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The Journey to DevOps

By Steve Jones,

Netflix is one of those companies that I find amazing. I was an early subscriber to their mail DVD service, and thought it was amazing how they processed both orders and physical objects with technology. As they pivoted to streaming, I continued to be impressed with their technology growth, from the chaos monkey to their DevOps deployments. They have been an organization often looked to as a model for other technology companies. 

I certainly think there are things to learn from Netflix, as they've scaled and build quite a resilient system. They aren't necessarily worth copying, however, as the problem domain they solve is both narrow and also quite different than that many of us work in. If someone can't watch a movie, it's annoying, but they can pick another one. If a customer can't transfer money, communicate with another user in an app, or schedule a ride, it's a bigger deal for other problem domains.

Still, Netflix didn't build this system overnight. They didn't come up with amazing DevOps techniques for building and deploying their software from the beginning. It's been a journey, and they talk about some of the full cycle developer challenges in a recent blog post. This looks at one team's journey across 6 years, from 2012 to this year. The piece is an interesting read, and it's not advocating for their particular approach, but rather trying to explain the value that they received from moving to a DevOps model, where they have a group that must run what they build. 

As I try to help customers and clients move to Database DevOps models, I see lots of similarities to what's in this post. As we look to optimize the entire software development life cycle, this requires a changing of roles and closer cooperation between groups. As I look at the evolution of Netflix, using a centralized group to build tools and then ensuring you have a better staffed development team that works to both build and support their software, ensuring clients get the value (or features) they need quickly. 

I've worked in orgs that did this in groups, and for the developers to be involved in operations is an eye opening experience. Developers will learn ensure they think about their design and test more because they don't like getting woken up. They listen Operations and learn about the ways in which they can better build a system that works. They start to realize "works" is a feature, perhaps the most important one.

I've also found my role as a DBA can facilitate DevOps. I'm often between development and Operations, with a foot in both camps. I help developers build better tools and techniques to work with databases. I understand the impact on production databases, meaning I can help ensure that deployments are smoother, and we avoid risky changes. We build indexes early, install primary keys, test queries for performance, and more. The DBA is the one of the ways in which DevOps can grow in an organization, if they work with the developers instead of against them.

 
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