As career buzzwords go, you’d struggle to find one that trumps DevOps judging by the number of conferences, software tools and books flooding the market.
DevOps certainly seems to offer plenty of opportunities, straddling, as it does, disciplines across technology and management from building and managing apps to running and provisioning infrastructure, managing service levels and relationships with suppliers to IT delivery.
But for ambitious, career-hungry techies planning their next move, the question remains: how much of a genuine demand for DevOps specialists is there? Is this buzzword here for the long term destined to become part of the mainstream IT or more of a flash in the pan? And what the heck does it actually mean in terms of the kinds of roles on offer, the salaries they demand and the kinds of skills you would be expected to possess?
Chef Software’s EMEA technical practice manager and consulting director, Mandi Walls, argues that the rise of the digital economy has put IT departments almost everywhere under unprecedented pressure to move faster and deliver software and services that drive business value. This, she argues, means DevOps is here for the long term.
“Yet software and staffing budgets are not growing significantly. So to do more with less, without burning out your people, you’ve got to do things differently, you need cultural change and new tools: you need DevOps,” Walls said.
Gartner last year found IT organisations that had chosen not to pursue DevOps were in the minority. Sixty-one per cent of organisations it surveyed claimed they were already using DevOps or had pilots in place, or that they had plans to implement DevOps during the next 24 months. Respondents cited improving time to production, business value and IT cost savings as the top three drivers for adoption.
The bottom line is: it’s incredibly important that companies are able to develop, and deploy software at scale, faster and more easily and that requirement is translating into demand for individuals who possess an increasingly broad range of skills - cross-skilled, full stack engineers with exposure to multiple tools across the spectrum of cloud delivery.
On company with a healthy software and systems development and delivery team is Expedia.
The travel site’s director of technology, Jonas Olofsson, reckoned what we call DevOps today may change but the fundamentals will remain in place. “How it’s named may change but the tooling we have today with containers, cloud etc. makes it very important that developers and operations work together,” Olofsson told The Reg. “It’s competitively advantageous and could be differentiating for companies, in particular to ship features quickly to enable A/B testing for instance.”
The founder and chief executive of continuous delivery expert Cloudbees, Sacha Labourey, agrees: “Companies now realise that a big chunk of their value comes from software. IT needs to follow the same drum beat as the business and creating smaller deliverables at a higher pace. DevOps is part of that movement and the process of getting teams more closely aligned and having a more fluid process from source code to production.”
But, you could reasonably counter, they would say that, wouldn’t they? Cloudbees, Chef – even Expedia – are already either in the game or, especially when it comes to the vendors, have an agenda to push.
Somebody offering an arguably more independent point of view would be a recruiter.
James Milligan, a director at one just recruiter - Hays IT – reckons the past year has seen the pace of recruitment for DevOps-type jobs not just increase but also grow up, representing some kind of stability.
Milligan told The Reg recruitment has passed the boundaries of the agile, relatively unstructured environment associated with a startup, as large companies recognise the business benefits the approach can bring. DevOps can now be found in IT teams across nearly all industries, although the job opportunities are most prevalent in industries where consumers expect on-demand digital access to goods and services, including gaming, financial services, telcos and retail.
Initially, when the idea of DevOps entered the commercial environment, the job title associated with this position was an Agile Systems Administrator. As it has increased in popularity and moved into the mainstream, however, the job titles have changed. Milligan says current job demand around DevOps is commonly around Site Reliability Engineer, Server Reliability Engineer and the rather functional Systems/Software Engineer role, although the term “DevOps Engineer” is definitely a job title that is being used more and more.
Olofsson says more and more software engineering teams are also now venturing into DevOps. “Job opportunities include Cloud Engineers and Software Engineers, both roles which focus on container management solutions. The ‘Application Engineering’ role within Expedia focusses on this area in particular,” he says.
Expanding demand in a field so new is creating the inevitable double-headed problem – or opportunity, depending on where you sit. The first, according to Gartner, is skills shortage.
Gartner warns those doing the hiring that when it comes to adoption, finding people with the requisite skills tops the list of DevOps adoption challenges – in fact, people issues outweigh most other challenges the analyst warns. In particular, resistance to change, skills gaps and a failure to collaborate topping the list of people gripes.
Following on from that is the fact salaries have gone through the roof. Anecdotal evidence suggests that recruitment for DevOps roles has gone through the roof, with supply of DevOps people struggling to keep up with demand. Although it says the average advertised salary for the "DevOps Engineer" role increased by 6.3 per cent £127,353 to £135,396, insiders suggest a more realistic salary bracket for DevOps engineers is probably somewhere between £40-65k – rising to £70-80k for DevOps heads.
Although pay levels for DevOps experts vary massively depending on role and experience, as a rule of thumb experts describe it as an area that’s offers "competitive plus" compensation. According to job site CV-Library, the number of DevOps Engineers vacancies skyrocketed in 2015 increasing 144 per cent over the previous 12 months, the second highest increase across all IT job titles.
Finding good people “remains a challenge,” Labourey says. That challenge is founded on a growing demand that suggests DevOps is becoming embedded in IT’s mainstream. And that's got to be good for you. ®
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