Deciding if You’re Technically Ready for DevOps: An Interview with Sunil Sehgal

[interview]
Summary:
In this interview, Sunil Sehgal, the managing partner of TechArcis Solutions, defines DevOps and whether or not your team has the technical savvy to properly adopt its practices. He explains what DevOps means for developers and testers and details what DevTestOps truly is—and why it's essential.

Jennifer Bonine: We are back with an interview, the last one before you guys go back in for the next technical presentation for the virtual conference. But I'm here with Sunil. Sunil, thanks for being here with us.

Sunil Sehgal: Hi, Jennifer. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Jennifer Bonine: Nice to see you again. Sunil, you're a familiar face at some of these conferences. I've seen you in Chicago, here, all over. I see you lots of places. You obviously get out a lot at the conferences and see the trends. Let's talk about the last session you were in and what that was on and some of the things, just for the folks out there watching, that they may want to tune into or check out.

Sunil Sehgal: The last session that I was talking, which I just finished right now, was on test data management, and especially automation of the test data management in the context of agile and DevOps. There are a lot of ground that we covered, especially as people are getting mixed up between agile and DevOps. They start to use these terms in a very loosely coupled way. Really, it's like a lot of the questions that were coming from the audience, where a lot of people are trying to see clarity in terms of what the difference is and does it even apply to them from a DevOps perspective.

We touched upon a lot of the things where it really becomes important how to have good agile working, which is primarily based in terms of how you build your products and your software, and how you collaborate with the team, and how you use certain pieces of the technology. A lot of the people were not even stabilized on this whole agile; they were just wanting to do DevOps. The difference there was they were not understanding that it's like when you start to get into the DevOps and you get into this whole thing about the continuous integration, continuous development, it really becomes a big time of a technology layer.

What that means is that you want to have everything in an instant way being shipped to your customers, whatever code changes, whatever new product you are building, but that's not just a human element. There is a lot of the technology that is used to have that continuous integration and continuous deployment. One of the important things that we discussed about, when you look at the last few years, all the money and the innovation that went in was in the development layer. Everything was being done to make the life of the developers easy and for them to build the new things in a very fast way.

You talk about the different tools, you talk about anything, that was the whole technology layer for development. From a testing perspective it was, at best, some people or some standalone tools. Those were pointed tools—you talk about Selenium, you talk about Test Complete, you talk about UFB, but at best they were individual tools. The main thing here is that unless we infuse a lot of the technology in that and raise the bar here and then the development and the testing layer, talk to each other within the integrated technology, it's never going to be a true CI/CD and the DevOps. That's what resonated with a lot of the people.

Jennifer Bonine: Absolutely.

Sunil Sehgal: They defer that, the brief point was happening.

Jennifer Bonine: Putting that perspective on it of saying, here's what kind of occurred, because a lot of people have said all of a sudden it felt like development could push code and deploy to all of these things instantaneously, and testers were just getting buried, is what I was hearing as a common theme. The test team is just getting buried and we can't keep up now. We were starting to see that in order to keep pace, when we used to talk way back with testing about ratios, that the ratios were dramatically shifting where you needed almost more testers than developers, or a significantly higher number of them all of a sudden. A lot of that probably had a little bit to do with those tools and the inconsistencies and the capability, the tooling, the options for developers versus the options and the tools for testing to be able to keep up with that.

Sunil Sehgal: That is absolutely correct. Your heart said exactly what resonated with the audience as well. A very practical thing that I was hearing from everybody is in a two-week sprint, the testers get called in the Wednesday night of the second week, and Friday it's due. How do you get things done?

Jennifer Bonine: What do I do?

Sunil Sehgal: In that two days stuff? The main thing is unless you start very early on in the sprint and do that in-sprint automation, agile is never going to be successful and scalable. This is very important to have that successful agile. Then you go this whole DevOps thing and start to talk about the technology integration and the technology layer, and you bring in the context of this test data management that we were talking. It's no more a standalone test data, or no more a standalone test environment. It needs to be available at the same speed as you are expecting the code to go out and test it. You need that actual data available at the different stages of the development cycle. That was one important area, but I will say that it's like a lot of people were kind of struggling in terms of how to make that happen. They could at least see that this could be a big showstopper for you to have the actual CI/CD done, unless you bring in this element of test environment and test data and the mix of the technology layer as well, for you to actually have that deployment.

Jennifer Bonine: Getting clarity and kind of back to the beginning of what we talked about around terminology and creating a common language about the pieces and the order in which the pieces fit together. Sometimes people want to skip to ... It's just like when we read a book, everyone skips to the back and just reads the last page to figure out what happened, but you actually have to start from the beginning and put all the pieces in place in the right order to make it successful, to make it to the end. I think I've seen a lot of companies who have said, "Just give me DevOps, I just want to go to DevOps, let's get there," and they don't have all the components they need to be successful in that.

Get that terminology, it sounds like, is something you would recommend. Common terms, do them in the right order, make sure you understand what they all are and how they play together, and not so loosely couple and combine everything together about what you're trying to achieve. Know what you're trying to achieve, what the objective is in all this.

Sunil Sehgal: Absolutely correct. Last thing I would share is that there was a lot of discussion around the real meaning applicability of DevOps. A lot of the people just get carried away by it and not even fully understanding and appreciating it, if it's required or not.

Jennifer Bonine: Do I need it?

Sunil Sehgal: Do I need it?

Jennifer Bonine: Does it make sense?

Sunil Sehgal: When you talk about these organizations like Amazon, like Facebook, whoever different type of business who needs a lot more agility and speed, we could get a more B-to-C type of the models. It's a good thing and the right thing to do. I'm also a proponent of that, but it's not a blind faith.

Jennifer Bonine: Makes sense. Not blind faith, to just do it because everyone else is.

Sunil Sehgal: The organizations who do not have that need of sending code ten times a day doesn't have to necessarily push themselves in that direction. If you are in a different business model, it's okay to ship once a day or once in two days, or once a week. That clarity is absolutely required. Otherwise you burn too many cycles and don't go anywhere. The important part is software development, product development is changing, and embracing automation is important. DevOps and agile is the new norm.

Jennifer Bonine: Absolutely.

Sunil Sehgal: People should accept and see that through, but be very careful and adapt to whatever it will apply for.

Jennifer Bonine: It applies differently depending on, like you said, your business model, what you do, what industry you're in, what you're trying to achieve, and understand it.

Sunil Sehgal: Absolutely.

Jennifer Bonine: I thought it was interesting a couple years ago when DevOps as a term came out and there was a lot of talk about it. It was the new buzzword for a while. You saw all these jobs pop up for DevOps, thousands of jobs for a DevOps person. Then you would ask people what is that and they'd be like, "I don't know, but we need one 'cause they got one, so we need one." It was like the new thing that everyone wanted, but they didn't know what it was or why they wanted it, they just wanted it. I think a key is understand why, what it is, and do I need it, and how does it apply.

Sunil Sehgal: One of the things we spend a lot of the time discussing is actually correcting the definition. What I mean by that is this is a collection of very smart testing brains here in Orlando. When you talk about DevOps, it kind of gives you that notion that testing is not required, it's DevOps. You develop, you operate, get done right the first time, and here it goes out. That whole definition needs to be corrected. I try to say it a lot or whatever, the opportunity comes is DevTestOps.

Jennifer Bonine: I love it.

Sunil Sehgal: That brings the final state, that testing is an integral part of it ...

Jennifer Bonine: Of it, yeah.

Sunil Sehgal: And who does testing and how it's done is a different question, but you have to develop, you have to test, and then you rollout. DevTestOps is really what brings things back. I think that's a definition that should be used going forward.

Jennifer Bonine: We're gonna make it go viral. All of you out there should start saying "DevTestOps."

Sunil Sehgal: DevTestOps is really putting the right perspective into things.

Jennifer Bonine: A new term that we all have now. Sunil, it goes so fast. Thanks for being here with us. I appreciate all of your insights and all the things you shared with us. Hopefully we'll see you again and catch up with you next time. For the folks out there, enjoy the technical presentation. We'll be back with one last interview after that.

Sunil Sehgal: Thank you very much, Jennifer.

Jennifer Bonine: Thank you, Sunil.

Sunil Sehgal: Thank you.

Sunil SehgalSunil Sehgal is the Managing Partner of TechArcis Solutions, we are a 100% dedicated QA and Testing company headquartered in the USA with global presence. Our objective is to address all of your QA and testing needs, deliver testing transformation, and assure continuous improvements.

Sunil is an expert in Quality Assurance and Testing Solutions, with a focus on transformation programs. He has over 20 years of experience in business leadership, technology initiatives and strategic programs and has held senior level positions at IBM, Wipro, NCR, Teradata, and Nortel Networks. He has lived and worked in India, Singapore and USA.

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