Is DevOps the ITIL Killer?

With rapid adoption of DevOps across the globe, one question which lot of people are asking is that can ITIL and DevOps coexist or is DevOps the “ITIL Killer”. This blog aims to provide insights on what the industry experts are talking about the future of ITIL in DevOps era and also provide a point of view on coexistence of DevOps and ITIL.

What is DevOps?
Before diving deeper into the subject, let’s try to understand what DevOps is, there are lots of definitions and point of views available over the internet, here are a few which I found concise and apt.

“DevOps is the practice of operations and development engineers participating together in the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support.” <Source

“DevOps (a clipped compound of "development" and "operations") is a culture, movement or practice that emphasizes the collaboration and communication of both software developers and other information-technology (IT) professionals while automating the process of software delivery and infrastructure changes. It aims at establishing a culture and environment where building, testing, and releasing software, can happen rapidly, frequently, and more reliably” <Source>

According to Gartner, by 2016, DevOps Will Evolve From a niche to a Mainstream Strategy Employed by 25 Percent of Global 2000 Organizations which means more and more organizations are seeing lot of value in adapting DevOps.

ITIL on the other hand is a best practice framework for designing and managing ITSM processes such as Incident Management, Change Management, Service Level Management and many others. It follows a sequential lifecycle model with a continuous improvement loop. It’s been around since 1980s and has matured substantially throughout the years.

What are Industry Experts saying about the future of ITIL in DevOps environment?
Now let’s see what some of the experts are saying about the future of ITIL as DevOps era become more and more prevalent.

Jason Bloomberg, a contributor in Forbes Tech says that despite these years of progress of ITIL, in today’s Agile, DevOps context for IT makes the current version of ITIL from 2011 look to some people like a recipe for roadblocks and busy work.

Greg Ferro, long-time consultant and co-founder at Packet Pushers Interactive says “Frameworks like ITIL create the illusion of control that results in the organizational delusion that IT is efficient and manageable,”

According to Gene Kim, DevOps thought leader and coauthor of The Phoenix Project, “The DevOps Movement fits perfectly with ITSM,” ITIL and ITSM still are best codifications of the business processes that underpin IT operations, and actually describe many of the capabilities needed into order for IT operations to support a DevOps-style work stream.

Is ITIL really the problem or part of solution?
Being a process consultant, I like to simplify complex situations and try to look at technical scenarios from a real world perspective.

Let’s try to understand where DevOps and ITIL fit in modern IT using the analogy of road structures around the world.

The Conventional model of software development is like driving through the old roads which might be slower, have a lot of traffic signals, pedestrian crossings and things like that which slow down the journey and final outcome while DevOps provide faster turnaround time like travelling through freeways with more lanes, faster speed and fewer disruptions which make the whole process much more efficient.

But one thing that does not and should not change while you are driving through either freeways or city roads is the “Focus on Safety”.

You cannot go faster by compromising on safety, we all can imagine how that is going to end, in a “Catastrophic Disaster”.

The Bottom line here is that the rules of the roads do not change no matter which road you take.

In the context of IT, those rules of the road are often defined by leveraging ITSM frameworks like ITIL.

So while organizations are rapidly moving towards adopting DevOps, the need for stronger rules of the road is even more important, you don’t want to be driving on a freeway without wearing seatbelts.  

Let’s be clear about one thing that ITIL is important, more than 2 million people are trained on it and it is accepted as the “de-facto” standard for IT Service Management. Those of us who do or have worked in ITIL aligned enterprises realize the value of it. ITIL processes make a measurable positive impact on the quality of software delivery as well as IT Operations.

Despite common interpretations, ITIL is not explicitly opposed to Agile and DevOps. The Service Design lifecycle advocates iterative and incremental design, ITIL also strongly recommends the need for continuous improvement and feedback between various lifecycle stages.

It’s an exciting opportunity to build the bridge between ITIL and DevOps. ITIL is well known for improving stability of production environments and overall IT operations while many organizations are adopting DevOps for enabling faster speed of delivery for new applications/functionalities. If we judicially leverage both ITIL and DevOps, we can get best of both worlds.

References and Further Reading:
DevOps And ITIL: Friends Or Enemies?

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