Ever since Lucas Carlson, CEO of AppFog, brought the term “NoOps” into the focus of discussion, there is quite a bit of backlash against the term. The debate sometimes borders along insanity and I thought I will add my 2 cents to this cacophony. In fact, this backlash is nothing new. Whenever I make a statement about the role of ops fading away in a cloud based world, I get similar brickbats on Twitter and other online fora. Let me use this post to add clarity to the point I am advocating with respect to Ops. Before the Ops guys and gals pounce on me, I also want to highlight that I am not a developer and my background is on the ops side. Having made it clear, let me add my thoughts on why NoOps is a legitimate use of the term, much like DevOps.
It’s all fine, what is NoOps, BTW?
Regular readers of my blog know that I am bullish on PaaS being the future of cloud services. Right now, PaaS adoption is in the early adopter stage and in the next five years, it is expected to be mainstream in the enterprise. When that happens and enterprises adopt hosted PaaS from providers like Heroku, Engine Yard, CloudBees, AppFog, Azure, etc., there will be no need for enterprises to invest on operations as these PaaS offerings gives an interface to their developers which they can use to build and deploy their apps without worrying about the underlying infrastructure including security and scaling. This scenario is what Lucas calls as NoOps and I have also emphasized it on my posts with the slogan “Forget DevOps, embrace the damn PaaS”.
So? What is the big deal?
When such a transformation happens in the industry, the role of operations people is going to be diminished compared to what it is today. Many ops people and pundits (with their hearts on the operations side) take it personally and argue that NoOps is bordering on FUD and operations are not going away anytime. They push back against the term because it seems to suggest that operations are going to vanish in the coming years. Their argument is that operations are critical part of these technologies including PaaS and SaaS and any term that diminishes their value is just a marketing term with FUD value.
You are part of the marketing FUD, Huh?
Not really. Whether we (pundits and ops people) like it or not, even the public cloud services like AWS made ops people less visible. Gone or the days when a developer will put a help desk ticket and wait for IT to provision a server for his/her needs. Today, the self service part of the cloud offerings lets developers provision the instances needed for them with a few clicks or an API call. Since public clouds offers them a way to operate the infrastructure through code, the DevOps movement came into picture calling the need for developers and ops people to work together closely and cross pollinate. At the infrastructure services level itself, the role of ops got “reduced” a bit. To put it in another way, from ops being the face of IT and the go to folks for anything IT related, they were forced to take a reduced role in the DevOps culture. But, let us keep in mind that ops are critical to the very success of infrastructure cloud services. The only change from the traditional era is that they have given the limelight to service interfaces and do their magic (as usual) in the background helping the cloud service providers run their infrastructure smoothly. Not only they have faded into the background, the number of ops people needed to run the infrastructure got drastically reduced due to the automation at scale. Cloud services pushed Ops from being the face of IT to the invisible face of IT. PaaS takes this one step further by making even DevOps less relevant because the PaaS providers absorb almost all of the operations underneath and offer a simple interface for developers to deploy their apps. Hence, we are seeing the raise of the term NoOps.
Makes sense. Why are Ops people whining then?
Well, the reality is not so simple and there are many shades of grey. Yes, NoOps is a marketing term but it is a great term that clearly highlights what the service is offering. If terms like converged infrastructure, cloud computing, DevOps, etc. can be valid terms to describe the respective offerings, NoOps is a very legitimate term to define what hosted PaaS offers organizations. However, the ground reality is different from a simplistic evolution to hosted PaaS. In the next several years, we are going to see a complex evolution with most of the workloads moving to clouds while some of them staying inside the firewall. Also, we are going to see a more federated ecosystem of infrastructure players. We will be seeing adoption of both hosted PaaS as well as Private PaaS (yet another term used to describe the platform layer put on top of private cloud infrastructure). All these different choices are going to give us an environment where the relevance of Ops will be visible in some cases and invisible in others. In most cases, ops people will be in the background (on the service provider side) and doing their magic quietly and the service interface is going to be the future face of IT. DevOps will stay put as long as we have organizations wanting to have much deeper control over the infrastructure and even in the case of hosted PaaS, some developers may need to assume operational responsibilities (albeit, very rarely). Since the ground reality is a bit more complex and the NoOps term completely sweeps away the reality under the carpet, people are getting upset. But it is time for them to get used to the term and the decibel levels are going to rise as more and more organizations start embracing PaaS. If buzz words can be a competitive advantage in a free market, NoOps is as legitimate as other terms like DevOps or Cloud. #justsayin
- Is So-Called NoOps a By-Product of PaaS? (cloud.dzone.com)
- CloudBees Multi-Cloud Approach: A Lesson For Cloud Service Providers? (cloudave.com)
- Two Events That “Clouded” Our Thinking In 2011 (cloudave.com)
- Why DevOps is the Next Big Shift in the IT Department (rackspace.com)
- NoOps, AppOps, DevOps, & More – Removing the OS Barrier with PaaS, Part 3.1 (newrelic.com)
- DevOps PaaS – Platform for Web Evolution (cloudbestpractices.net)
- Why 2013 is the year of ‘NoOps’ for programmers [Infographic] (gigaom.com)