Sunday, April 03, 2016

DevOps – Karl Marx to the rescue?

Karl Marx made a very distinct point on the fact that in certain societies the means of production are not in the hands of the workers.

Whether the means of production should be in the hand of the society (or the state) is a question beyond the realms of this blog, but one thing I have come to experience over and over - not having the means of software production (i.e. computers and operating systems) in the hands of the developers is a surefire way to extremely inflated development costs.

In software development the means of production need to be in the hands of the workforce

What is so special about computers and software developers?

Who “owns” the computers in software development?

In my work I have come across numerous organizations of all the different sizes, but one thing most of them have in common – even a lot of the smaller ones – is some specific department responsible for the supply of hardware. Especially computing hardware. In a lot of cases these departments are also responsible to ensure that the computers work.
What could be wrong with that? A dedicated department of highly specialized people taking care of the computers for the rest of us. Well... the problem is in the details of course. Developers are unlike normal, “average” workers. While the biggest part of the workforce uses software, the developers create the software. While the biggest part of the workforce is using the computers as tools, the developers are using them as material (well, and also as tools, but there is a fundamental difference in the approach).
Now the problem is that – more often than not – the department supplying the hardware is treating software developers just the same way they are treating the rest of the workforce. And that in turn leads to dire problems.

So what's the problem?

  • A software developer, developing software that will be installed eventually has to install that software on his own computer numerous times. It is bad when they have to wait for someone for the “IT-Department“ to enter the password each time they try to do that. (real story)
  • A software developer will have to stop running programs on servers from time to time. Is is bad if they have to create tickets in the customer service system to have the "IT-Department" issue a command to stop a process (true story)
  • A software developer has to explore new tools from time to time. It is bad if he has to go through a lengthy clearance process to get the permission to install a trial version. (true story)
  • and so on...

DevOps to the rescue?

What I noticed about the DevOps movement in the first couple of years, DevOps tried to bring exactly this (or rather: the cure to this) to the development teams – the capability to really own their machines and employ their means to the full extent of their education. (After all they are highly trained professionals in terms of computer usage)

I wonder if that is still the focus of the current DevOps movement. I am skeptical, but I strongly hope so.

So... do you own your means of production? Do you want to? What can you do to get there?

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

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