IBM’s Rosalind Radcliffe on why DevOps is intrinsic to high performance at enterprises

IBM’s Rosalind Radcliffe on why DevOps is intrinsic to high performance at enterprises
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Reuters
17 Oct, 2019

DevOps combines software development with information technology operations to accelerate the product development cycle. By integrating different teams in various domains, DevOps aims to bring reliability and efficiency to software development. 

Rosalind Radcliffe, distinguished engineer and chief architect for DevOps at Armonk-headquartered IBM was recently in India for the technology giant's DevOps summit. Radcliffe has been with IBM for more than 32 years and is also a member of the IBM Academy of Technology and a Master Inventor. 

In a conversation with TechCircle, Radcliffe, said that her mission is to bring mainframe into the DevOps space by removing all of the systems in order to accelerate product development at the $80 billion firm. Doing this, she added, is expected to help all of the systems within the organisation to participate in the DevOps culture and build applications in a consistent manner irrespective of the platform the company is using. 


Edited excerpts:

How is DevOps transforming organisations in the age of automation and robotic process automation (RPA)?

DevOps is increasingly becoming a requirement. Among the customers we work with, companies that are in the process of being transformed, you cannot do that without DevOps. The highest performing organisations are those adopting the DevOps culture and that requires a lot of work within these firms. 


Companies are in a better position to deliver business value to customers in a sustained fashion by catering to the best needs of the application development team internally. This will remove mundane manual tasks so that people can focus on the value they deliver by delivering the business function. 

Everybody is at different levels in this transformation curve. There are large scale systems that are built and a lot of the process automation is part of the DevOps culture and both work well together. A lot of concepts of artificial intelligence (AI) to make systems auto-learn so that we don't need to redo things is based on the same philosophy of improving the way people are working. 

The idea of DevOps is to work together to automate everything you can possibly do. 


How are the digital transformation drives at enterprises changing DevOps internally and externally?

The successful companies are transforming the entire organisation to the DevOps culture and not just a DevOps team, with everyone in the organisation focussed on delivering business values. By working as different product teams, more silos are created and you need feedback to achieve what you want to. You need to be able to experiment and work with other teams, partners and consumers to enable digital transformation. Every organisation can be DevOps if they want to, across industries and verticals.

Do your customers understand its significance?


In general, most people have an idea of DevOps’ significance and more people are adopting a more consistent view. There is some resistance to it because of the cultural change it requires as many don't want to move away from the command and control structure they have. You need to empower all employees for DevOps to work. You need to allow flexibility and freedom. 

Getting people to change and adopt new processes is difficult. Some people do automation without adopting DevOps but that is only an incremental change or a project-to-project approach. You need to change people, processes and culture.

Do you see any skill gaps in the way of DevOps becoming ubiquitous?


Skill is an issue that has cropped up in a lot of places. The engineers need to be full-stack and everybody needs to be able to code and trusting to be part of the entire process. Everyone in a team needs to understand everything even as you still need specific expertise. Everybody needs to work more and broaden their skills. Increasingly, we are getting there. For instance, a developer becomes better by doing testing and the other way around. They need to work with customers directly to understand their perspective. Developers need to see more value in testing. But overall, that transformation in the industry is a good thing.

Do you see DevOps as a product of cloud and digitisation from a cultural perspective?

The principle of DevOps is good development processes and the idea came before the cloud hype. The concept of automating everything or teams working together has been there a while. The public cloud push made DevOps more required. Everything moving to the cloud over time has contributed to it but even now only 20% of the applications are on the cloud, which is not large. Since even consumers see their personal mobile apps getting updated over cloud daily, this looks natural to them. It is a positive influence. But, that does not necessarily mean they want that same change in their work.


Do you have any data on how DevOps has accelerated the pace of transformation?

In some instances, the frequency of delivery has moved from six months to two weeks, even to deliver a significant set of functions. It usually depends on the change that is required. At IBM, from shipping products every two years, the development team could ship new changes every night if customers want it.  The acquisition of RedHat brings another set of opportunities to IBM in open source and our commitment towards the goal apart from bringing additional capabilities.

What is the role of India in taking forward the DevOps culture considering that it is the service delivery hub for the world?

All the system integrators that are here and all the development that is done here, everyone needs to undergo this transformational change and take leadership of this change. Anyone who wants to take charge of the digital transformation pie should be adopting this culture and can set an example for other parts of the world, especially since India has one of the largest developer ecosystems. And, if India does not, it will have an impact on everyone else.