Insights from Puppet’s 2020 State of DevOps Report

Puppet's 2020 #StateofDevOpsReport

Since the first release of the publication in 2011, Puppet has annually surveyed professionals across the globe to examine the latest relevant DevOps trends and adoption statistics. Despite the craziness of this globally pandemic year, Puppet maintained consistency and managed to gather data from 2,400 technical personnel before releasing its report on November 12th, 2020.

Puppet’s aim with the State of DevOps Report is to survey, collect, and analyze the growth of DevOps and its development in the tech industry while supporting any findings with statistical data analysis.

Given the increasing complexity of today’s cloud environments, these Report findings are more important than ever for those who are struggling to realize DevOps in practice. Implementing the DevOps’ goals of communication, collaboration, small-batch releases, and continuous practices of delivery; integration; learning; and improvement can seem analogous to the search for the Holy Grail. 

As the Report states, “Pivoting to a new way of doing things requires leadership support, organizational discipline, and a ton of collaboration and alignment across every layer of the organization.” It identifies that complex process legacies are as challenging to overcome as legacy applications are to streamline. 

The good news is that it is possible, as demonstrated by the high-level performing organizations the Report covers and we can all learn from other companies’ successes. The Report captures the current trending ideology of DevOps and provides useful, practical guidance for those of us who are in the trenches that combines survey statistics with real-world scenarios. 

Failure to Meet Full DevOps Potential

One core finding that remains consistent with each year is that many global organizations are still not yet maximizing the potential of DevOps and realizing the benefits of the methodology to its fullest. 

The good news is that of the businesses and tech professionals who were surveyed, the Report highlights that most organizations are reaching the middle stages of their DevOps adoption. The bad news is the data seems to show a progressive stagnation once there. 

The Report shares that the vast majority of firms (79%) are “mid-level” on their DevOps evolutionary scale, but the number of those leveling up to high-level DevOps evolution is minor.  

Source: Puppet 2020 State of DevOps Report

For those who are still mired in middle ground struggles, it’s structural processes that are mitigating further progress, not an organization’s inability to utilize certain practices. It seems many businesses are seeing bursts of DevOps success in individual projects but are struggling to reach standardization across the whole company. 

Scaling up DevOps practices from within small isolated teams and standardizing across a whole company is demonstrating itself to be the most significant challenge for any business.

High-level DevOps practices

Whether it’s being unable to integrate security fully into the software delivery process; the lack of time standardization or technical skills preventing the creation of an internal platform; or the failure to overcome challenges around automating change management processes, many businesses seem to still be struggling to find a happy balance that realizes architecture modernization while creating space for future innovation. 

The Report’s research highlights that there are a number of best practices that mid-level DevOps businesses are not leveraging in the same manner that high-performing ones are. These include:

  • Self-service capabilities:
    • CI/CD workflows
    • Internal infrastructure
    • Public cloud infrastructure
    • Development environments
    • Monitoring and alerting
    • Deployment patterns
    • Database provisioning
    • Audit logging
  • Internal platforms that enable personnel to collaborate effectively and efficiently towards common business goals through processes and tooling optimized or built especially for internal works
  • Highly effective change management processes based on clear approval processes, significant degrees of automation, and strict risk mitigation techniques

Five-stage DevOps model

Back in 2018 (only two years but Covid has that trick of making anything pre-pandemic seem like a whole lifetime ago), self-service capabilities were already touted as a key practice in Stage 5 of the DevOps evolution model.

Linked to the data from the 2018 Report, the DevOps evolution model outlined five stages of DevOps adoption which highlighted core practices at each stage and shared a “how-to guide” to move from one stage onto the next. 

Source: Puppet 2020 State of DevOps Report

As you can see, the Fifth stage defines the provision of internal self-service resources and automated incident responses. The stage also forecasted (back in the day) that security would play an integral role in design and deployment. The most common self-service development in today’s companies is CI/CD across organizations at all levels of DevOps evolution. Both of these factors are referred to again in the 2020 Report as key findings inside high performing companies. 

Source: Puppet 2020 State of DevOps Report

Having a product-orientated mindset towards internal platforms is also a trait of highly evolved firms. These companies are almost twice as likely to think of their self-service APIs, tools, services, knowledge, and support as a product to optimize as those companies who are still in the middle of their DevOps evolution. 

And in terms of security, among surveyed companies with full security integration, 45% can reverse critical vulnerabilities within a day, while on the other hand, just 25% of those with low-security integration can reverse issues within a day.

Change management rigidity 

The other thing preventing organizations from realizing full DevOps potential? According to the Puppet Report, it is structural over technical practice: change management. Is this any more than a fear of change? Or is it a good deal more complex than that? Legacy change management processes often impede efficiency, productivity, and development with high orthodox approval steps, increased manual over automated processes, and a lack of risk mitigation. Additionally, removing silos between DevOps teams remains an ongoing work in progress for many mid-level businesses.

Companies that are empowering developers in the development process, leveraging automation to streamline workflows, and practicing advanced risk mitigation approaches are seeing a clear reduction in risk and downtime and an increase in change management effectiveness. 

Source: Puppet 2020 State of DevOps Report

Progress and evolution

There is nothing static about DevOps. Since the term DevOps was first coined in 2009, it continues to grow and advance both facets of its methodology; in both technology as well as the business/cultural side. The annual 2020 State of DevOps Report only serves to demonstrate and highlight this ongoing truism. 

In terms of the ongoing DevOps struggle many companies are still experiencing, it is no wonder that comprehensive change across companies with the DevOps framework is challenging since there is no single paradigm to model or mimic for proven success. 

So, yes, DevOps is difficult, because there are no hard and fast rules to leverage for the myriad real-world scenarios that engineers encounter. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Yet for those who are in the trenches, who doesn’t love these inherent challenges? I for one, continue to watch the evolution of DevOps with fascination both in our internal practices at Cherre and in the global arena through publications like Puppet’s 2020 State of DevOps Report. At the very least, I know I’m in for an insightful read on its release date each year.

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Stefan Thorpe

▻ VP of Engineering @ Cherre ▻ Cloud Solutions Architect ▻ DevOps Evangelist 

Stefan is an IT professional with 20+ years management and hands-on experience providing technical and DevOps solutions to support strategic business objectives.