DevOps / Software Development

Continuous Operations is the Unsung Hero of DevOps

23 Jun 2022 8:32am, by

Chip Childers
Chip Childers is chief architect at Puppet by Perforce. Previously, Childers cofounded the Cloud Foundry Foundation, where he worked as chief technology officer for over five years before taking over as executive director. Earlier in his career, Childers was vice president of product strategy at CumuLogic. He led SunGard’s Enterprise Cloud Services and became the first vice president of Apache CloudStack, a platform he helped drive. Childers’s background also includes rebuilding mission-critical applications for organizations such as the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Mint, Merrill Lynch and SEI Investments.

If I wrote an article about continuous delivery, most technology professionals could dive right in without looking up the term. But what about continuous operations? For a component of the DevOps life cycle that is so deeply entrenched in our day to day, I’m amazed this term doesn’t have better name recognition.

Gartner defines continuous operations as “one element of 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week” processes, and indeed, it is a quintessential part of that DevOps loop we all know and love. Continuous operations enable an ops team to rest assured that, once they configure their infrastructure, it will remain in its desired state.

For continuous operations to be successful, you must have infrastructure automation in place. In fact, continuous operations cannot exist without infrastructure automation. The true value that arises from the combination of infrastructure automation and continuous operations is that it gives back IT operations teams their time so they can focus on more complex reasoning or problem-solving tasks while the system simply continuously scans and fixes errors.

Continuous Operations vs. Continuous Delivery

You could reframe “continuous operations” as “continuous delivery of infrastructure,” though that only works if your infrastructure is entirely programmatic. If you’re using public cloud and Infrastructure-as-Code, then your infrastructure changes will follow that continuous delivery model. But if you’re dealing in hardware, you’re focused on making physical things go whir — and continuous operations just looks different.

On-premises environments were not designed with the virtual concept of a pipeline in mind. As any IT operator knows, the real world tends to interact with you in more surprising ways — memory gets corrupted, solar flares hit — so you must have a system in place to continuously find and fix your infrastructure to return it to its desired state.

But finding and fixing only goes so far — what about predicting and preventing? In my opinion, that is the next chapter of continuous operations.

The Future of Continuous Operations

The very essence of DevOps is constant change. Continuous operations may ultimately return your infrastructure to its desired state, but philosophically, it’s about being able to quickly and securely identify anomalies, apply fixes and modify your infrastructure as quickly as possible. It’s not as simple as flipping a switch or pushing a line of code.

As the demand for security and compliance swells, continuous operations will have to build in these elements to be de facto checkboxes in the loop. At Puppet, we’ve baked continuous compliance and security into our infrastructure automation products to ensure continuous operations are indeed continuous.

The DevOps life cycle is predicated on feedback loops, and continuous operations is a crucial element of that loop. As the concept permeates further, I believe we’ll see more organizations become more sophisticated about it, adding prediction and prevention to the continuous operations model.

Puppet Enterprise solves the problems of continuous operations in exceedingly complex and heterogeneous environments. Puppet supports the broadest range of infrastructure and enables through tooling the ability to build continuous operations solutions.

Feature image via Unsplash