How developers collapse in the cloud

It’s Tuesday morning and you’re on a Zoom call for the daily Scrum meeting. You get the usual updates on progress and roadblocks that seem to repeat themselves from project to project. However, they note that they only see these issues when it comes to public cloud development, and not more traditional development.

What are these problems and what can you do about them? And why are the problems only in cloud and hybrid development?

The first is the obvious problem: talent. To perform devops in the cloud, you need devops engineers who know how to build and use toolchains. More importantly, you need engineers who know how to build toolchains using cloud-based tools.

Some (but not many) people out there have these skills. I see many companies failing to find them and even moving developers back to traditional platforms just so they can ramp up staff. Unfortunately, that’s not a bad strategy right now.

Second, the cloud rarely has all the tools you need for most DevOps toolchains. Although we have an enormous number of Devops tools sold either by the public cloud providers or by major partners who sell Devops cloud services, about 10% to 20% of the tools you need are not present on your public cloud platform. You need to tie in another vendor’s platform, which then introduces multicloud complexity. Of course, the need for these missing tools depends on the type of application you are building.

This shortage isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be, as developer tool vendors saw the cloud computing writing on the wall and quickly filled the tool bottleneck. However, it is often impossible to find everything you need natively on your preferred provider. Devops engineers typically opt for hybrid approaches and adopt a “cloud-first” tactic. They choose tools that run natively in the cloud if they can be found, but have fallback options to other cloud providers or those dreaded on-premises systems.

Of course, this introduces more complexity into the toolchain, and as code and data flies back and forth between your cloud and other remote systems, security and reliability can become issues if you don’t have staff knowledgeable about cloud security implementations. Again, you need to hire people who understand how to operate these murky things.

I can’t throw too many stones out of my glass house. At the urging of past customers, I forcibly fitted devops into public cloud platforms before they were ready to devops. It didn’t end well.

The key lesson is that there are no free lunches in computer science. Any new avenue that appears to be more productive and less expensive — such as cloud computing consumption models — will have a lot of downsides.

The lack of tools is likely to be fixed in the relatively near future as your company is not the only one with this problem and vendors are directing more R&D dollars in this direction. As for the skills shortage, I suggest you seriously consider this option if you can wait for the right talent to power your cloud projects. Your ability to sidestep and overcome these issues will ultimately lead to success. This ability often comes from having the right people on the job site at the right time.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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