Interview with Brendan O'Leary, Developer Evangelist at GitLab, on the DevOps Platform Era

“The DevOps platform is becoming increasingly accessible and user friendly”

Sarah Schlothauer
© Shutterstock / Maria_Petrishina

We spoke with Brendan O’Leary, Senior Developer Evangelist at GitLab, about the DevOps Platform Era – the fourth and final phase of DevOps adoption. Brendan discusses what helped drive DevOps adoption, what this new era means for businesses, and what will come next.

JAXenter: According to GitLab, there are four phases of DevOps adoption: Siloed DevOps, Fragmented DevOps, DIY DevOps, and finally, the DevOps Platform era. Could you explain what these each mean?

Brendan O’Leary: Today, every company is a software company, and DevOps makes that possible for businesses. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a gradual transformation in the way businesses build software, and this evolution will only continue.

In the first phase of DevOps adoption, Siloed DevOps, various teams within a business adapt their own tools and establish their own objectives. Planning, source code management, and CI/CD are broken up and disjointed, creating operational difficulties and inhibiting collaboration. To streamline this process, an organization might standardize a set of tools across an organization, but each tool is still only doing its one job – there’s still a lack of flow and overall operational friction between tools that weren’t built to consider the entire SDLC. At this point, we have Fragmented DevOps.

To remedy this, an organization may manually integrate its own DevOps point solutions. The problem with this DIY DevOps stage is that the organization eventually finds that the homegrown toolchain requires too much time, money, and attention. The entire time, the best solution was the DevOps platform, which includes every stage of the SDLC, brings together development, operations, and security teams, and allows teams to successfully plan, build, secure, and deploy software. That’s where we are today. Businesses and organizations of all kinds are beginning to see the value of the end-to-end DevOps platform.

JAXenter: We are now officially in the DevOps Platform Era—the final phase. What will this new era mean for businesses?

Brendan O’Leary: For me, that question is two-fold.

First, for businesses, this new era is an opportunity for them to improve their velocity, efficiency and security. Recent years have placed an emphasis on the need to adapt. Your organization, your products, your apps or your services should always be improving and evolving, and a scalable DevOps platform enables you to consistently deliver results as your business grows.

Second, the reason you want to get secure releases out quicker and more efficiently in the first place is because you have users and customers who expect quality, top-performing products or services. Ultimately, the adoption of the DevOps platform means added value and fewer headaches for your customers.

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JAXenter: Are you surprised by how quickly we have moved into the final DevOps adoption phase? Ten years ago, did you predict that it would come this far or did you expect adoption to still be in its early stages?

Brendan O’Leary: I think that there are some parts of DevOps adoption that have gone faster, and some parts that have gone slower than I would have originally thought. I think that by the time the term “DevOps” was coined, it was clear in our industry that we had an efficiency problem. The term really comes from a place of desperately trying to solve those problems, and so that urgency was already there. At the same time, the pace of innovation has rapidly changed since then. In 2009 when “DevOps” was coined, smartphones only accounted for a quarter of all new handset sales. That would double in two years, and then double again in another two. Uber was released for the first time in 2009, and Amazon Prime had only 2 million members. Today, Uber has 93 million users and Amazon Prime has over 200 million. That kind of acceleration happened in every industry and made the business need for DevOps transformation real and accelerated. Given that speed of innovation, I’m not surprised – in hindsight – at the need for a more cohesive, integrated platform for enterprises to adopt and benefit from DevOps.

JAXenter: What factors helped accelerate DevOps adoption?

Brendan O’Leary: A few come to mind – speed to market demands, although speed is certainly not the best measure of software success, has definitely been a force of acceleration. Also, we see heightened cybersecurity awareness driving the adoption of the DevOps platform, offering features such as full software visibility and automated testing and scanning. Many organizations have a renewed sense of responsibility for their security and the security of users in the wake of recent supply chain attacks, and we’re seeing DevOps bolster their security posture. Lastly, with new artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) and automation capabilities in code reviews and testing, the DevOps platform is becoming increasingly accessible and user friendly. AI/ML is already a driving force in making the SDLC a smoother, seamless process for DevOps teams.

JAXenter: We’ve all heard about the benefits of DevOps. But when comparing the fourth phase to the first, what are the newer benefits you’ve seen as a result of increased adoption?

Brendan O’Leary: One new benefit we’ve seen in recent years is pressure becoming a catapult for DevOps-driven innovation. With the value of technology really on display, as well as many technologies being pushed to their limits by the pandemic, supply chain shortages, and labor shortages, several GitLab customers have leveraged difficult situations or consumer pressure to deliver results. Another benefit, which we always knew but did not foresee to this extent, has been an uptick in collaboration and knowledge sharing. It may be a result of the pandemic, but people just work together differently now. There’s an openness to collaborating that suits the DevOps platform era very well.

SEE ALSO: “An automated testing program is easier to iterate on than starting from scratch”

JAXenter: Now, we look ahead to the future. There is no fifth phase of DevOps adoption – or is there? What will DevOps look like in ten years; will it be implemented by default everywhere?

Brendan O’Leary: I’ll have to get back to you on a potential fifth phase, but one thing I can assure you of is that DevOps will evolve into whatever a 10-year-older world will need. That’s the nature of DevOps and the culture around it – it’s always growing and changing. It’s likely that a majority of businesses will adopt a DevOps platform in the next couple of years. I wouldn’t say default, but I do already see businesses tracking toward a certain standard.

JAXenter: Speaking of 10 years—GitLab recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of its first commit. Congratulations! It’s been a long journey. What are you most proud of in those ten years?

Brendan O’Leary: There are a few things I’m proud of. For GitLab the company, I am most proud of our values, and how much we talk about them. Those values have guided our decisions as we’ve grown and allowed us the privilege of being a model for companies who want to build transparently, work remotely, and give their employees the benefit of fitting work into their lives rather than their lives into their work. For The DevOps Platform, I think I’m most proud of our mission – everyone can contribute. That mission has allowed us to co-create The DevOps Platform in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if we only thought of ourselves – it brings the best that folks from all over the globe have to offer to bear on the hard problems of our time.

Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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