[EP27] Practical DevOps

Humans of DevOps

DevOps Institute Ambassador BMK Lakshminarayanan, Value Stream Architect of Bank of New Zealand, discusses the practical aspects of digital and DevOps transformation, particularly in highly regulated organizations.

The lightly edited transcript can be found below.

Intro:

You’re listening to the Humans of DevOps Podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps, through skills, knowledge, ideas and learning, or the SKIL framework. Here’s your host, DevOps Institute CEO, Jayne Groll.

Jayne Groll:

Hi everyone. It’s Jayne Groll of the DevOps Institute. And welcome to another episode of the Humans of DevOps podcast. Today I’m joined by my good friend BMK, coming from New Zealand. And today’s topic is going to be mostly about practical DevOps. Hi BMK, why don’t you introduce yourself to our audience.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Hey Jayne, thank you very much for this platform and this opportunity. Hi, all. It’s good to be here, and great to be here talking about practical DevOps, and with good friend of mine, known for a while, Jayne Groll, who is the CEO of DevOps Institute. I am delighted I am one of the ambassador for the DevOps Institute.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

My name is BMK Lakshminarayanan. I am based out of Wellington, New Zealand. And yeah, let’s get into this directly and talk some facts and fun about practical DevOps.

Jayne Groll:

So BMK, as you know, I’ve known you now for several years. One of the things I’ve always admired about just talking to you privately, but also listening to some of your conference presentations, is you come from the real world. You come from the enterprise, a highly-regulated industry. And I think you’ve seen a lot of DevOps rise over the last few years, with insight into how does this work in a practical sense, particularly in an organization that is subject to governance, that certainly has to manage risk, that has compliance requirements.

Jayne Groll:

So talk a little bit, maybe to start, about what have you seen year-over-year, in say the three or four years since I’ve known you, in terms of the evolution of DevOps from a practical perspective?

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Yeah, I think that’s a good question, Jayne, because the context how enterprise [inaudible 00:02:19] when it comes to the DevOps adoption, or for that matter any adoption, it could be agile transformation, DevOps transformation, or digital transformation, I see that they all start and struggle a bit.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

The reason because of the existing processes that they have in their organization. Most of the time, they are clueless about how to fit in these existing processes, existing procedures, the way how we operate, the way of doing things in an old school way into the new model of what we call DevOps adoption. I was thinking about actually a title yesterday night for my next talk called, the Great Disconnect. It’s a DevOps transformation story.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Why I say it’s a great disconnect is basically, if we look at from an end-to-end, from an organization, from the time that you take something and you want to deliver a value to a customer, and in the entire value stream, there are a lot of things that we do which are not really connected very well. And we miss those dots. You correctly said, in terms of risk, in terms of security, in terms of compliance.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

I come from I’m in a highly regulated financial industry, and we have a heightened awareness for anything and everything related to risk, because we are a bank and we have to be meeting those regulatory requirements. But at the same time, you need to also see how I can deliver these values faster to my customer.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

So I see example, I can give you a few examples like in [inaudible 00:04:03] as an organization, not only me, but also I’ve seen what’s happening in the community, what’s the presentation that I’ve listened to in the DevOps enterprise community and all, they struggle with how do we do the architecture? How do we do the design governance? How do we do the endorsements? How do we do the risk assessments for some of our systems? Because these all are still old school way, and you are doing in a, what do you call in a big committee kind of an approach, where there is a centralized committee making those decisions.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

So you can straight away see that that becomes actually a bottleneck when you are talking about delivering at speed. Number two, the problem that I see is actually the data management practices and the reason that I pick up the data management practice is that, if you’re a startup and probably you would have not seen this problem because you can choose what about the enterprise database, I mean, the database platform that you want to, it could be no sequel, it could be sequel. It could be, you can design with the modern systems, use some of the open source platforms.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

All of this comes in really handy. But if for an existing enterprise, having a legacy systems and legacy database offerings, and in my experience, I have not seen an enterprise having only one database offering across the enterprise. No, we have multiple flavors of multiple products in different regions, like example, I could have a core banking is a different database offering. I might be having a vendor application, which is using a different database.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

I may be having a store or staff assisted channel. I might be using a different database. So I see number two problem is actually around the data management practices. Because these data management practices actually quickly becomes one of the bottleneck, the reason because of the naming conventions, the way how do we roll out the database changes? The way how do we source controlled them?

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Do we enable them to do a continuous delivery, like a CACD and the stuff? So this is number two. And number three, what becomes is actually the security. And the security part of it is, not all developers are switched on with security, right? And I like one of the John Willis, the Court. John and me, we were interacting over the last three, four months for various reasons like across anD building some content.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

And one of the things that John keeps coming and saying is actually, okay, you have an engineer who’s like three years or a four years experience, but you’re also talking about somebody in your enterprise, who’s like 20 years experience. So you look at both of them, the 20 years guy has institutional knowledge of how things works within the enterprise, right? Like it comes to governance or risk or security or something like that.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

But when it comes to a three to four years, an engineer who’s new on board in an enterprise, and the perspective completely changes because they don’t have that holistic view of what’s happening at the enterprise. I think the security is actually a biggest challenge where in terms of managing the vulnerabilities, managing the licenses for your open source or your existing products and integrating some of the security best practices in your delivery pipeline. So I see these three things that actually top of my mind, the decentralized governance, number two, the data management practices, number three, the security adoption.

Jayne Groll:

And I absolutely agree with you. And I want to just drill into a little bit more about data. So absolutely. We need to centralize governance because regardless of what vertical market you’re in, particularly in highly regulated environments like financial institutions, because we want to move to a faster, more frequent flow because we want to be more agile, because we want our teams to be more self-organizing, doesn’t mean that we also still don’t need compliance, right?

Jayne Groll:

That we’re still not held to those type of regulations of those requirements. And I think some organizations have interesting challenges. On the flip side of that though BMK, we’ve seen financial institutions, I can’t say above all, but we’ve seen many financial institutions, whether they’re banks or other type of regulated financing companies really take hold of the DevOps.

Jayne Groll:

Some of the early adopters, some like you, some of the organizations that have really become case studies, insurance companies, banks, and the like, really embraced DevOps even earlier than some of the more traditional say manufacturing or product specific type of enterprises.

Jayne Groll:

So I always find that a little bit fascinating. So I do think that compliance and audits in a regulated environment is not necessarily as you’ve said, contrary to the principles and practices OF DevOps, but the data piece of it, I think is really fascinating. I’ve been in IT a long time.

Jayne Groll:

Not that long, but long enough, right. But to be able to see the growth of the technology organization within the enterprise, where in the early days we were 25 people, we were all on the same location, we all knew each other, we went to lunch. And also even from a platform perspective, yeah. We had a few different platforms, but I come from the Unix world, we have six super mini computers that everybody was operating against.

Jayne Groll:

And then as we grew, not only did our environment get much more complex, but our team organization got very complex. And so, each unit, each team, whether it was development, whether it was pre production operations, post production operations, each of those acquired a different way of working a different set of tools, a different data, set a different vocabulary.

Jayne Groll:

And I think that’s part of what has led us to the problem today, is that retrofitting into that as a challenge. But the data lived in so many repositories that I think that now we have the term data ops. So talk a little bit about your experience, because I don’t think you’ve been in this space, maybe quiet as long as I have, but maybe a little longer than some. See, I’m making you younger. Right?

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Thanks Jayne.

Jayne Groll:

But we’re kind of watching the evolution of this growth of big cumbersome data that’s unusable to now what we’re looking at in terms of data ops.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Yeah. Yeah. But I think you gave a very good, what do you call it, replaying how we did in the past and how we did in the middle for maybe 10 years and now how you’re doing. I think it’s pretty good actually, what would it be worth how you did, we were working like a cross-functional team, right?

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Like 15 years, 20 years before, we were like sitting together, we were cracking things together. And we had that functional silos, but we’ve been all together. But I think then slowly things have changed, and then again, it has come back into that kind of a model. I would like to give a bit of a context and how I was connected to the DevOps moment?

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Because I see that most of the organizations, most of the enterprises, this is my personal take and I might be wrong, but this is my personal view on it. The DevOps adoption doesn’t start from the CX level. Okay. They don’t come with an idea saying that, “Hey, you have to do a DevOps because we have heard of the DevOps.” Because even before the CX talks about, the CX means I’ve been talking to the C-level executives, right? And then I talk about the C-level executor’s. Even before they introduced this DevOps thing, somebody in your enterprise is already struggling to get this into a mainstream.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Somebody is already doing some bit of work in your enterprise to solve some particular problem. Maybe it could be in a particular pocket of silo, whatever it is. This is what happened to me actually. We deployed actually one of the big lending application back in 2014. And as a lead developer, I was thinking of, “All right, this is an application, a combination made up of what six or seven different components, including database SharePoint, repository, web services, and web application, workflow engine changes.” Then we thought we can crack on the deployment within two hours, but the deployment went over three days. And we started on Friday night and we ended up on early morning, Monday three o’clock.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

And that was an eye-opener because, of course, maybe that will be a bit taking break, and we were working through the problems, we are solving the problems. The reason that we booked through the weekend was the business wants to go live on Monday morning. Okay. So, we had a time pressure on that day.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

So we managed to get it out of the door, but the entire process was an eye-opener. It is something like somebody came and slapped me and said that like, “Look at the entire process, what you have. Do you think that it’s sustainable in the long run?” And that’s how I was attracted to the moment.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

I did not even know it was called DevOps the time. But started digging more into the details. How do I bring, make this team work together in these things? How do we automate certain things? And then during the research, then I bumped into a lot of content’s like J [inaudible 00:14:04] John willis, Xin Kim, even my local hero, Rob England. All those people I bumped into and then said, “Oh, right. Now, this is called DevOps moment.”

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

And we did that automated deployments of applications in one area, which is a major it’s a huge success. And we saved a massive amount of time and money in that aspect. The second problem that I had was actually the database changes. The data ops.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

And in fact, in the Cedar, I presented two topics on those data ops and all my topic was like this, data friction in your continuous delivery. Data actually puts a friction in your delivery speed. So the reason for enterprise data management team, the struggle with this kind of an adoption is that somewhere the database management team, central team has inherited a lot of processes from their ancestors. Like some of the standard satellite were 30, 40 years old, including some of the way, how you naming conventions, how do you share the files, how do you generate the scripts and how do you roll out the changes and fraction, and those kinds of things.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Including even doing a change in the database environment and a dev region. You don’t have access to do it. And you look at it, the reason because it’s an enterprise organization and you can’t do the changes as you wanted in the region. And you have to ask a question, how do I enable my developer to be highly productive? And if I want them to be highly productive, I need to really cut down the amount of comms that I’m doing with the DBA team. I want the DB database team to work with me in my program, in my project.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

So by the way, they can understand what is involved. And what we did, three is 2017 period was actually, we automated one of the database deployments using a tool called flyway DB.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

And that was a major success within the bank. Of course we haven’t scaled across the entire enterprise, but that to get to where I was in 2017, 2018, it took me two years to get there. The reason, because it’s a constant education with the data management team in terms of the practices, in terms of how do we store, how do we source control? How do we get the scripts in order to execute in production.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

So this is a missing piece in your whole country is delivery, right? Because what does the fun, if I deploy my application in 20 seconds in a Kubernetes platform or a container platform, but my data takes three weeks to get to production, right? So you know that that is your constraint and that you need to work on those areas actually.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

So this is where they worked with the data management team. And what also, I got an opportunity to listen to the CEO from a data kitchen a few years before in the DevOps enterprise. Summit team was talking about the data ops. And it is bringing the old school DBS who are like Avengers and superheros into changing them into a data engineers, by helping them to be… Building the platform and empowering the developer community, do the right things for the database. And this is actually a big change in the things.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

I think a lot of organizations, they started working on it. And when I talk about data ops, I’m not just talking about application databases, I’m seeing, this is a moment where we need to start from your application databases, your operational data, your analytical data, your business intelligence, and whatever that use, look at the entire organization, including the modern terms that you use, like your mission learning, your AA ops and all those things that intrude into that.

Jayne Groll:

Well, first of all, I love the migration from data ops or DBS right, from my old op stays to data engineers, because I also think it changes the mindset. So unfortunately, we’re going to run out of time, but I think we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about practical DevOps in 2021. Now neither one of us know exactly what this new normal is going to look like.

Jayne Groll:

And as before we started recording, being in New Zealand your exposure to the pandemic has been significantly reduced thankfully through good handling, but the rest of the world is still struggling. And I think if anything, this year has shown enterprises that perhaps were lagging in terms of their investment, in terms of their progress in transformation, whether it’s agile transformation, DevOps transformation, hopefully human transformation.

Jayne Groll:

I think this year has really exposed the need for organizations to move in that direction faster because the pandemic pushed us ahead several years. So from a practical perspective, what do you think enterprises that aren’t far down this journey that either at the beginning, or maybe pretty early on, what should they think about? If you’re the CIO, the CTO, what should you be thinking about in terms of good steps to move away from the past and into whatever this new crazy future looks like for us?

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Yeah, I would think… Thanks for that final question, because I really love to see what we do in this space. Because I really like what DevOps Institute is doing here. And the one thing is about the upskill report that they run the survey every year, which is really good. And number two is running the skill-up days. Because I see that this is actually a specific area where an organization needs to focus on.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

The reason because if you’re talking about like 2000 developers community within your organization or 5,000 IT employees within your organization, it’s not that everybody is switched on. It’s not that everybody’s learning the same pace as the others, right? For example, I started raising my head and connecting with people and started amplifying my learning experience.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

And you need to bring that within the organization. Running some of the participate in the global survey that DevOps Institute does, and then find out what are the new skills that you need in the space.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

And I also like what the DBS, the bank, a couple of years before, in one of the DevOps transformation story that shared is that, you need new skill for this new age, right? And you cannot work in the same way, with the same tool set with the same stuff practices. So this is where you need to upskill yourself. You need to upskill your organization and everybody. And number two, is that establishing the common understanding.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

You were talking about earlier in one point that we need to have a shared understanding of some of the terminologies that we use in the organization. Right? So having the ubiquitous, the language that we use. Number two, and upskilling everybody in terms of how we can do, it could be any form.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

It could be like you will have a dojo, you have internal training programs, you have an Intel scale-up days. Now, those ideas that we do. And I think these two things are really important in a chief information officer, our chief technology officer for an organization. And I see that my humble request for the community is that the training is the way how you can transform your organization.

Jayne Groll:

Yeah. I agree with you. And thank you for calling out some of the work that DevOps Institute does that I’m particularly in my team is so proud of because our mission is to advance the humans of DevOps. And I really sincerely believe that it’s human transformation That’s going to drive digital transformation.

Jayne Groll:

And you’re right, the shelf life of the existing IT professional is pretty short right now because the technology is evolving very quickly and developers are now being required, not even encouraged to pick up new skills like devsecops or testing skills or infrastructure as code because everything is code. And so I think that particularly people that have been in this space for a long time and enterprises need to step back and go, “Okay, what do we need? Are we going to run out of skill as fast as we run out of other competency?”

Jayne Groll:

So I think that that’s important. I think that’s really a nice way to end because I’m going to issue a plea to those that are listening, That BMK mentioned the upskilling report. Every year, DevOps Institute does a pretty healthy community project known as Upskilling the Enterprise DevOps Skills Reporting.

Jayne Groll:

We collect input in a pretty healthy survey that’s released usually around late summer early fall that we reach out to the community and say, “Tell us which skills are considered, must have, nice to have, and not as important anymore.” And then that results in an annual report that’s very deep, lot of very, very good data. That survey for 2021 is open now.

Jayne Groll:

So if you’re listening to this, I have two asks. Please take a few minutes, take about 20 minutes to fill out this survey. The data that we collect is analyzed, and the resulting report has been downloaded this year about 4,000 times.

Jayne Groll:

So it’s provided a lot of insight into the community and we do it as part of our mission to support the humans. So take a few minutes. You might be entered into a raffle to win an Nintendo switch. Hopefully that’s something that inspires you, but be inspired by the report.

Jayne Groll:

I think this year more than ever, this date is going to be particularly important. And if you want to see the report, go up to our website and download the 2020. I also asked you to become a member of DevOps Institute. You can become a professional member of DevOps Institute at no cost. It’s free.

Jayne Groll:

There’s a lot of resources. If you’re interested in becoming an ambassador like BMK, the ambassador community has really just taken on its own dynamic. And we’re so grateful for people like BMK for participating. BMK, thank you. Your insight is always, is really from the ground up, right? You’re in the trenches. You see it every day, but I think as importantly, you’ve seen it evolve, right?

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Yeap.

Jayne Groll:

You’ve seen from the early… I think the first time you and I met was 2015, maybe.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Yeah.

Jayne Groll:

So I think [inaudible 00:25:19] five years, and from 2015 to 2020, a lot of things have changed. So I always appreciate your insight. And I’m going to invite you to come back next year and let’s see if some of our predictions are true.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Definitely. Hey, Thank you very much, Jayne, for this opportunity and allow working with the development street folks and the fellow ambassadors, and also the same bay, I would like to request the audience who are based out of New Zealand and please kindly the New Zealand and Australian and DevOps enthusiasts, please kindly take up the up-skill survey.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

And because that data will tell us what bear we need to improve, what are the new things that we need to learn, and this will be really a great help for not just for you, but also for your organization where you’re working. So please kindly support us in the space and thanks everyone for listening. Thank you very much, Jayne.

Jayne Groll:

Thank you, BMK. And thank you everyone. Please stay safe, stay connected. And we’ll talk to you soon.

BMK Lakshminarayanan:

Yeah. Thank you.

Outro:

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