, I started to see this downward spiral that happened in every IT organization — large and small companies across every industry vertical — and we knew that operations and security working together effectively was part of the answer. But it wasn't the whole answer.

DevOps made it obvious that you need not only Ops and Security working together, but also Dev working together to enable the fast flow of work from development through operations, so customers can get value — it was a like a missing piece of the puzzle. It really showed that it takes the entire IT tribe to be working together to get these incredible outcomes that we didn’t even think possible five years ago.

Something I love about the DevOps community is that you see the concept of “boundary spanning” everywhere you look. Theo Schlossnagle once said “DevOps is a lousy term, because it’s prone to misinterpretation and it’s incomplete.” He asked, “Where is the product owners, where is test, where is network engineering, where are the DBAs?” It takes the entire village to be mobilized to achieve the goal.

TEP: What do you think are the biggest barriers holding back most enterprises from moving to a DevOps model?

Kim: All too often, I hear from senior management, “We’re not Google, Amazon, Twitter, or Spotify. We're a Fortune 50 company that’s been around for a 150 years, so obviously, DevOps is not for us.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost every Fortune 500 company is as reliant upon IT as Facebook and Google. That’s one of the reasons why I’m hosting the upcoming DevOps Enterprise Summit. We're having 50 of the top leaders and practitioners in the field showing how they have implemented DevOps principles and practices in large, complex organizations like GE Capital, Barclays Capital, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Target, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In my opinion, each one of these stories is just as technically complex as what you would see in a Google or Facebook,and they're also an incredible tale of bravery and courage, where people started extremely disruptive and innovative projects, often in a low-trust, command-and-control culture. Doing this often puts them tremendous personal jeopardy, but they do it because they know it's the “right thing to do.”

TEP: Do you think we’ve reached a point today where most enterprise CIOs have a true understanding of what DevOps really is and why it can be beneficial? Do you find that IT leaders understand it and they’re just not implementing it, or do you think there is still sort of this “I’m not sure how this can work for me” mentality out there?

Kim: I think we're in the very early inning. In the Geoffrey Moore adoption curve, the unicorns like Facebook, Etsy, Amazon, are the innovators and early adopters. The organizations that we’re assembling at the DevOps Enterprise Summit are the early majority. My hope is that by showcasing these amazing DevOps stories from some of the most recognized brands from every major industry vertical, we can demonstrate that the DevOps narrative is more than just for unicorns — it is for every organization on the planet as well.

Friends of The Enterprisers Project can use promo code “ENTERPRISER20” for a 20 percent discount on registration to DevOps Enterpriser Summit, which runs Oct. 21-23 in the San Francisco Bay Area. The promo code works through Oct. 10.

Gene is a multiple award winning CTO, researcher and author.  He was founder and CTO of Tripwire for 13 years. He has written three books, including “The Visible Ops Handbook” and “The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win."  Gene is a huge fan of IT operations, and how it can enable developers to maximize throughput of features from “code complete” to “in production,” without causing chaos and disruption to the IT environment.

Ginny Holden is an independent consultant who brings the practice of IT to life through memorable storytelling.