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DevOps Practice
SEP 01, 2016 16:38 PM
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DevOps Practice

DevOps breaks organizational silos and thus accelerates delivery. DevOps principles apply not only for cloud and IT services but for most industries, including critical systems. Read the blog and learn from a recent case study of using DevOps methodologies in critical domains...

— Christof Ebert

DevOps is an organizational shift where instead of distributed silo-like functions cross-functional teams work on continuous operational feature deliveries. Teams thus deliver value in a faster and continuous way, reducing problems generated by miscommunication between team members and enhancing a faster resolution of problems. It obviously means a culture shift towards collaboration between development, quality assurance and operations. At Vector we have supported a number of companies on improving efficiency with DevOps and continuous delivery. Here a brief case study from a domain with high safety and security requirements.

A global supplier of critical infrastructure solutions faced overly long cycle time and high rework of delivered upgrades. The overall delivery process from development to the field took 18 months for new products and up to 3 months for upgrades thus being far too long, even in this domain. We introduced a DevOps model tailored for these specific environmental constraints. The figure below shows the eight focus areas mapped to the v-shaped lifecycle abstraction. The key change was the enhanced requirements engineering and delivery model (numbers 1 and 2 in the picture below). By running the automated tests and static and runtime analysis with every check into automatic build management, our client obtained the capability to discover defects early in the development cycle. Less changes during the feature development phase and less rework due to quality issues directly impacted ROI. Software releases became more consistent and less painful, because tests were run early and often. The company gained an overall end-to-end cycle time improvement towards 12 months for products and few days for small upgrades due to better quality and fewer changes.


DevOps principles apply to different delivery models and industries, but must be tailored to the environment and product architecture. Continuous deliveries are difficult in distributed and critical systems, such as automotive, railway or medical. Nevertheless delivery processes can be facilitated in a fast and reliable scheme, such as software over the air (OTA) upgrades in these industries show. Obviously such delivery models need dedicated architecture and hardware changes, for instance secure delivery schemes and a hot swap controller concept, where one half is operational and the other half builds the next updates which are swapped to active mode after in-depth security and verification approaches. DevOps for such critical systems is more challenging than cloud and IT services due to the dependence on legacy code and architecture, and trying to fit it into a continuous delivery approach.

Mutual understanding from requirements onwards to maintenance, service and product evolution will yield typically a cycle time improvement of 10-30% and cost reduction of up to 20%. As products and life-cycle processes vary, each company needs its own approach towards a DevOps environment, from architecture to tools and culture.



Read selected white papers on agile practices from our media-center

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Read our full article on DevOps tools and technologies in IEEE Software, May 2016



Christof Ebert is the managing director of Vector Consulting Services. He is on the IEEE Software editorial board and teaches at the University of Stuttgart and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Contact him at

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