Although it offers technical and cultural mechanisms for managing rapid devtest cycles, DevOps can also create its own set of issues for its adopters, especially in areas such as security, automation of legacy and physical infrastructure and management of complex SDN and NFV orchestration. Moreover, these challenges can be particularly pronounced for carriers that are looking to emulate the practices of cloud-native giants but have less experience with innovation by way of DevOps.
Examining a few of the challenges of carrier DevOps
With traditional revenue streams such as voice and SMS under growing pressure from IP-based services such as VoIP and rich messaging (Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, among others, have dipped their toes in these waters), there certainly has never been more incentive to switch from a traditional waterfall model to an agile process. To this end, the combination of SDN, NFV, white box hardware and DevOps methodology and toolchains can move carriers towards a reality of dozens of software deploys per day, as well as dynamic, automated and admin-free development and test infrastructure that contribute to business agility.
As we noted, though, taking up DevOps can be difficult at first because it is such a profound shift from historical carrier practices - namely, the organizational siloing of development and operations - that originated in the days of yearly releases and distribution via physical media. The organization must adjust to much faster cycles and more frequent releases, while still meeting the needs of a large consortium of stakeholders maintaining overall service quality.
On the IT infrastructure side, setup of hybrid labs for development and testing as well as implementation of IaaS that supports network topologies is crucial in this move toward carrier DevOps. Yet, many cloud management platforms still only support compute concepts, often making them unsuitable for automating the hybrid infrastructure that is carrier.
Security, automation and DevOps: Examples of overcoming difficulties with DevOps
Let's go outside the carrier realm for a bit and look at security's general relationship with DevOps to get a sense of both the scope of change under DevOps and how effective automation is crucial to making the movement work. Netflix may be most famous as the cord-cutter's favorite streaming service and the source of a huge slice of all IP traffic in North America, but the company's technical prowess and use of DevOps are also worthy of attention.