Software Development

Is DevOps really all that?

A new study says having DevOps next to your name can add dollar figures to your salary. But is that true for everyone? And is the collaborative software development method -- which puts software developers and business operations staff side by side to build out an application or system -- equally good for the organizations using it?

Who has DevOps skills and what they earn

The guys with DevOps skill sets (and guys is definitely the right word -- of the 492 respondents, 96 percent of those who specified their gender, ticked male) are generally between the ages of 25 and 44, with a bachelor’s degree and one to six years of experience, according to Incapsula's 2014 survey, which was released last month.  The median salary was $105,600, and 48 percent of respondents received a bonus in 2014 as well.

Seventy-six percent said their salary went up the previous year, and 85 percent expected an increase the next. However, how much of a salary increase varied widely by sector -- with those working on military/defense and government projects reporting an average salary of roughly $124,000.

Across the board, though, it helped to have “DevOps” on your business card. The study found that individuals with DevOps in their title were paid more than those with just “web developer” next to their name.   

Size also matters, according to the data: Bigger DevOps teams had higher individual salaries. A formal education, on the other hand, was significantly less important in terms of how far a DevOps professional can climb the organizational ladder.

So it pays.  But does it work?

DevOps skills are undoubtedly in demand, and the approach itself is very much in fashion.  But actually making it work can be anything but easy.  As Fredric Paul noted in a recent Network World column titled "Why everyone hates DevOps," the methodology puts new pressures on all parts of an organization -- and forces business owners and software engineers to have the conversations that both sides have often been happy to avoid.  In many cases, he noted, "the whole reason people became engineers is so they wouldn't have to talk to other people."

And while DevOps may be new and innovative for larger organizations, some developers note that smaller companies have been using the method for years.

“It’s a new term, but not a new philosophy,” explained David Markle, head of the software development firm Potomac Solutions, told GCN. “Small companies have been wearing multiple hats forever. But the idea that you’re going to break down walls and involve your staff in the day-to-day some more, maybe that is something that, philosophically, bigger companies are waking up to.”

DevOps is a focal point in the federal government  these days, with 18F and the recently formed U.S. Digital Service evangelizing the practice as they work with various agencies on their IT challenges.  And DevOps and continuous delivery will be a central theme at the upcoming Management of Change conference put on by ACT-IAC, the industry-government partnership dedicated to improving government by improving IT.

Markle, however, said that if DevOps isn’t used to fit an organization's specific needs, it could go the way of agile -- the last software development buzzword. “I think it will depend on the org. For a small company, people have been doing it forever, but for larger companies, for people who enjoy being in their stovepipe, [DevOps] could be a rude awakening," he said.  "If it isn’t done correctly, and you don’t execute properly, you’re going to feel pain, and people will throw it away. People threw away agile not because the methodology was bad, but because it was executed poorly.”

Still, Markle said, DevOps could be a great way for government agencies and other large organizations to get developers to work better with other IT professionals. “I think that big companies have put up walls between ops and development, and boxes that they have to live inside, and they are finding that isn’t the most efficient way to get things done.”

The Incapsula study on DevOps and salary can be found here.

Editor's note: This article was changed May 8 to clarify the release date of the Incapsula survey.

About the Author

Suzette Lohmeyer is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.


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