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DevOps: new business wave

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DevOps, a new business approach has proven that it can benefit a company’s product lifecycle, competitive advantage and its ability to meet customer requirements, writes DAVE BLAKEY, CEO at Snapt.

DevOps is a new approach to business that is based on applying Agile and Lean philosophies to operations work. In the past, operations and development engineers worked in separate silos and it was a case of ‘never the twain shall meet’. DevOps has completely changed this idea, creating a situation where the two work closely together throughout the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support.

In effect, you could say that DevOps simply extends the standard Agile principles beyond the boundaries of the code written by developers, taking it across the entire delivered service instead.

While changing the mindset of how organisations function obviously takes time, the new cultural and professional approach that DevOps demands has already begun to have a significant impact across companies. This could be due to a range of reasons, including creating more stable operating environments, faster delivery of product features or continuous software delivery.

Either way DevOps has proven that it can benefit a company’s product lifecycle, competitive advantage and its ability to rapidly meet customer requirements. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the key DevOps trends that businesses have been adopting this year.

The first trend is the recognition by enterprises that DevOps is not simply a new market, but rather a philosophy and a cultural shift.

Gartner points out that an increasing number of organisations are coming to the realisation that DevOps goes beyond implementation and technology management, to the point where it becomes about people within the business developing a deeper focus on how to effect positive organisational change.

In my opinion the key to benefiting from the emerging DevOps market lies in understanding that it is ultimately about the people who are doing it and the culture that surrounds them, instead of being about the technology or the tools being used.

The second major trend has been an increase in modular approaches to system building and a move away from building monolithic products for customers. The DevOps approach focuses instead on employing small, nimble teams to take care of individual applications.

You could say that the crux of its success lies in breaking activities into bite-sized chunks. Recognition of this fact has led to applications being developed with a modular approach in mind.

A third noticeable trend in 2016 has been the fact that developers have begun taking increased ownership of the entire product lifecycle.

The proliferation of DevOps-ready tools has enabled a surge in adoption, which in turn has led to the logical breaking down of the traditional silos between developers and operations. As the focus becomes increasingly about continuous delivery and improvement, it is leading to greater accountability and ownership from the developer teams to build and run their solutions.

The growing focus on DevOps means that for developers, their job no longer ends once the application is delivered. Instead, they will now be expected to remain a part of the entire lifecycle, while also having complete visibility into its progress.

A fourth trend is that of programmable infrastructure. While automation itself is not a new thing, the ability to provision infrastructure easily and seamlessly, thanks to a DevOps approach, is. This means that teams can develop the software and operate its environment simultaneously, so rather than considering automation after the development is finished, businesses can now prioritise automation and integrate it as part of the initial development phase.

The last key trend is that of reduced deployment time, something that is increasing as more enterprises adopt the DevOps approach. A side-effect of this trend is the fact that systems will also become more risk tolerant, as any changes that are made will be less likely to have a negative impact on the entire system. This means that time to production will be continue to be reduced.

I believe that these trends demonstrate that DevOps is increasingly becoming the de facto standard for how teams operate.

As we head into 2017, I expect we will only see more organisations upending their traditional processes and focusing on the DevOps method instead. In other words, we will see businesses cultivating a culture that unites people, processes, workflows and technologies, in order to bring tangible returns to the business. Inevitably, some businesses will pass on adopting a DevOps methodology, but those that do will be running the risk of serious competitive disadvantage.

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read about Netflix’s international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Take these 5 steps to digital

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By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027. 

However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.

The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.

There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement,” he adds. “To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.

The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.

Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.

The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.

The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure it maps back to where you are and the strategic steps that will take you to where you want to go.

The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.

This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.

There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.

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