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DevOps Revolution? By @TheEbizWizard | @DevOpsSummit [#DevOps]

Just how many technology-fueled revolutions do we need, anyway?

Digital Revolution or DevOps Revolution? How about Agile Architecture?

I’ve been writing about Agile Architecture for years – and in fact, I believe it is such a fundamental change in the way businesses deliver value that I named by 2013 book The Agile Architecture Revolution.

And yet, revolution is one of those words that has long since reached buzzword status. There seem to be revolutions all around us, after all. The Digital Revolution. The DevOps Revolution. Perhaps you can think of more: the Big Data Revolution, perhaps? Or cognitive computing, or software-defined everything, or any one of a number of other transformative technologies. Just how many technology-fueled revolutions do we need, anyway?

What “Revolution” Really Means

As I point out in my book, however, revolution has a specific meaning – a meaning that goes back to the 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by philosopher Thomas S. Kuhn. Kuhn, of course, is the fellow who coined the phrase paradigm shift – yet another overly buzzified term whose overuse has watered down a once-powerful concept.

In the Kuhnian sense, a revolution involves a deep-seated shift in the way people think – a shift that may take a generation or more. Revolutions are characterized by turmoil and unpredictability, and can be difficult or impossible to discern from within. It may take a few decades after a revolution is complete for people to look back in hindsight and recognize it for what it was.

There is hardly any question that today’s technology-driven business world is undergoing some kind of revolution or another. And true to Kuhn’s thinking, it’s difficult to make out the broader strokes of such changes from within. It’s no wonder, therefore, that we may list so many different individual revolutions, depending upon our various points of view.

Striving for the Big Picture Despite the title of my latest book, however, at Intellyx we strive to maintain a cross-cutting perspective on the various transformations and paradigm shifts that are currently afoot. I’m as likely to write about digital transformation or DevOps as I am about architecture, after all – and I’m always looking for how the stories fit together, rather than taking a religious position for or against any particular perspective or terminology.

The reason I maintain this holistic perspective, of course, is to help people better understand how to leverage technology to achieve strategic business value – in spite of all the turmoil we find ourselves in the midst of. To this end, therefore, I have put together the following diagram, in the hopes that people can achieve a better perspective on the revolution – or revolutions – that are currently in progress.

First, note that I have called out three separate revolutions: the Agile Architecture Revolution I wrote about in my book, as well as the Digital Revolution and the DevOps Revolution. Can we call out more revolutions than this list? Certainly. These three, however, cover many of the disruptions that are contributing to the paradigm shifts in today’s marketplace.

In the blue boxes are the core business drivers for each of the three revolutions. The key to understanding the Digital Revolution, for example, is to realize that customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions, which in turn are driving organizational transformation across enterprises looking to delight those customers and remain competitive.

The DevOps Revolution is also about organizational and cultural change, but from a different perspective. Increasing the speed of the business overall – what aficionados refer to as business at velocity – is the driving force here. (See my recent Forbes article where I discuss the organizational context of DevOps.)

In many ways, however, the organizational change inherent in digital transformation efforts is essentially the same as the cultural upheavals that DevOps represents – or at the least, we have two different perspectives on the organizational change both paradigm shifts represent.

What about the technology? Each revolution has its own technology enablers: mobile first and omnichannel technologies in the case of digital, and automated operations and software development lifecycle (SDLC) technologies in the case of DevOps. In both cases, however, these revolutions are not about the technology – a fundamental fact many people miss.

Agile Architecture: The Unifying Principle

If digital transformation and DevOps are two sides of the same coin, with customer preferences driving the former and a continuous delivery culture driving the other, then where does Agile Architecture fit in?

Fundamentally, Agile Architecture is the unifying principle that brings the various perspectives together and helps people maintain their focus on the strategic business drivers that lead to all of the changes that form each revolution.

To understand the role Agile Architecture plays in this picture, it’s essential to realize that we’re moving up an abstraction layer – we’re no longer thinking about the elements of our organizations (people, processes, policies, technology, etc.) but rather how those things change.

Change becomes the central principle of today’s enterprises, and thus business agility becomes the most important characteristic our organizations must exhibit. Agile Architecture lays out a best practice approach for achieving this agility – and thus drives and coordinates the other revolutions, as both digital and DevOps are about being able to deal with change better as well.

And while Agile Architecture focuses more on change across the enterprise than on technology, it has a primary technology enabler as well: inherently flexible software. In fact, the business agility platform I discuss in our Bloomberg Agile Architecture Certification course leverages modern architectural approaches to achieving inherent flexibility – a more difficult challenge than the continuous delivery of purpose-built code.

As a result, there is a conflict in the perspectives inherent in the Agile Architecture and DevOps Revolutions. DevOps – as an extension of the Agile and lean approaches to building software – leverages the ability to create and update software quickly, rather than spending the extra time and effort necessary to build inherently flexible software, in spite of the fact that customers increasingly demand it.

I discuss this tradeoff in my research into the DevOps Drumbeat, where I update the traditional project management iron triangle (scope/cost/time) for the continuous testing/continuous delivery DevOps approach. And yet, it’s not clear how broadly accepted the DevOps Drumbeat will become within the DevOps world, as the goal of inherently flexible software promises to disrupt today’s DevOps thinking.

The Intellyx Take

Such is the nature of a true revolution – internal contractions and ideas in flux. The bottom line is that we don’t really know how these broader revolutions will end up playing out. We also don’t have a name for the whole kit and caboodle.

While it’s certainly possible to add more revolutions to the list – or even split up each of these larger revolutions into smaller ones – in reality, there’s really only one revolution going on, of which each of these separate trends are but a facet.

Perhaps one of the names I’ve been using will stick, and in twenty years we’ll refer to this revolution with one term or another. On the other hand, perhaps we’ll use a term we haven’t coined yet – or we may even find that the changes we’ve undergone up to this point pale in comparison to others right around the corner.

We may have the feeling we’re in the midst of the war, but for all we know, we’ve only been working through some early skirmishes. The main battle may be yet to come.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

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