DevOps in telecoms: The ROI of an integrated approach

Responsiveness drives the success of any company which provides IT services, solutions or products. The faster an enterprise can analyze customer feedback, use that input to apply meaningful software changes and deploy the application to production, the better that business will perform in the market. 

The same principle applies to telcos offering cloud computing and connectivity solutions. That's why DevOps is such a powerful approach in this space: DevOps offers telcos the chance to enhance their responsiveness and gain a competitive advantage across the telecommunications industry. The strategy produces return on investment by reducing downtime, decreasing infrastructure costs and enabling personnel to contribute more value to operations – assuming staff are following DevOps best practices.

Defining DevOps best practices 

Just like any operational strategy, DevOps may be poorly implemented. Which practices should companies follow in order to benefit from DevOps? To be fair, identifying the the optimal methods for DevOps implementation is a topic of much debate among developers, system administrators, project managers and other stakeholders, given that the approach is in its adolescence. Overall, most would agree that businesses should apply the following principles when rolling out DevOps:

  1. Create a shared tool strategy: Procure resources that enable your operations, development and quality assurance teams to collaborate. 
  2. Manage integrated configurations: Developers and infrastructure personnel must be able to map the effects their configurations have on the enterprise as a whole.
  3. Automate testing: Dr. Dobbs noted developers should take a page from agile teams, which often adhere to test-driven deployment strategies. 

What are the results of applying these principles? How will DevOps benefit telcos both fiscally and operationally? 

DevOps practitioners report faster application and service deployment. DevOps practitioners report faster application and service deployment.

Fewer ad-hoc tasks, more automation, better security and more innovation

Developing services and maintaining the infrastructure on which they operate is complicated, especially in nationwide businesses with isolated teams. A waterfall-like approach to development increases each team's dependency on other groups. For example, sysadmins often rely on network administrators to configure networks before running instances. However, departmental silos may prevent these professionals from communicating frequently. Such is not the case with DevOps, which removes conventional team-based production processes in favor of continuous collaboration. 

Companies implementing DevOps generally report that they can better maintain product quality without dedicating more resources to the endeavor. Puppet's 2016 State of DevOps Report found that high-performing companies adhering to DevOps practices reduced the amount of time they spent on ad-hoc work and rework by 22 percent. In addition, companies within that same segment spent 50 percent less time resolving security problems than "low performing" IT teams. "High performing" groups were those that were capable of: 

  • Executed on-demand deployments consistently.
  • Took less than an hour to recover from a service incident.
  • Spent less than an hour applying changes to services or applications.

Bear in mind that these benefits do not apply to all DevOps practitioners. Rather, the "high performing" segment succeeded in applying DevOps best practices. 

DevOps as a business opportunity 

Once they've implemented DevOps within their own organizations, telcos find themselves in an advantageous position: They can participate in their clients' own DevOps initiatives. Networking isn't exempt from the principles DevOps introduces, especially given that many applications are delivered via cloud services. For instance, to help its customer meet peak consumer usage, a telco could automatically allocate networking resources through an operational support system to provision the necessary bandwidth. 

The long and short of it is that there's ROI to be had from DevOps, but telcos must apply the principles associated with the approach effectively. Those with staff who have little experience with DevOps should consider the merits of working with consultants who are experienced with both the concepts and practices associated with DevOps. Doing so will reduce some of the growing pains of the transition from conventional development and operations relationships to DevOps cohesion.