I would be naive to suggest that the DevOps market will be any more volatile than last year or the year before. DevOps (or more broadly, the application development tooling market) has always been a rollercoaster. Technologies can come and go in a month, open source tools may become so good that they replace entire categories of paid tools, and adoption occurs with extreme peaks and valleys. So there is no reason to expect that 2018 will be any different. However, 2018 brings a new twist, and with that comes new angels to get your DevOps solution noticed.
Trends that will impact adoption in 2018
There are some big trends that will impact adoption in 2018. Here they are, in what I consider the order of impact:
- Serverless Code. 2018 is the year of serverless code, and people are going to get very serious about partially deploying cloud functions to augment new application functionality. I think we will see a few small use cases of entire applications being built with AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, or Google Cloud Functions. More, however, we will see lots of examples of companies using serverless to introduce or test new app functionality, and people starting to think about how to architect their applications in an event-driven way to support 100% serverless apps. It’s apparent that infrastructure tooling wants to join the conversation. With tools like Kubeless, there is an attempt to build serverless functionality into traditional infrastructure tooling. This is particularly interesting, because over the long term, they are competitive. So the serverless conversation will be evergreen, and participation in it will be less tactical, and more focused on showing up, answering questions or addressing speculation, and riding the hype.
- Kubernetes. Kubernetes will continue to be the one tool that dominates the vast majority of all DevOps conversations, and it does not seem that this trend is going to slow. All of the tools that ride Kubernetes’ coattails are part of the trend, too—specifically, other tools that are now part of Cloud-Native foundation (CNCF). There are already so many, and there will be more—plus new service mesh technologies, with projects like linkerd and istio.
- Security. In mid-2017, we saw an upswing in both consideration of and conversations about application security. One point of conflict is the number of names for it—e.g., AppSec, SecOps, DevSecOps, Rugged DevOps, etc., etc. In 2018, this trend will continue. What is going to be interesting is just how the legacy security vendors address the issue. This will increase the volume of the participants in the security conversation. As modern application architectures become more common, and the annual increase in hacks keeps everyone on edge, security is going to be a big portion of DevOps. Now that we are moving fast with more modern applications, how do we make sure we are safe, and don’t lose our jobs?
- Adoption Maturity. DevOps is becoming boring (finally). For anyone who is opportunistic, and embraces that they can always do better with their application development practices, they already know what DevOps is and see that in 2018, we have finally gone from talking about something cool to actually doing it. People are decomposing monoliths. Net new applications are built with microservices and containers. This adoption maturity will mean that conversations are going to be more focused on tactics, and less focused on sex appeal. Companies that focus primarily on bottom-up adoption should consider looking at more enterprise marketing efforts in product marketing, and sales enablement.
- Container-Native. New tooling is being built on the assumption of microservices and containers. So the next generation of Application Performance Monitoring (APM) tools like Instana and LightStep are being built container-native. They run on containers, and they support only container architectures. This means that nearly everywhere DevOps is mentioned, containers are as well.
- Tool Attrition. I believe that in 2018, many tools will disappear, and there will be a lot of acquisitions. It’s already begun with SolarWinds’ acquisition of darling monitoring tool loggly. Many of the early DevOps tools are now two years old and hitting the critical point where they must make money, or need to have a roadmap to justify raising more rounds of funding. And it’s not going to be just the little guys. A few giants in 2018 also stand a good chance of vanishing, or being acquired for pennies because the clock has run out.
Breaking through the noise
Unless you can synthesize all these varied conversations and topics into something of value, it’s really just noise—and the path to success requires producing high-impact content that focuses it all. Traditional marketing campaigns are important, but they’re often just adding to the noise. Breaking through the noise means catching your target audience’s attention with something that adds value. Here is what we recommend:
- Develop a relentless persona focus. Don’t try to sell to all techies. Find the low-hanging fruit. (This includes high converters, and personas that attain the most value from your solution.)
- Speak their language. Buzzwords fly over most techies’ heads, for one simple reason—They have seen them so much that they get buzzword blindness. Speak the language they speak everyday and address their problems.
- Focus on high-value content. Bring in more campaigns around practitioner content marketing, and creation of assets that impart real value. With practitioner marketing, show the market that you can talk to their exact needs, with their peers leading the way. This means you care about what they do. With assets, you are expected to align your product with the message in the asset, but give them something they can walk away with and execute.
- Get over your bad self. In this market, and especially with technical founders, it’s not uncommon for tech startups to see their product as life-changing. You might be part of a bleeding edge market. And you might think you are the first and only product of your kind. But the market is relatively easy to enter, and “modern” eventually becomes “old.” Don’t give yourself a short runway to success by pretending you are changing the world. You aren’t. The collective of the DevOps movement is. Being real and solution-focused will help practitioners take the next step with your technology in a way that ensures long-term adoption, not just a quick hit of cool.
With each new year, the application development tooling market is increasingly fragmented and frantic. 2018 won’t be any different, but there is a twist that is worth paying attention to. Maturity, modern architectures, and containers are going to be the essence of all content, with serverless leading the path of disruptive technology and approaches. What you do around these trends and approaches will help you stand out in the DevOps market in 2018.