Monday 28 June 2010

Software vs. Infrastructure

For some reason I’ve been running into a lot of other CIOs and CTOs lately and one topic that keeps coming up was whether we were development or infrastructure focused. The whole time I kept thinking to myself why is this even a question? Why do we feel like we should choose? Or, somewhat more provocatively, why do so many of us only feel like doing half the job?

I concede that there is a ‘background’ element to this. No one I know started off as an IT executive; we were all DBAs or developers or sysadmins first, and that gives us a nice comfortable area of personal expertise we can use as shortcuts but it shouldn’t set our agenda in a leadership role which [in most organisations] encompasses the whole shooting match.

One of the reasons why many organisations suffer the good old fashioned laundry list of regular technical woes (that we could probably all reel off by heart) is because of the interplay between development and infrastructure and a lack of end-to-end oversight over both. And, as the technology leaders, if we don’t understand both sides, keep strongly engaged with them, and create teamwork and cooperation where there has typically been borders and a lack of mutual interest, then who will? There are very few other roles with a remit in both areas and even fewer that should be taking responsibility for them failing to be an end-to-end unit.

There is a whole ‘devops’ kind of meme swelling up these days – and more power to it; I think it is dead on the money.

Devops is, by nature of the organic meme it’s emerging as, poorly defined but to me it is about the recognition that [in most cases] customers care about product – not software or systems – and product is that butter-smooth combination of software and infrastructure finely tuned to work together and operational know-how to keep it running.

It’s also about having the right feedback loops in place between engineers and the real world, so that as your products get used and abused, they become more fit for that very purpose.

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