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Decoding Devops

Decoding DevOps for the Marketer

September 26, 2017 - Content Marketing, DevOps, Marketing - ,
By: Chris Riley

Marketing to nerds has its pros and cons. Pro: When they like you, they REALLY like you. Con: They believe marketing is the root of all evil. While they claim that marketing does not work on them, they are very sensitive about potentially being the last to know and tinker with new technology. They do respond to marketing campaigns, but your company’s relationship with them matters just as much. As a marketer, you need to understand what they are talking about and why.

Chances are you are already technically minded if you are or plan to be part of a marketing team with a DevOps tool vendor. But no matter how technically inclined you are, marketing is not DevOps, and the target moves fast.  Therefore, you need to frame the market so that you can respond to it accurately. So let’s leverage Automic’s recently launched Continuous Delivery Map as a starting point to navigate and decode the DevOps landscape.

Nerd-in-a-box

Great resources like Automic’s map come out from time to time. A few years ago, another viral hit was the periodic table for DevOps from XebiaLabs. These graphics are useful to visualize and deliver high-level information about many of the DevOps tools available in the market, as well as the categories they belong in. However, I would estimate that they capture maybe 50%-70% of what is actually there, and they are old the day after they are published. So their true value is in how they frame the market—as an important first step in understanding the highly fragmented DevOps landscape.

That is why we want to focus on the categories and not the individual tools. On Automic’s map, these are:

  • Cloud/IaaS/PaaS
  • Middleware
  • Continuous Integration
  • RS Automation (Remote Server Automation)
  • Artifact Repository
  • Continuous Configuration Automation
  • Source Control Management
  • Deployment Automation
  • RDBMS
  • Release Coordination
  • ARA (Application Release Automation)
  • DB CD (Database Continuous Delivery)
  • NoSQL
  • Test Automation
  • Package Managers
  • Containerology
  • Messaging & Collaboration
  • Project Issue Tracking
  • Toolchain Orchestration

… This is a lot of categories. Automic’s expansion exposes many generations of software delivery tools. But the good news is they can be consolidated into seven.

  • Release Automation: How you get the code out the door
  • Testing and Code Quality: How you make sure your code doesn’t suck
  • Infrastructure Orchestration: How you get a computer to run your code on
  • Backends: How your app stores data
  • Collaboration: How the team works together
  • Frameworks and APIs: Pre-built code you incorporate into your app
  • Monitoring and Analytics: How you track and respond to how your app and infrastructure run

For example, ARA was a precursor to Continuous Integration. Additionally, many of the categories refer to infrastructure. And because infrastructure technology is changing so rapidly, there is no issue in grouping them into one category.

Besides all the categories and their associated lingo, the nice thing is that they only speak to three key personas.

  1. DevOps Engineer or Equivalent, Site Reliability Engineer, and Quality Engineer. Yes, they’re all the same person. The titles are a bit nebulous in the work actually done, and they are all participants in building the pipeline. These are the implementers of release automation, orchestration, and some testing and code quality tools. They are the creators and maintainers of the pipeline (aka software delivery chain). They are not coders, but can code. They tend to be strategic, believe in “automate everything,” and are pragmatic about assimilating new tools.
  2. The Coder. Coders like to understand all technology. They are responsible for testing, backends, and code quality. They also leverage a lot of other tools to do their jobs, such as frameworks and APIs. The idea of shift left—having the developer take on more testing and infrastructure, can be both a threat and a blessing to them. They get along well with the DevOps engineer, and love playing with new tech. But they always lead with open source, and are very critical of marketing.
  3. Ops. The Ops department in any organization can decide to facilitate or block DevOps adoption. They are afraid of losing power. They want the marketers to tell them it will be okay, and that by adopting new tools they can actually maintain control by doing less work, and get developers off their backs. They have a good relationship with DevOps—not so great with developers. They are much more welcoming of classic marketing.


Winning them over

Automic does a really good job with detail, and defining each of their categories. However, what is important to know when working with their personas is to focus on workflow. Improving workflow is the value vendors provide. You can and must learn the lingo on the fly, such as Kubernetes (an orchestration thing), Selenium (a testing thing), and containers (an infrastructure thing). But how they fit together is more important than lingo-dropping. The key goal each has is shipping code more frequently, and faster, at a higher quality. This is a never-ending goal. The pain is that shipping code is always too slow, and there is a lot of time spent on tasks that are not at all related to development. With DevOps, this is always the problem—It’s never fast enough, or the quality is not high enough. Each new generation of tools just makes things slightly better. Here are some high-level tactics to play to each persona:

DevOps Engineer: They want to provide stable infrastructure to developers faster. And they want to focus on making their pipeline more robust, and ideally with more test automation that does not slow processes down. They like webinars, blogs, and case studies.

Coder: Tread carefully. Make friends with them showing that you are credible and imparting value to the market, not just that you have a product. Have a self-service trial, and awesome documentation. They like blogs that contain code.

Operations: They fear developers will break infrastructure and introduce vulnerabilities. They prefer middle-of-the-funnel content that creates justification, and builds confidence in modern technology and processes. They lean towards technology such as monitoring, analytics, and security that protects the environment and makes it stable. They like whitepapers, webinars, and eBooks.

And now, here is the Lingo Cheat Sheet you need today to sound awesome:

Continuous Integration, Delivery, Deployment: The processes that move code. Each one is connected to how far it gets in the delivery chain automatically when code is created, before it’s checked manually. Integration makes it to testing, delivery makes it to final release approval, and deployment goes directly to the end user.

Orchestration: Automating with code the creation and tear down of infrastructure (computers).

Kubernetes: An open source tool out of Google that brings scale to Docker containers. It competes with Mesosphere, and Docker Swarm.

Docker Containers: A new way of encapsulating code, arguably replacing virtual machines. Containers make whole applications, like Word documents.

Bots: Bots is a convoluted term, because the dominant share of voice is for chatbots. With DevOps, bots are about automation that integrates with collaboration tools, like an alerting tool that integrates into Slack and submits a Slack message when something breaks.

Serverless Code: A way of developing where you don’t think about infrastructure at all. No servers, no containers, and with very few compute resource considerations at all. Just code. Usually used for operational jobs, and basic scripting. But that might change!

And finally …

There you have it: Fixate’s ultimate guide to the DevOps persona, and framing appropriate conversations. The Fixate editorial team leverages knowledge of the market to come up with topics, lead the witness, and build relationships with nerds.

Marketing to nerds is hard. Part of the challenge is making yourself one of the cool kids without becoming a developer tomorrow. Nerds may not think they like marketing, but well-crafted content, and focus on key conversations and share of voice will break the ice, and earn you enough credibility that they will pay attention to what you offer.


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Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.

  • Anush

    great article, useful and fun to read!