Devops, the return of system programmers?

November 8, 2012

Here's a thought I've been turning over in my mind for a while now: in the right light, you can see the Devops movement partly as the return of system programmers, who have been out in the wilderness for a while due to the predictable trajectory of the field.

Now, I've got a limitation here in that as an outside observer, I'm not sure that I really understand what 'Devops' is. But part of it certainly seems to be an increased focus on tooling, among other high-level work. When Devops places have people who focus strongly on operational issues, those people seem to do relatively little traditional system administration and much more developing things like stats gathering daemons, graphing dashboards, and various sorts of automation systems (of course, it's possible that this is just what they talk about in public as the interesting stuff). As system-level programming this sort of thing is solidly in the old system programmer mold.

There's also another side of this. One view of the entire Devops movement for system administrators is that system administrators need to upskill themselves. A significant part of that upskilling is more or less explicitly a move into programming, and 'a system administrator who spends most of their time programming' is effectively a recreation of a system programmer (assuming that their programming is focused on system management; if not, they've become a straight developer).

Personally, I don't mind this at all. If nothing else Devops has made developing infrastructure cool again; as someone who likes programming system tools I'm all in favour of that.

(To be clear, Devops is not just the return of system programmers. It covers a lot more than that, including things that are directly against attitudes from the old days. If Devops is in part the return of system programmers, it is as a side effect of more important shifts.)

Written on 08 November 2012.
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Last modified: Thu Nov 8 01:27:34 2012
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