“DevOps” washing…

I work for the professional services division of a company that is mostly a storage reseller. (VAR)

What this means is there is often a desire to package up services that people like me can provide along with the hardware that we sell. The professional services side is often a nice add on. Think of this as a short-form of a sales pitch:

“I tell you what. If you buy the blade-center, storage and VMware license through us, you’ll get our bulk discount from the list prices and we’ll toss in a week of “jumpstart” team training from our licensed professional trainers.”

It works fairly well. I have a strong sysadmin and programming history, and the other folks on my team are all strong players. I am often augmenting companies to do something difficult that they don’t do often: array migrations, implementation of virtualization, automation of processes, integration of systems, etc.

So basically, I’m a DevOps engineer for hire.

Whenever you have a cool new idea or concept, like “DevOps” or “cloud” or “Agile” or “Extreme” or … you get the idea, there is a tendency for people to want to jump on the bandwagon.

When I was at DevOps days in Silicon Valley, one of the keynotes commented about wanting to avoid “DevOps washing.” Which is where people brand everything “DevOps” and sell it as “the new thing.”

Imagine the mix of reactions that hit me when this grade-A raw version of the idea landed in my mailbox. A sales-lead sent the following out to the various professional service heavies:

Could/Should we try to put together productized Dev Ops in the box platform (hardware/software with minimal to no customization), that would/could support multi-tenant environment – as in, same company but people working on different projects (or clients) that can’t touch each other and have no inter dependencies.

For a while I mused on how to react to this. For a lot of things that bridge areas of expertise (sales vs tech is a good example) I often find a good metaphor helps.

The one I though of was “Zen.” He just wrote and email that said, “I want to sell Zen in a box.” And I need to explain to him that while you can sell a rock garden, rakes, gongs, robes, prayer wheels, and even a whole monastery, you can’t “sell” someone Zen. Zen is a collection of beliefs, priorities and actions. You can TEACH Zen.

And even worse, if you advertise you are selling “Zen in a box” it outright labels you as not knowing what you are doing.

I’m curious? Can you think of a better way of plainly explaining that DevOps is not a product that can or should be sold as a line item? And telling them to “read the Phoenix Project” doesn’t suffice as a serious answer?

I really hate using “Zen” as an example to explain with because of the religious overtones. Is there a better way to state this?

Leave a Response