Product Platform Teams

Is infrastructure a product? Should an Ops team start to feel like they are a team involved in building things rather than maintaining them? It’s an interesting idea that is put forth in this blog from Forrester. The piece postulates that the Ops group should be thinking like a product team, just like developers working on an application.

When a development group moves to a DevOps style of building things, and starts to take some responsibility for the support of their work, what does the Ops group do? If we push infrastructure as code into our VCS, is there much for the Ops group to do?

I’d argue there still is. From the DBA side, operational staff can help determine what infrastructure is needed, or what changes need to be made. It’s easy to say that devs should add RAM or CPUs, or even another replica, but do they really know when to add them? Or do they just scale everything up? The latter might be easy on people used to writing code, but it’s not necessarily a good idea for the organizational budget.

Ops staff can still tune systems, add indexes and rewrite code, and give feedback and knowledge to developers to help them understand how to write better code, or infra-as-code code, the first time. There’s also the need to practice and be ready for various DR situations, including the “whoops, I deleted some data”. There are skills that help handle these situations, which are far different from developer skills.

This is in addition to designing new systems and setting templates for that infrastructure as code that the developers keep in their VCS. There’s also the need to build self-service tools, which might be where Ops becomes a product team. I think that will be necessary, as tooling is important everywhere. I think Operations might even develop other things, like reports requirements that developers don’t have time to build. Ultimately, though, there is still a need for some Ops work, albeit work that ought to be closely aligned, and shared, with developers.

Steve Jones

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