What Does Ford Motor Company Have in Common with DevOps?

Park Place Hardware Maintenance

Chris Adams September 13, 2018

The pot of gold at the end of the DevOps road map is zero-touch automation of a huge swath of previously labor-intensive work.

Most of us learned in history class about the innovation of interchangeable parts and the assembly line, which enabled Ford Motor Company to build 15 million Model T cars from 1908 through 1927 at a price the average American could afford.

Now the assembly line concept has hit the IT sector, and not just hardware manufacturing. It is being applied to DevOps management and its automation goals and challenges.

The pot of gold at the end of the DevOps road map is zero-touch automation of a huge swath of previously labor-intensive work. The problem is that most of today’s DevOps tools tend to help with discrete tasks, such as provisioning or deployment. These tools don’t natively speak to each other, so they leave teams with what have been called “islands of automation.” These little nodes of automated functions stand alone, and IT must figure out how to make them work together.

Options for Connecting the DevOps Islands

To construct an entire DevOps pipeline, additional constructs are required to make the process unfold from start of finish. There are various approaches:

  • Using “cultural” solutions, such as meetings, chat rooms, and spreadsheets.
  • Centralizing DevOps management with a dedicated team.
  • Employing custom code to interconnect heterogeneous DevOps tools.
  • Building an assembly line, wherein each stage in the DevOps process is launched immediately upon the conclusion of the last, tapping whichever team(s) are appropriate.

IT personnel are finding that manual interventions can be tedious and prone to error, and Excel spreadsheets don’t quite embody the cutting-edge, responsive solution DevOps hopes to be. By the same token, simply creating another silo called DevOps, when DevOps was supposed to kill silos, doesn’t make much sense and leads to a new source of bottlenecks. Custom coding to connect DevOps tools is inherently attractive to many developers, but it’s also time-consuming and necessitates updates every time tools, needs, or processes change. This diverts resources from core business objectives.

With these black marks against the other option on the list, assembly lines have arisen as an imperfect, but often the most viable, choice for facilitating the DevOps pipeline. More organizations are turning to the approach.

Assembly Lines as a DevOps Work-Around

The assembly line approach is not so different than building that Model T, although there can be multiple, concurrent lines that come together later in the process. There are four steps in creating a DevOps assembly line:

  1. Bridging those “islands of automation” into workflows that allow collaboration and transition between tools.
  2. Defining each workflow as a template, so it can be learned and versioned.
  3. Improving visibility with rich logistics.
  4. Moving toward a “plug-and-play interface” that integrates modern technologies.

For a more complete discussion, including graphics depicting how the process might work, check out the Shippable white paper here. You don’t have to subscribe to their services or follow their prescriptions to the letter to be inspired by the overarching idea of making DevOps more automated and more adaptable to the needs of your organization.

Technology to the Rescue?

Another choice may be forthcoming, however. The industry has recognized the DevOps integration problem and even adopted the terminology about “islands of automation.” Various competitors are beginning to respond with fixes. As Kubernetes, the popular but difficult-to-launch DevOps tool, is being offered as-a-Service and GitLab is introducing Auto DevOps, less cumbersome solutions are poised for market entry and increasing share.

The upside, quality tools may soon accelerate an already accelerated development cycle in ways that advance the digital transformation. What’s more, developers will be glad to hear they can go back to coding and spend less time managing the DevOps infrastructure.

At Park Place Technologies, we’re all about freeing internal staff from non-central functions, whether that’s through new solutions or strategic outsourcing, so we look forward to seeing what the industry will soon have on offer for DevOps simplification.

About the Author

Chris Adams, President and Chief Executive Officer
As President and CEO, he works side-by-side with other key leaders throughout the company managing day-to-day operations of Park Place. His key objectives include streamlining work processes and ensuring that all business initiatives and objectives are in sync. Chris focuses on key growth strategies and initiatives to improve profitability for Park Place, and is responsible for European and Asia-Pacific sales and service operations.