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'NoOps' debate grows heated

Nancy Gohring | March 21, 2012
The dust-up over the term "NoOps" escalated this week, with high-profile IT executives from Netflix and Etsy issuing dueling blog posts about the evolution of IT organizations.

The dust-up over the term "NoOps" escalated this week, with high-profile IT executives from Netflix and Etsy issuing dueling blog posts about the evolution of IT organizations.

The debate often has been heated, which some experts say may reflect the reactions of people whose jobs are threatened by a shift in the way IT groups work.

In his blog post, Adrian Cockcroft, director of cloud systems architecture for Netflix, described his IT organization as having little need for operations staff, partly because the company has shifted to the cloud, where it can automate many former functions of the staff.

"The developers used to spend hours a week in meetings with Ops discussing what they needed, figuring out capacity forecasts and writing tickets to request changes for the data center. Now they spend seconds doing it themselves in the cloud," he wrote.

Since this marks a shift in the way IT organizations have been run, it warrants a new term, he said: NoOps.

Cockcroft is a proponent of the concept and the term, and he wrote the post following "sometimes heated discussion on Twitter about the term NoOps," he said.

In a blog post written in response to Cockcroft's, John Allspaw, vice president of technical operations for Etsy, took issue with the term NoOps and suggested that Netflix has made its organizational changes because it implemented its operations function badly.

"I'm going to attempt below to illustrate what you describe as the 'Ops' in your term 'NoOps' is what most of us in the community describe as Doing It Wrong," Allspaw wrote, including the symbol for a trademarked phrase after "Doing It Wrong."

At Etsy, developers make production changes themselves and deploy their own code, which gives them an "operability mindset" and makes them accountable for their own code, he said. But Etsy also has operations people who do some of the same work as developers but are responsible for infrastructure buildout and management. "Etsy has an Operations org, people with 'Operations' in their title, and yet don't have a culture of red tape like you describe," he wrote.

Netflix has an organization it calls the cloud operations reliability engineering team, which handles around-the-clock system administration work but is largely removed from the work the developers do. In that sense, the team is different from a traditional operations staff, according to Cockcroft.

Cockcroft is "saying that they've automated it so much and made it such a streamlined process that nobody has to touch anything that has to do with operations. Developers just do things and all the operations takes care of itself," said Geva Perry, a consultant who also runs the "Thinking Out Cloud" blog.

 

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