Over my years in and around enterprise IT I have heard vendors throw out the term “single pane of glass” more times than I care to count. And it’s never actually been true. Not really. Not in the sense they meant it.
Operations personnel still wear out their Alt and Tab keys almost as fast as the swivels on their chairs. A lot of mature organizations solve much of this with automation and “API glue guns.” But these are usually custom developed, one off solutions made to patch together multiple vendors’ single pains of glass. Leaving us to doubt the possibility of this panacea at all.
In a recent conversation with Tej Redkar, Chief Product & Technology Officer at LogicMonitor I realized that maybe some of this frustration is due to the fact that we don’t even want a single pane of glass at all – at least not anymore.
Ops is Changing
As with many of the statements I make in my posts, this is a potentially obvious, deceptively simple, and yet truly powerful statement. Even if I do say so myself. So, what do I mean when I say that this thing we call ‘Ops’ is changing – and why should anyone care?
Traditionally, “IT” is a team or department that supports the day to day operation of the technology infrastructure of an organization. They typically provision and manage everything from laptops to servers, from firewalls to access points, and from Active Directory to SAP. Call all of this “IT Ops” (short for information technology operations, of course). And while these teams and the technology they work on is constantly evolving, the functions and duties are here to stay.
And so, as you might have guessed, when I say ops is changing, I’m mostly referring to the rise of “DevOps.” You probably know that the term DevOps is a combination of software development (dev) and operations (ops). But we shouldn’t conflate the operations of IT Ops with the operations of DevOps. They’re not really the same.
The New Normal
A common misconception is that DevOps is (or will be) replacing IT Ops. The fact is that they are actually separate functions. One of the best ways to understand this difference is to listen to the two groups describe “infrastructure.” For IT Ops teams, infrastructure is made up of the things that support employee productivity. Things like email, ERP, and network connectivity. While for DevOps teams, infrastructure is made up of things that support, well, application development. Things like automation servers, build management, and code repositories.
The rise of DevOps mirrors the so-called digital transformation efforts at many companies. This term ( digital transformation) is typically shorthand for the emergent concept of “application as business” – meaning that your software is your business. In possibly more eloquent language, this is the idea that “every business is a software business.” And while we’ve been talking about it for around two decades at this point, it’s becoming a reality right now.
DevOps now buys as much as IT Ops. But folks who say that DevOps (or even NoOps) will subsume IT Ops may be missing the point. This isn’t an either/or choice. They are different types of operations with different goals that form two distinct markets for IT vendors. What some have dubbed “bimodal” IT is here to stay. If anything it may expand to “trimodal” or beyond as operations technology (OT) becomes more and more sophisticated and we start to replace traditional SCADA based automation with AI driven IoT solutions (but that’s another post entirely).
This is the new normal. A world of multiple ops personas, responsible for different infrastructure stacks, with distinct sets of requirements based on varying definitions and goals of operations.
Personalized Panes of Glass
And that is what kills the myth of the single pane of glass once and for all. Not because we don’t want a single platform to monitor and manage all of the technology infrastructure supporting our entire business. But rather because that always elusive goal of a single pane of glass is dependent on the unspoken idea that there would be a single pair of eyes to monitor it. And as we’ve seen above, that is certainly not the case now, and probably hasn’t been true for years (if it ever really was).
What I really want is the perfect pane of glass for what I am doing right now, and I want it to be different when I am doing something else. Even more-so, I want a personalized pane of glass for each of the different groups and the different roles that are all simultaneously performing their flavor of operations on their level of technology infrastructure in support of my business.
The Bottom Line
Our systems and devices are multiplying as we add ever more technology to the modern enterprise. So are our definitions of what exactly infrastructure and operations entails. In response to this, individuals and teams are growing and evolving as well. And, of course, with evolution comes specialization. As DevOps, IT Ops, and OT Ops all specialize into distinct roles, they don’t need or want a single pane of glass. They need personalized panes of glass for every distinct individual role, all drawing from the same set of data and managing myriad aspects of the same underlying systems and devices.