Using DevOps to Solve Your IT Problems: An Interview with Sherry Chang


In this interview, Sherry Chang, chief architect for Intel IT's DevOps initiative, explains how DevOps can solve many of your lingering IT problems. She defines the term, details how DevOps can be seen as disruptive to some teams, and lists what techniques you should consider using.

Josiah Renaudin: Welcome back to another TechWell interview. Today I’m joined by Sherry Chang, chief architect for Intel IT's DevOps initiative and a keynote speaker for Better Software East. Sherry, thank you very much for joining us. First, could you tell us a bit about your experience in the industry?

Sherry Chang: I have been working on Intel's DevOps transformation with IT for the last three or four years. This year, our CIO mandated a unilateral agile and DevOps adoption, thus increasing the scope exponentially. Overall, I have been in the software development role for more than twenty years. I have worked on many projects large and small in my career, including commercial apps, SaaS, and large enterprise applications with many battle scars to show for the effort.

Josiah Renaudin: Just to establish this early on, can you give us your definition of DevOps and how, on a basic level, it can benefit a software team?

Sherry Chang: DevOps is about transformatively improving IT organization performance by enhancing collaboration between traditional development and operations silos and by employing better engineering practices such as test-driven development, continuous integration. and continuous delivery.  

Regarding how DevOps can benefit software development teams, I can attest through personal experience that software development without DevOps is pure misery. Death march projects, deadline pressures, fragile code, fragile infrastructure, down time, unplanned work, and angry customers are common problems experienced by many IT professionals that can be alleviated with DevOps.    

Josiah Renaudin: Why do you think so many people see DevOps as a disruptive practice for their current business model?

Sherry Chang: This is because many DevOps role models such as Amazon and Netflix are very successful at disrupting incumbent industries (Amazon in the case of retail and Netflix in the case of video rental and movie studios). They have proven that quality, resiliency, velocity, and pace of innovation can be concurrently increased without sacrificing one for another.

Josiah Renaudin: What different DevOps practices and tools can be used to lessen or even eliminate IT problems that teams are facing right now?

Sherry Chang: In general, I have found that continuous integration practices are effective in eliminating defects and incidents. Continuous delivery and codified infrastructure are effective against fragile infrastructure and downtime. There are other considerations of course which I will dive into in my keynote.

Josiah Renaudin: You mention in your keynote that beyond quality and efficiency, DevOps can improve innovation velocity. Can you explain how adopting DevOps allows for faster innovation?

Sherry Chang: One characteristic of a mature DevOps organization is that they release very frequently to production, to the rate of hundreds of times per day or even per hour. Companies that release more frequently learn and pivot faster, which result in getting ahead of their competitors and market demand.   

Josiah Renaudin: What do you see as the major risks that come along with adopting DevOps?

Sherry Chang: Many people associate DevOps with frequent deployment which comes with the assumption of sacrificing quality for speed. However, the 2016 State of DevOps report shows that high performing IT organizations are able to achieve speed and stability concurrently. The bigger risk I see is people not starting and not trying. In today’s environment, standing still means falling behind.

Josiah Renaudin: If a hesitant team came up to you right now for advice on how to get started with DevOps, what first few steps would you suggest?

Sherry Chang: I suggest starting out with continuous integration. The reason I like CI is because you have an automated system that helps reinforce the right behavior. I suggest starting out with build automation and at least one test validating success of build. Keeping the build green for a few weeks with minimal criteria should get the feet wet and instill confidence. After that, they can layer in TDD, more automation and refinement of their automated path to production pipeline.

Josiah Renaudin: More than anything, what central message do you want to leave with your keynote audience?

Sherry Chang: Be a different kind of hero. Staying with waterfall or other outdated practices mean that any non-trivial application requires heroic effort to pull it off. The new hero we need are the change agent brave enough to challenge the status quo and transform the existing system to one that increases the odds of success for all.

Sherry C.Chief architect for Intel IT's DevOps initiative, Sherry Chang leads the DevOps Community of Practice. She is entrenched in coaching and leading Intel CIO’s mandated DevOps transformation effort. Involved in software development for more than twenty years, Sherry’s professional interests include software patents, test-driven development, continuous delivery, and infrastructure as code. She is a certified ScrumMaster and has eight software patents filed with Intel.

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