How are DevOps Pros Adapting to Automation?

How is automation affecting DevOps careers? That’s a pressing concern for DevOps professionals, many of whom live in fear that increasingly sophisticated software will eliminate their jobs. But a new study from Puppet suggests that automation is actually helping high-performing DevOps workers perform their tasks more efficiently.

Specifically, the study found that automated tools had taken over an average of 27 percent of high-performing DevOps workers’ testing; software had also absorbed 33 percent of their configuration management duties, 30 percent of deployments, and 27 percent of change approval processes. (For the purposes of its study, Puppet defined ‘high performers’ as those workers whose systems demonstrated increased stability, as well as narrower deployment frequency and change lead time.)

“When we compared high performers to low performers, we found that high performers are doing significantly less manual work,” stated the report accompanying the data. “With more work automated, high performers free their technical staff to do innovative work that adds real value to their organizations.”

By contrast, the survey’s “medium performers” and “low performers” did far more manual testing, deployments, and configuration management. “Medium performers do more manual work than low performers when it comes to deployment and change approval processes,” the report added, “and these differences are statistically significant.”

Medium performers tend to jump on the automation bandwagon as a way to carry out day-to-day processes while working down technical debt, which seems like a great idea—so long as those DevOps pros don’t embrace an all-new round of manual procedures to curb said debt. “Our guidance to teams at this stage is to instead begin shifting the change review process to an earlier phase of the development cycle, and to rely on peer review and automated testing rather than a review board,” the report suggested.

Even as DevOps teams rely on automation to make their jobs more efficient, technology pros as a whole still voice concern about the impact of smarter software on their jobs. Some 50 percent of current work activities are technically automatable, according to a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute, and that number seems unlikely to decrease as tech firms leverage machine learning and new A.I. platforms to build more sophisticated tools. (No wonder Americans back policies that could save more jobs from automation.)

Despite that concern, there are early signs of hope for tech pros facing the prospect of A.I. potentially taking their jobs. According to an earlier Puppet survey, many DevOps engineers who have automated much of their workload continue to pull down high salaries, suggesting that, as software takes over tasks, tech pros demonstrate their value by finding creative ways to evolve their jobs (and their business).

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