DevOps > Cloud, SaaS, SDDC, And Apple Pie

by Evan Powell

Over the weekend I was chatting with a really successful venture investor who recently published a top trends list.

That made me think about DevOps vs. Cloud and vs. SaaS and vs. Mobile and other disruptors.  I’m convinced more than ever than DevOps is the right focus for professional investors and for all of us investing our time in developing, adopting and operating IT. Examining and understanding DevOps is more useful than understanding cloud, SaaS, SDDC (software defined data centers) and more – and here’s a few reasons why.

1.  DevOps is a common denominator

Keep peeling back the layers at the top operators and, underneath, you find the organizational structure and the set of tools that is DevOps. Some of these operators use containers, but some use bare metal, and some use virtualization – so there is quite a bit of variance there. Yes, there are other common patterns like developing applications that are stateless themselves and able to aggregate underlying resources – however DevOps in organization and in technology is a common denominator in a way that, for example, virtualization alone or technologies X, Y or Z are not.  

2.  DevOps is more open (and hence generalizable) and more powerful than SDDC

This might be a little ironic coming from me as I did a bit to help popularize the concept of software defined storage and of software defined data centers while helping lead Nexenta. And we tried hard there to be specific in what we meant.

However, the discourse about SDDC was and is really controlled by EMC and by VMware. And, as such, SDDC as commonly understood is well aligned with VMware’s vision. In that vision, VMware software becomes the orchestration or control system for the data center. Their APIs, such as VASA for storage, pass along information about what applications need to have provisioned and so forth and the rest of the data center infrastructure dances to that tune.

The SDDC is a powerful vision. However – because it is VMware centric it is by definition one and only one way that an application centric view of the data center could be built. For example the VMware vision of SDDC assumes that virtualization, as opposed to containers or aggregation via Mesos for example, are the fundamental building blocks in compute. And building a SDDC in that way does not mean that users will necessarily achieve the productivity boost of 10-100x that are being achieved by adopters of DevOps.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, the current VMware product line up does not fit nicely into a DevOps workflow. So to the extent that SDDC really is a VMware led narrative, it is not quite compatible with DevOps.

I could make a similar case about DevOps being at the core of – and more important in some ways – than SaaS. SaaS that only scales up and that uses expensive legacy technology is not long for this world thanks to competition from DevOps centric SaaS shops. Because of this, again, as an investor, pulling on the DevOps thread is more valuable than pattern matching for SaaS.

3.  DevOps is more about people

Most importantly, DevOps is people plus technology – done right, to move fast, to build and operate code. By including how people work in its very core, DevOps as an approach is more likely to actually deliver its promise. No technology is of any value if people don’t actually use it. And DevOps as a movement, as an idea, as an approach, again, to building and operating code has the importance of people built right into even its name.

Who knows, maybe in 2015 the discourse will shift away from DevOps. But I don’t think so. I think DevOps is a more important and more valuable concept than SaaS, or SDDC, or “cloud” for that matter. And I think that value will continue to be demonstrated for years to come.