Rise of ‘x’Ops

By December 17, 2020 January 12th, 2021 CS, Powerlearnings

Compiled by Kiran Kumar, Business analyst at Powerup Cloud Technologies

Contributor Agnel Bankien, Head – Marketing at Powerup Cloud Technologies

Unfolding the term ‘x’Ops

In the present age, with increased work from home circumstances, geographically distributed teams and dominant technological advancements, organizations are obliged to adapt to more contemporary and flexible work culture. 

In the near future, there is an even greater probability of IT industries working remotely due to the rapid emergence of cloud-based infrastructure and tools. Therefore, the distributed teams need to administer means to integrate the way they function. The development, security, network and cloud teams need to work jointly with IT operations to ensure reliability, security, and increased productivity. 

This has paved the way for ‘x’Ops, an upcoming umbrella term being widely used these days to describe how business operations and customer experiences can be improved by getting the teams to communicate and collaborate better while stimulating automation techniques to build an effective IT Ops process.

Organizations are undergoing a massive cultural shift where it narrows down to operations teams adopting clearly defined roles, transparent communication, and cloud embedded functions.

The ‘x’Ops umbrella

Over the last few years, there have been four major ops functions that help run efficient cloud operations. The term ‘x’Ops has been formulated from these very cloud operations that can be broadly classified under two categories: 

DevOps

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a model that enables IT development and operations to work concurrently across the complete software development life cycle (SDLC). It aims to minimize the application development process while ensuring continuous and high-quality software delivery.

The prime intent of DevOps is to build an agile environment of communication, collaboration, and trust among and between IT teams and application owners.

Need for DevOps

Prior to DevOps application development, discrete teams worked on requirements gathering, coding, testing, and deployment of the software. Deployment teams were further divided into networking and database teams. Each team worked independently, unaware of the inefficiency and roadblocks that occurred due to the silos approach.

How it works

DevOps handles these challenges by establishing collaborative cross-functional teams that are tightly integrated to maintain and run the system, right from development and testing to deployment as well as operations.

The most crucial DevOps practice is to conduct small yet frequent release updates. This is possible through DevOps practices such as continuous integration and continuous delivery processes that help cement the workflows and responsibilities of development and operations. 

Teams adopt new technologies like containers and microservices to improve automation practices via technology stack and tooling. 

This not only helps teams to exclusively complete tasks on their own but also enables the applications to run and mature consistently and swiftly.

Communication across internal and external teams is the fundamental key to aligning all sections of an organization more closely. Monitoring and logging help DevOps teams track the performance of applications to guarantee improved teamwork, greater security, delivery predictability, efficiency, and maintainability. DevOps backs integrated teams to build, validate, deliver, and support their applications and services better.

LTI Canvas DevOpsCanvas DevOps is LTIs Self-service DevSecOps platform for automated enablement and persona-based governance. Automated DevOps Enablement | Continuous Assessment | Value Stream Management | Persona-based Governance.

SecOps

What is SecOps?

As per recent studies, IT and security teams struggle to collaborate well. 54% of security leaders say they communicate effectively with IT professionals to which only 45% of IT professionals agree. This mismatch needs to be addressed jointly by IT and security teams to prioritize data protection over innovation, speed to market, and cost. 

SecOps is the joint effort between IT security and operations to integrate technology and processes that reduce risk, keep data safe, and improve business agility. 

Need for SecOps

As IT operations stress upon rapid innovation and push new products to market, security teams are weighed down with identifying security vulnerabilities and compliance issues. In case of a security breach, organizations are at a high risk of losing their customers as well as their brand image leading to a sizable financial impact on business. Hence, for substantial and continuous infrastructure security, the SecOps process must integrate security and operations teams to protect business operations by fixing issues while securing the infrastructure. 

How it works

Gartner states that through 2020, “99% of vulnerabilities exploited will continue to be the ones known by security and IT professionals for at least one year.”

Therefore, the most important aspect is to establish security guardrails and monitor the security spectrum on the cloud continuously. Moreover, the SecOps team must ensure to be primarily responsible and accountable towards security incidents with proactive and reactive monitoring of the entire security scope of the organization’s cloud ecosystem.

According to Forrester Research, “Today’s security initiatives are impossible to execute manually. As infrastructure-as-a-code, edge computing, and internet-of-things solutions proliferate, organizations must leverage automation to protect their business technology strategies.”

With digitization on the rise, effective communications tools have to be leveraged to facilitate cross-functional collaboration. Additionally, enterprises that automate core security functions such as vulnerability remediation and compliance enforcement are five times more likely to be sure of their teams communicating effectively. 

FinOps

What is FinOps?

FinOps, an abbreviation for Cloud Financial Management is the conjunction of finance and operations teams. 

It is the procedure of managing financial operations by linking people, processes, and technology. FinOps endorses a secure framework for managing business operating expenses in the cloud. 

Need for FinOps

The traditional IT financial model worked independently of other teams and lacked the technical modernism of the new efficient cloud-enabled innovative business practices. Limitations in infrastructure adaptability concerning business requirements only inflated the costs making the system slow-moving and expensive. Organizations needed to establish a cost control system for their cloud environments to understand what and from where costs are incurred to keep a check on the cloud spends.

Also, setting up a cost center for all business and application teams would facilitate them to have easy access to the cloud spend data, enforcing rational use of cloud.

How it works

For organizations to gain steady and robust FinOps practices, it is important to follow the three stages of FinOps on cloud: Inform, Optimize, and Operate. 

The first phase assists in the detailed assessment of cloud assets, budget allocations, and understanding industry standards to detect and optimize areas of improvement.

Optimize phase helps set alerts and measures to identify areas that need to spend and redistribute resources. It generates real-time decision-making capacity and recommends application or architecture changes where necessary. 

Operate helps in continuous tracking of costs by instilling proactive cost control measures at the resource level.

This enables distributed teams to drive the business following speed, cost, and quality. 

FinOps brings in flexibility in operations, creates financial accountability to the variable cloud spends, and helps develop best practices in understanding cloud costs better.

CloudOps

What is CloudOps?

CloudOps is the process of identifying and defining the appropriate operational procedures to optimize IT services within the cloud environment. 

When applications migrate to the cloud, they may need assistance to manage all products and services on cloud.

Therefore, cloud operations are a culmination of DevOps and traditional IT operations that allow cloud based platforms, applications, and data to strengthen technically while stringing together the processes and people maintaining the services.

Need for CloudOps

According to a survey conducted by Sirius Decisions, 78% of organizations have already adopted agile methods for product development. However, for organizations to accelerate agility and attain cloud smart status while keeping a check on budget overruns and wasted cloud spends, it is necessary to device cloud computing services. 

Maintaining on-premises data centers, monitoring network, and server performances, and running uninterrupted operations were always a challenge in the traditional set-up. On the other hand, with the adoption of cloud security services, accessibility to data, infrastructure, and applications from any location is safe and effortless, resources can be scaled as required and automation of operations has become elementary. CloudOps makes the system predictive and proactive and helps in enhancing visibility and governance.

How it works

Since cloudOps is an extension of DevOps and IT, it aims at building a cloud operations management suite to direct applications and data on cloud post-migration. According to the Right Scale State of the Cloud Report, 94% of enterprises are using some type of cloud service and the global cloud computing market is expected to grow to $832.1 billion by 2025.

CloudOps comprises governance tools that optimize costs; enhance security and capacity planning. It also promotes continuous monitoring and managing of applications running on cloud with minimal resources. 

Due to the cloud environment’s flexibility, scalability, and the ability to dissociate from the existing infrastructure, the system becomes less prone to errors.

With containers, microservices, and serverless functions on cloud, teams are obliged to equally align their operations without compromising on stability and productivity. 

Built-in automation cloudOps techniques provision for agility, speed, and performance-related metrics. It additionally facilitates smooth handling of service, incident or problem requests to fix cloud infrastructure and application-related issues.

Combining DevOps initiates a faster CI/CD pipeline guaranteeing continuous improvement, greater ROI with minimum risk, and consistent delivery of customer needs.

AIOPS: AI-Led Enterprise IT Operations LTI’s Mosaic AIOps uses contextual AI with asset telemetry information to present a holistic view of the IT Estate & spot issues in real-time, which helps in providing better quality support and efficient planning in IT operations activities.

The state of ‘x’Ops

Data show that a mere 17% of organizations have fully adopted DevOps while the rest are still associated with the comparatively slow-moving agile delivery processes.

The IT industry has come a long way with transitioning from traditional IT practices to adopting agile methodologies in the early 2000s with now making a swift cultural shift towards DevOps practices.  This incremental ascent towards technology and cloud has devised the concept of ‘x’Ops.

Agile to DevOps to DevSecOps

Agile did revolutionize the IT sector two decades ago, enabling teams to work at a faster pace but not necessarily in conjunction. 

With the industry eventually realizing the importance of focusing on people more than tools and processes, DevOps emerged with the intent of making diverse teams like dev, QA, and ops work in collaboration. DevOps is considered as a more streamlined and improvised version than agile with automation as its key driver. 

DevSecOps is not a significant change if organizations have already implemented DevOps practices. DevSecOps, also known as SecDevOps, is incorporating secure development best practices into the development and deployment processes of IT functions with the aid of DevOps. DevSecOps is an evolution of the DevOps concept that, besides automation, addresses the issues of code quality and reliability assurance.  

When security is the primary focus of a DevOps team, the aim is to introduce and develop security-related strategies, processes, and policies from the inception phase of the SDLC. The idea is for everyone to be responsible for security while building the application.

Traditional security validation occurs only post the design phase, which might hamper the speed and accuracy of software deliveries. DevSecOps warrants ongoing flexible coordination among developers and security teams to ensure speedy delivery of secure codes. Security testing is conducted in iterations by strategically placing security checkpoints at different stages of the SDLC. Thus, DevOps and DevSecOps allow development, operations and security teams to balance security and compliance as well as streamline the entire process without compromising on quality or slowing down the delivery cycle.

With the onset of development, security, finance, and cloud operations coming together under one umbrella, IT operations have gained immense competency in cloud-based services giving rise to a trending terminology called ‘x’Ops. 

Approach to ‘x’Ops

To elaborate further, take for instance Powerupcloud’s approach to implementing DevOps practices to a well-renowned fintech company. The objective was to transform the customer’s monolithic application into a complete microservices-based architecture. They wanted to automate the migration process along with a separate cloud account set-up for dev, test, and UAT. 

A primary cloud directory was incorporated by the DevOps team to manage users, groups, and computers as well as support numerous cloud-based third-party applications and services, thus advocating the collaborative work culture. DevOps team generated container modules for multiple resources to make them reusable and modular. 

Application stacks were broken down to make it scalable ensuring easy deployments. 

Debugging and maintenance got simpler for the dev and QA teams while automating processes enhanced code quality. 

Role-based access control on cloud ensured secured authentication, centralized log monitoring systems enabled customers to monitor and view application-specific logs on centralized dashboards, increased overall cost-effectiveness, and improved performance of the application.

In another illustration, a top foreign exchange company wanted to avail of cloud-computing services to increase its share of the global remittance market to more than 10%

For this, the customer decided to modernize its infrastructure on the cloud and run both the traditional and remodeled systems in parallel until the transition was completed. The new platform was to be portable across the cloud and on-premise set up to meet compliance regulations. 

Once the customer environment was understood, best practice architecture for deployment and an appropriate DevOps procedure was agreed upon.

Infrastructure-as-a-code service was provisioned to deploy the application smoothly.

Built-in cloud automated tools were utilized for configuration management, scheduling jobs, and batch processing.

The DevOps team established a CI/CD pipeline to automate the software delivery process and securely deploy new versions of the application while also enabling the infrastructure to run on cloud and on-premise continuously. 

Powerupcloud also supported the customer in identifying cloud equivalent solutions for their on-premise stack in use.

Will ‘x’Ops replace IT operations? 

Cloud has revamped the IT industry to a large extent and with the push to deploy faster with higher volumes at frequent intervals, organizations are taking considerable advantage of multiple cloud services that are being offered. As cloud computing gains momentum globally, IT organizations are embracing modern tooling and automation techniques that are significant components of cloud-native computing.

For example, role-based access control and encryption key management are not new practices to IT and maybe only implemented differently in a cloud environment. Whereas, practices like running containers with non-root privileges, container image scanning, and configuring a service mesh for networking are all new to the software delivery process.

With distributed teams, applications, and infrastructure, there is a lot of data to be safeguarded, which is distinctly possible only through machine learning algorithms. AI and cloud automation tools help analyze real-time system performance and health metrics to detect and prevent vulnerabilities and external threats, which cannot be managed manually. 

It is important to determine the most befitting solution for a given business need. Sometimes, the solution to “lift and shift” a monolithic application on to cloud and package it in containers works, whereas, it may be more feasible to entirely terminate an older application to replace it with a cloud-native system in other cases. 

Likewise, it is difficult to replace or refurbish legacy systems completely as Gartner indicates, “a legacy application is an information system that may be based on outdated technologies, but is critical to day-to-day operations.”

To keep pace with the new digital transformation age, organizations need to modernize their systems by implementing innovative techniques continuously. 

Although cloud computing has more advantages than traditional IT systems, it would be inappropriate to presume that ‘x’Ops would entirely replace IT operations. There is steady progress towards modernization but a good mix of the existing on-premise set-up and cloud-based systems still coexist notably in the current software industry construct.  The ability to absorb new technologies and platforms seamlessly is critical, and the reinvented IT Ops plays a crucial role in today’s times but the IT ops still need to go a long way before it can don the “all under one roof” – ‘x’Ops superset status.

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