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DevOps: Taming the cloud for federal IT

DevOps helps federal agencies deliver software while improving public service for the future.

Overview

While there is widespread agreement that federal agencies should capitalize more broadly on cloud computing, the best route to wider adoption is still a subject under vigorous debate. Within commercial markets, the idea of aligning and integrating development and operations more closely is gaining steam. Known as DevOps, the idea is to accelerate software delivery while improving cloud manageability.

DevOps is a software development and IT management method that integrates software engineering, quality assurance and IT operations to manage the full application lifecycle collaboratively. There is significant buzz within the federal IT community over how DevOps can help agencies deliver public service for the future.

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Background

Federal IT operations require more real-time footing to keep pace with escalating mission demands. Some of the factors driving the need for more dynamic federal IT capabilities include frequently changing mission requirements and asymmetrical threats, the increasing sophistication and expectations of users, and shorter technology cycles.

The challenge that many federal agencies face is that their traditional development environment cannot meet these demands for greater responsiveness and faster delivery. According to research from Accenture Federal Services and MeriTalk, just 13 percent of federal IT managers report that their organizations can deploy new systems as fast as the mission requires and deliver public service for the future.

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Key Findings

Embracing the cloud is critical to government transformation and delivering public service for the future. The cloud offers the automation, standardization and flexibility to integrate and streamline the full application lifecycle. By provisioning new environments on demand and moving more seamlessly from development to test to production, building and deploying new applications becomes faster and easier.

Federal IT leaders agree. According to the AFS/MeriTalk survey, 66 percent believe that their agency needs to move IT services to the cloud faster to meet mission and constituent needs. And nearly two in three (63 percent) of the survey’s respondents anticipate cloud can provide high availability, reliable performance and secure operations to improve overall service delivery.

But moving to the cloud can be challenging as existing applications, processes, culture and policies often do not allow for an easy or quick transition. These top constraints to adoption include infrastructure complexity (42 percent), fear of change (40 percent) and inflexible practices (40 percent), according to survey participants.

Analysis

As an industrialized approach to managing the end-to-end process, DevOps can help federal organizations simplify their transition to the cloud and ensure high quality service across more dynamic environments.

In addition to offering the tools and automation for successful cloud migrations, DevOps can provide a framework for implementing cultural and structural changes that enable more effective collaboration across the application lifecycle.

Only a few federal agencies have capitalized on DevOps to date. Just 5 percent of federal IT leaders report fully implementing DevOps, with another 27 percent piloting or planning to deploy within the year. While adoption is a major undertaking, early adopters are also reporting significant success.

Recommendations

With a DevOps-powered cloud, processes can adapt to users’ needs and the organization’s mission to help deliver public service for the future.

Federal IT leaders recognize the scope of changes they must undertake to create a DevOps environment. More than half (55 percent) say training current personnel would aid the implementation of a DevOps-like structure. Training should be ongoing and integrated closely with current projects. In addition to training, new tooling is often required to scale and institutionalize these practices.

Strong executive leadership is also required to implement training, influence workplace culture and motivate change. To get started, leaders should seize this opportunity to educate stakeholders on the imperative, acknowledge the challenges and discuss how they can be mitigated, and create new incentives and expectations of their vision and roadmap for the future of federal IT.


Author

Dom Delmolino

Dom Delmolino
Chief Technology Officer

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