Ops have been attuned to the rhythms of IT, but Dev are breaking in with their own, much faster beat. Instead of trying to ignore or outdo each other, Dev and Ops should join together to make great music.
It’s Friday, so I found myself staring idly into space instead of at the screen of my MacBook, when this phrase popped unbidden into my mind: “the rhythm of IT”.
Now if you’ve seen sysadmins dancing, you know that rhythm is often severely lacking in the NOC – but bear with me here.
There is in fact a definite rhythm to enterprise IT operations, and pros quickly become attuned to it: Patch Tuesday every month, application releases every quarter (or two, or six), processor updates every year, OS updates every two years, hardware refresh every three years, and so on. You can set your calendar by these events and plan for them well ahead of time – or at least, you used to be able to.
These days, a new rhythm is disturbing the leisurely beat of Ops. I’m visualising the famous Aerosmith / Run-DMC video for “Walk This Way”here. Ops are working away in the NOC, but the thump of the Dev beat from the other side of the wall is throwing them off. Worse, Dev is playing faster and faster, adopting new tunes like Agile and CI/CD, and demanding that Ops join in and keep up.
There’s no option to stop now; there’s a big audience watching this show, and they’ll get testy and perhaps even start throwing things if Ops drop the beat. This means that Ops are having to pick it up as they go along, trying to learn new instruments or play existing instruments in new ways. On the plus side, this looks like it might be a way to get some of the attention that has been showered on the Dev half of the band, so it’s not all bad.
Here’s the thing: IT Ops are not going to be able to make new music in the same old way. You might be able to freestyle on a grand piano, but big difference with the new rhythm of IT is that it doesn’t give you the sort of extensive rehearsal time that Ops are used to. It’s more about Dev and Ops jamming together, building on each other’s riffs in real time.
This new way of making music doesn’t work if it’s just a never-ending solo from Dev, either. Developers might get a lot of the limelight, but they need a solid Ops backing track to shine. Both audiences and fellow musicians hate it when someone self-indulgently hogs the limelight, and the bands that are successful long-term are the ones with an interplay of different characters, each with their own strengths.
That is not to say that Ops should attempt to become Dev either! Back to Aerosmith and Run-DMC: one of the many things that are right about that video is that Steven Tyler doesn’t try to rap alongside Run-DMC, but focuses on his own rock-star act, whipping that microphone stand around as he goes. While I don’t advise doing that in the middle of investigating why the app is not responding, it’s certainly true that what organizations need is for Ops types to focus on being better at Ops, so they can work better with Dev.
That’s how Dev and Ops can make beautiful music together.