A summary of our first Moogsoft engineering Twitch Stream chatting about all things between the roles and responsibilities of DevOps vs. SREs and everything in between.
Hello humans! Last week we hosted the first episode of Have You Herd?, the official channel of the Moogsoft Engineering team, and I was joined by Joshua Zangari, Joe Nye, Mitch Lillie, Norm Williams, and Brian Smith. For our first topic, we chose a hot one…
How do we define DevOps? And as it becomes more mainstream – will the roles of development and ops combine forever into super-powered developers, or does the complexity of our systems require further specialization between the two roles?
Read on below for a high-level summary, or watch the full conversation here!
DevOps the word, the role, the culture – the definition?
While DevOps is officially defined as “a set of practices that combines software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops)”, we all know that every person has their own answer if asked. Surprise! Nothing different when the question was posed to our team but a few standout answers…
- DevOps is a culture, not a role. You don’t hire a “DevOps engineer” or at least you shouldn’t. – Josh
- DevOps is a role, beyond a culture. There is a specific skill set that comes with a DevOps role that is expected. – Joe
- Both are right and both are wrong, DevOps is a culture and philosophy that has given rise to a lot of roles and responsibilities – Norm, the middle of the line guy
All said and done, the reality is that DevOps (however you may define it) is here to stay. Beyond that, it’s an ever-evolving space and changing the shape of engineering organizations and blending responsibilities across all engineering roles.
The future of developers vs operators – there is no super-soldier serum.
Interestingly enough, while we may have been on opposite spectrums when defining DevOps, one thing was clear as we looked further into what the impact of DevOps meant for engineering roles in the future: roles need to specialize.
In short, as Josh mentioned so eloquently – there won’t be a Captain America or Black Panther super soldier developer in the future. The reality is, having good observability, monitoring, disaster recovery and all-in-high availability plans for your customers are too much to include on top of writing code. As our systems become more complex, and SLAs become a marketing and pricing feature, having engineers with reliability (hence the name Site Reliability Engineer) as their prime directive is increasingly important.
From the developer’s point of view, Mitch flagged context switching as a high cost to undertake if expected to span from building, deploying, to full infrastructure management. It’s so much more than learning one new skill, moving into SRE responsibilities would be like starting over brand new and building your skills ground up again.
Now, the only exception here as Brian posed could be the ever-elusive full-stack engineer that is often referenced but rarely seen in the wild. So let’s get into it.
The elusive full-stack engineer – (company) size matters.
Full-stack engineers are common especially amongst early-stage companies where early engineering hires are expected to take on everything from building, fire fighting, to maintenance. They may end up growing into becoming technical leaders or architects as the companies grow, but their role as full-stack engineers fails to scale.
Looking at medium to larger size companies – their services become more complex and customer and service requirements increase. Leaving that all to a full-stack engineer without careful planning will burn them out completely. Instead, companies should understand their own size and scale and make sure their teams can scale appropriately.
Scaling doesn’t mean silos though. One of the critical pieces to success is ensuring consciously building the relationships and infrastructure that can help both developers and SREs scale well together.
The future isn’t DevOps versus SRE – it’s about the close knit partnership between the two.
At Moogsoft, our SRE & DevOps teams operate with a very modern approach, focusing on empowering the developers and front end teams on how their code is deployed and operated. Instead of “taking away” control, the SREs focus on architecting our tools and systems to ensure developers have full access to build as needed. Vice versa, our developers are included in the PagerDuty on call rotation and have you break it, you fix it ownership over their code.
Building this kind of organization doesn’t happen overnight. The two key pieces that are pivotal to building this culture is:
- Ensure management is in lockstep top-down from VPs through to Directors to ensure they encourage the right behavior and culture within the organization is also critical
- Take the time to hire curious, empathetic, and considerate people. Those who want to learn and help others will naturally contribute to the blending of teams
The journey into DevOps, whatever the role – closing musings from the team
To lead us into our next stream, here’s a quick around-the-room recommendation from the team if you’re looking to get your foot in the DevOps door…
- If you’re a developer– talk to your SRE, if you’re an SRE– talk to your developer. – Josh
- Be as involved as possible, learn on your own. When you don’t understand something, read up on it and execute on it. – Norm
- Take the work that nobody wants to do, like the low to mid hanging fruit, and try to show value grinding on the stuff no one wants to do – Joe
- Don’t be afraid to break things. That doesn’t only apply to the code you are writing, the build chain, but also how you are getting it out there. And always automate. – Mitch
- Be a lifelong learner. Think about what technologies may be important in the future and be a little ahead of the curve in picking it up. CI/CD is a great place to start that straddles both sides – Brian
If you’ve made it this far – kudos! Thank you for reading along and hope you get to listen as well. Want us to cover a specific topic? Have questions for the group? Email us at email@example.com.
See you on the next stream – MOO!
About the author
Minami (Coirin) Rojas
Minami leads Digital Growth at Moogsoft. She's been a proven leader with experience optimizing B2B SaaS scaled revenue through web and self-service online acquisition channels. Outside of the business world - amateur photographer, travel lover, and mini-daschund dog mom.