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Tech spending priorities to shift with DevOps transition

IT organizations should get ready to cede some budgetary control to business units, as software -- and software developers -- become key agents of commerce.

Memo to IT organizations: Prepare to have the budget rug pulled out from under you.

As software takes over the world and the DevOps transition intensifies, business units and the developers that create products for them will increasingly seize control of technology purchasing decisions from IT organizations, according to industry observers.

While IT organizations won't completely lose control, IT practitioners should be aware of the changing dynamics as the data center and DevOps evolve.

More spending power outside central IT

Just 17% of IT spending is controlled outside of the IT organization as of this year, according to a report issued by analyst firm Gartner last month. That represents a significant decline from 38% of IT spending controlled outside of the IT organization in 2012.

But by 2020, Gartner predicted that "large enterprises with a strong digital business focus or aspiration" will see business unit IT spending increase to 50% of enterprise IT spending.

Moreover, by 2021, large enterprises where 75% or more of transformation initiatives are funded by the central IT budget will not innovate fast enough to keep up with the market, the report predicted.

At the same time, shadow IT and cloud computing will steadily erode the power and control IT organizations have enjoyed over the last four years, according to Joan Wrabetz, CTO of QualiSystems Ltd., a test automation software vendor based in Santa Clara, Calif.

"So far, the majority of our customers are outside of 'ops,'" Wrabetz said. Some IT organizations do use the company's products, she added, "because they see that not all IT needs can fit into the traditional production governance and control model."

Other software makers echo this perception of customer spending trends, saying more and more of their sales are driven by developers as key decision makers, rather than IT ops pros.

There's a big shift going on in control, power and influence … Now, [developers] have more of a role in how products are delivered and operated.
Owen Garretthead of products, NGINX

"There's a big shift going on in control, power and influence, particularly in Web companies," said Owen Garrett, head of products for NGINX Inc., which makes load balancing and Web server software. "Now, [developers] have more of a role in how products are delivered and operated."

This is also the case at service providers such as Swisscom, where the line of business and developers increasingly drive purchasing decisions, according to Stephan Massalt, vice president of cloud for the Swiss platform as a service provider.

Given the rise of public cloud computing, it's easier for the business to get the technology and services they want somewhere else if they don't get it internally, Massalt said. "If developers cannot get [what they want] inside their company, they will just go to a public cloud provider and use a credit card."

New tools reflect IT spending shift

The industry already is reacting to this shift in spending control, with products that are more tailored toward line of business and app developers to minimize the manual management of underlying infrastructure.

"If you look at any of the tools that have been designed in the last couple of years with regard to the build and release space, they're almost all targeting developers now," said Don Luchini, senior software engineer for an energy management software company on the East Coast.

Jenkins 2.0 is one example of such a product: With the introduction of Pipeline as Code, developers can manage continuous integration and continuous delivery from source control. "Source control is what developers work with all day," Luchini said.

The industry also is starting to go toward tools such as HashiCorp's Consul, which allows developers to manage infrastructure completely on their own, with significantly reduced need for IT operations because it manages so much of the workflow.

Thanks to emerging tools, such as Google's Kubernetes, and the rise of public cloud computing, developers now can use their increased spending power to circumvent the need for IT ops entirely at some organizations, pointed out Mark Betz, a software engineer with 20 years' experience in the industry who most recently worked for a startup called iCitizen in Nashville, Tenn.

"With Kubernetes, you literally could run one command, spin up all the hardware, spin up all the software, deploy the containers, set up the networking rules and I'd be able to curl a microservice and get JSON back," Betz said.

IT ops: Follow the money

Thus, even where IT ops or DevOps specialists remain responsible for the deployment of software onto infrastructure, their career path is increasingly beginning in an app development department, because knowledge of how these comprehensive app dev and infrastructure automation products work is becoming essential.

Take John Gildenzoph, DevOps engineer for Total Administrative Services Corp., a third-party benefits administration firm in Madison, Wis. The company is increasingly looking for people to fulfill ops roles, but most will probably come from the app development, as he did.

"Everything downstream is affected by that development cycle, so how you perform that development cycle and how things are packaged and delivered is a very crucial aspect, and it's going to influence how your operations team works," Gildenzoph said. "I think having that deep understanding is a huge benefit, and I would expect our operations team to form out of our dev group."

At companies such as Sqor Sports, a sports social network startup based in San Francisco, every IT employee is a developer, according to Noah Gift, CTO for Sqor.

"That's pretty much been our mindset from the very beginning," Gift said. "We just don't want employees who are doing manual things."

Tech company management is increasingly seeking the "full-stack developer," rather than separate specialists to take on different IT roles.

At Appfire, for example, a company which builds software extensions for Atlassian products, about 30% of job openings seek full-stack engineers.

"That resource pool is small ... but four or five years from now, if you're a software engineer coming out of any school, any program, undergrad or graduate level, you understand the full stack," said Randall Wood, co-founder and CEO of Appfire.

So, how can IT operations retain control and add value? Find out in part two of this story.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.  

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