The Intrinsic Value of DevOps for the US Department of Defense
Published Jan 11 2024 07:37 AM 1,739 Views
Microsoft

DevOps is defined as the union of people, process, and technology to remove siloed roles, development, IT operations, quality engineering, and security to coordinate and collaborate to produce better, more reliable products. Every major cloud provider, Independent Software Vendor (ISV), and software consultancy has promoted this approach to reduce time to market, eliminate bugs, introduce new features rapidly, implement governance, and streamline the software development lifecycle. Microsoft has outlined the benefits of DevOps in the following online post By adopting a DevOps culture along with DevOps practices and tools, teams gain the ability to better... .

 

The challenge of cultivating a DevOps culture requires deep changes in the way people work and collaborate. The bureaucratic nature, culture, and traditional software process management of the Department of Defense (DoD) can be an inhibitor for adoption. There are signs as the various branches of the DoD are starting to introduce DevOps as a path forward not only with the adoption of cloud, but also for traditional on-premises programs. The following program  Iron Bank (dso.mil) and DSOP (af.mil) are positive sign the DoD is moving away from the traditional Waterfall process, but the change is not reflected in every program. The adoption and implementation of DevOps practices are ever more crucial as we are currently at the intersection of technology and geopolitical world events.

 

In the last three years we have witnessed the conflict in Ukraine advance the technical capabilities through automation and computer engineering to execute military objectives. The very nature of conventional war has changed and there is a term used the “transparent battlefield” where drones are playing a greater role in providing real time intelligence updates as well as first strike capabilities. 

 

At the start of the war there were various weapon systems that were introduced and heralded as “game changing” with measurable impact in shaping the battlefield. Let us take the example of modern rocket systems provided to Ukraine. The introduction had an immediate impact on the battlefield. Russian air defense missile batteries and radars systems could not properly intercept incoming attacks against their forward operating bases or military positions. Initial indicators pointed that Russian systems did not understand the incoming signatures from incoming rocket attacks. Soon after there was a slow but gradual degrading of the effectiveness of Ukrainian attacks. Interception of launches started to become more common. What changed? DevOps. The Russians learned common technical signs for an incoming strike, developed patches for their air defense systems, evaluated as well as assessed the code, and deployed the necessary patches for their systems. The Russians were able to provide an effective countermeasure during an active conflict across distributed systems within Ukraine and Russia performing out of band updates to mitigate attacks by the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians are also equally doing the same and paving the way in this methodology. This is the ethos of DevOps. When we think of DevOps, we tend to visualize a developer deploying code against a system on-premises or in the cloud. The same technical methodology can be implemented to support future war fighter efforts and advanced weapon systems.

 

As the DoD is starting to introduce more complex systems, including Space, the need for continuous system updates over low bandwidth communication has new significance. A streamlined process for continuous code improvement, resiliency, and self-healing software on an active battlefield will need to be accounted by military planners in support of the mission. Engineering a rapid recovery on the macro and micro level of systems that fail fast and heal quickly are essential in the software design, delivery, and long-term sustainment. Additional benefits of DevOps can be a force multiplier, optimize total cost of ownership, lower risk, introduce capabilities enhancements faster, lower lead time, and increasing return. Although the DoD budget presently has a significant percentage of the US Federal Budget, there may be additional pressures for leaders in the current and near future to look at ways to streamline their software development and sustainment process. This makes it imperative that organizations within the DoD begin to train staff and implement DevOps as part of their overall strategic plan. The traditional Waterfall model, change management, and promotion of code through various environments before it goes into production will need to go through a radical change across the department.

 

The goal of this article is not to promote technology to wage war, but toward building efficient and secure software within the DoD to support the various missions for the realities of the twenty first century IT landscape.

 

Recommended Readings and Videos

 

Recoding America: Why Government Is Failing in the Digital Age and How We Can Do Better
by Jennifer Pahlka

 

The DevOps Handbook, Second Edition: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, & Security in Technology Organizations

by Gene Kim

 

The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win 5th Anniversary Edition

by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, Goerge Spafford, and Chris Ruen.

 

War and Peace and DevOps – Mark Schwartz
https://youtu.be/2BM0xYfcexY

 

What the Military Taught Me about DevOps – Chris Short
https://youtu.be/TIE1rKkJWyY

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Chris Ayers and Erik Munson for both reviewing and proving edits in the formulation of this article. 

 

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‎Jan 11 2024 08:34 AM
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