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InfoQ Homepage Articles InfoQ DevOps and Cloud Trends Report – July 2023

InfoQ DevOps and Cloud Trends Report – July 2023

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Key Takeaways

  • Cloud innovation has transitioned from a revolutionary phase to an evolutionary one, focusing on migrating and re-architecting workloads. The cloud space has evolved toward providing on-demand access to scalable resources and managed services, emphasizing simplifying interactions and reducing cognitive load for teams.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Large Language Models (LLMs) may play a significant role in the domains of cloud and DevOps by addressing cognitive overload and supporting tasks like instant management, ticketing systems, and code generation. Major cloud providers like Microsoft, Google, and AWS have integrated AI into their products and services, showcasing the industry’s investment in AI technology.
  • Low-code and no-code domains are impacted by AI-based and ChatGPT-like products, offering collaboration opportunities between business users and software engineering teams.
  • Platform engineering is evolving toward simplification and value delivery, adopting a platform-as-a-service mindset. The role of platform engineering teams is shifting from complex infrastructure management to becoming service providers focused on user satisfaction and value creation. Observability, financial aspects, and sustainability considerations are becoming integral to platform engineering.
  • OpenTelemetry is widely adopted for collecting metrics and event-based observability data, becoming the de facto standard in the industry. Its standardized nature encourages optimization and innovation among vendors.
  • The focus on sustainability and green computing drives architectural choices toward efficiency and minimizing carbon footprints. Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) teams are crucial in analyzing environmental impact and promoting sustainability initiatives.

The InfoQ Trends Reports provide InfoQ readers with an opinionated high-level overview of the topics we believe architects and technical leaders should pay attention to. In addition, they also help the InfoQ editorial team focus on writing news and recruiting article authors to cover innovative technologies.

In addition to this report and the updated DevOps and Cloud InfoQ trends graph, an accompanying podcast is available that features several editors and friends of InfoQ discussing these trends.

Updates on the trends graph

More details follow later in the report, but first, it is helpful to summarize the changes from last year’s trends graph.

FinOps, the practice of managing cloud costs effectively, is moving toward the early majority of adoption. The FinOps Foundation and cloud companies like Microsoft, AWS, and Google promote adopting FinOps practices, which align with sustainability goals and optimize resource usage. Recently, Google became certified as a FinOps Certified Service Provider, and Microsoft joined the FinOps organization as a premier member.

The continued evolution of WebAssembly (Wasm) is delivering on the promise toward achieving "write once, run anywhere" in the cloud, offering reusability and interoperability across different languages and platforms. eBPF (Extended Berkeley Packet Filter) is gaining traction in areas like observability and security at the kernel level.

We have observed that the concept of generic Function as a Service (FaaS) and Backend as a Service (BaaS) is gaining traction among the "late majority." The adoption of serverless technologies and techniques has become commonplace. The statement "we are 100% serverless" no longer carries the same level of astonishment it once did, as serverless has become a mainstream approach in the industry.

Is the cloud domain moving from revolution to evolution? And is DevOps dead?

In the accompanying cloud and DevOps trends podcast discussion, the participants address the state of cloud innovation and DevOps. They agree that cloud innovation has slowed down, moving from "revolution" to "evolution". While large numbers of organizations have adopted cloud technologies, there are many enterprises that want to migrate and re-architect workloads.

As for DevOps, it is still alive but has reached a stage of stagnancy in some organizations. The concept of DevOps, which aims to provide access and autonomy to create business value, is still alive, but the implementation has faced challenges. The panelists mentioned their interest in Value Stream management to unlock DevOps’s flow and value realization.

The public cloud vendors have evolved from their original goal of providing on-demand access to scalable resources to focus more on offering managed services. This evolution has made cloud computing more ubiquitous. However, technology is changing rapidly around existing services, new business requirements are being discovered, and new challenges are emerging. Teams must balance adopting and updating technology stacks while continually delivering business value. InfoQ Lead DevOps Editor and panelist Matthew Campbell said:

Businesses want to evolve and adapt quickly as well. [...] we’re now in a phase where we’re trying to figure out how do we sustainably leverage all of the cool stuff that we’ve invented and created and all these ways of interacting with each other and move it to a place where we can innovate comfortably going forward.

In addition, cloud services are now significantly adopted throughout small and large organizations, even late adopters, and the COVID-19 pandemic was often a forcing function. For instance, the evolution of automated setup environments, such as the ability to quickly set up complete development and test environments, is now commonplace. However, challenges still exist in bridging the gap between development and operations. Identity and access management issues create a perceived boundary between the dev and ops teams.

What is the current impact of AI and LLMs on the domains of Cloud and DevOps?

The panelists discussed cognitive overload and how AI can alleviate it by addressing cognitive load limits. A specific application of AI called AIOps, which focuses on AI for IT operations, is highlighted for its effectiveness in instant management and ticketing systems. Large language Models (LLMs) have tangible benefits, such as using ChatGPT to validate information, generate teachin notes, and aid in writing and creative processes. For instance, Microsoft has integrated AI into its products and services, showcasing its significant investment in AI technology. InfoQ Lead Cloud Editor and panelist Steef-Jan Wiggers stated:

A lot of the services Microsoft offers, even something recent, the Microsoft Fabric, a complete SaaS Data Lake or Lakehouse solution they have, is thoroughly infused with AI.

Microsoft Fabric is just an example, and other public cloud providers offer AI-infused services like Amazon Sagemaker and Google’s Vertex AI and AutoML). Additional information on OpenAI can be found by following this topic on InfoQ.

How do AI-based and ChatGPT-like products impact the low-code and no-code domains?

Integrating AI into low-code tools is a business opportunity, with AI supporting business users by providing safe and valuable knowledge. This challenges previous concerns about shadow IT and encourages collaboration between product management and software engineering teams.

Furthermore, there is the idea of "ClickOps," where low-code platforms enable users to interact through clicking while generating version-controlled, declarative, and adaptable code. For instance, improving the code generation capabilities of AI tools like GitHub Copilot and Codeium allows the generation of readable code that adheres to organizational standards and can evolve. The evolution of LLMs and AI-driven code generation will bring exciting advancements in the low-code domain.

Lastly, governance and data access in the low-code landscape is essential. It comes with challenges associated with providing business users with power and access to data while ensuring proper governance and compliance. Campbell points out that there is a need for a "DevOpsy" layer of governance within low-code augmented platform engineering that provides guardrails and prevents certain configuration boundaries being crossed.

In addition, Helen Beal, DevOps Strategic Advisor, Chief Ambassador at DevOps Institute, and panelist, added:

I found it quite interesting that we are turning a corner because AI is actually supporting businesspeople, giving them an amount of knowledge that is probably safe.

How will Platform Engineering evolve?

The evolution of platform engineering involves a shift toward simplification, focusing on value delivery, and adopting a platform-as-a-service mindset. This change entails providing self-service platforms that hide complexity and reduce cognitive load for application developers. The role of platform engineering teams is evolving from being the keepers of complex infrastructure to becoming service providers to the rest of the organization. They now focus on developer relations, marketing, and customer engagement to delight users and drive value.

Abby Bangser, a Principal Engineer at Syntasso and panelist, explains:

Platform engineering teams are learning what developer relations and marketing look like to engage with customers, get feedback, and have a roadmap that meets their needs.

Adopting technologies like Kubernetes is being pushed down the stack, with a growing emphasis on API interfaces and streamlining interactions. Additionally, there is a heightened focus on observability, including service level and key performance indicators, as well as the financial aspects of platform usage and cost justification. Overall, the future of platform engineering lies in building platforms that add value and create delightful experiences for users while addressing the evolving needs and constraints of the business.

More information on Platform Engineering can be found by following this topic on InfoQ.

Is FinOps moving to the early majority of adoption?

FinOps, managing cloud costs effectively, is moving toward the early majority of adoption. More companies are joining the FinOps Foundation, and many tools are available to support FinOps processes. However, it’s important to note that FinOps is not just about tools but also about the process and understanding of the value derived from spending. The FinOps Foundation and cloud companies like Google and Microsoft actively participate in this journey and promote adopting FinOps practices.

The awareness of FinOps is growing, leading to discussions about why certain cloud resources are being provisioned and run, and whether they are being effectively utilized. Sustainability and GreenOps are also related to FinOps, as the focus on optimizing costs aligns with the broader goal of resource efficiency. AI plays a role in FinOps by identifying unused data and helping optimize storage, contributing to financial savings and environmental benefits.

When building cloud-based applications or adopting DevOps practices, are architects and developers overloaded with security concerns?

Architects and developers face an increasing list of security concerns when building cloud-based applications or adopting DevOps practices. Developers, in particular, can feel overwhelmed by the shift left approach, where they are expected to identify and prioritize security issues throughout the development process.

While there is a growing awareness of the importance of security and a push from leadership to address these concerns, developers often need help to balance security requirements against the pressure to deliver new features.

The evolving nature of security tooling is also a factor in this landscape. Early solutions were designed by experts for experts, making them less user-friendly for developers. However, there is a growing recognition of the need for more accessible and user-friendly security tools. The goal is to make security an enablement function and build platforms that simplify security implementation while providing education and support to development teams. This approach aims to bridge the gap between expert-driven security implementations and the practical needs of developers working on the code.

Is WebAssembly (Wasm) a final realization of "write once, run anywhere" in the cloud?

Wasm is a significant step toward achieving the "write once, run anywhere" vision in the cloud. It promises reusability and interoperability, allowing developers to build libraries in one language (such as Go) and seamlessly call them from applications written in other languages that can compile down to Wasm (such as Rust).

This component model within the cloud enables the creation of applications for multiple platform targets, including ARM-based CPUs, which have gained popularity in cloud infrastructure due to their performance and cost advantages. The adoption of Wasm extends beyond application development and into cloud platform extension formats. It is used to extend cloud-native proxies, API gateways, and service meshes.

In addition to WebAssembly, eBPF is gaining traction as a platform component developer’s tool. While application engineers may not extensively use this, eBPF can be found extensively in projects that contain networking and security use cases. It allows developers to access kernel-level information and gain insights into container system operations, enhancing observability and security capabilities.

Overall, WebAssembly and eBPF offer intriguing possibilities for achieving greater portability, reusability, and performance in cloud-based applications.

More information on Wasm and eBPF can be found by following these topics on InfoQ.

How widely adopted is OpenTelemetry for collecting metrics and event-based observability data?

OpenTelemetry, a framework for collecting metrics and event-based observability data, has seen rapid adoption and is becoming the de facto standard in the industry. The collaborative efforts of many talented individuals and vendors have contributed to its cross-vendor support and cross-language compatibility, making it an essential component of applications. OpenTelemetry’s widespread adoption has been accelerated by its inclusion within major cloud vendor offerings, such as AWS (AWS Distro for OpenTelemetry), Microsoft Azure (Monitoring service), and Google Cloud Platform (Google Cloud OpenTelemetry).

The standardized nature of OpenTelemetry brings numerous benefits; it is vendor-agnostic and it has the ability to export telemetry data and utilize various tools for analysis. This standardization encourages optimization and innovation among vendors as they strive to offer unique and advanced features beyond the baseline functionalities of data collection and visualization. OpenTelemetry’s emergence as an open standard signifies the maturing of the industry and fosters healthy competition among vendors to provide compelling solutions and gain market share.

More information on OpenTelemetry can be found by following this topic on InfoQ.

What is the current state of the adoption level for Serverless?

Serverless technology has seen a shift in adoption levels where it is becoming a common choice rather than a distinct architectural concept. The term "Serverless" is less frequently used to discuss a standalone concept, as it has almost transformed into a synonym for managed services that offer scalability, micro-billing, and abstracted infrastructure. Major cloud providers like AWS, Google, and Microsoft have integrated Serverless components into their services, such as databases (DBaaS) and container runtimes (CaaS), emphasizing the benefits of auto-scaling and simplified billing structures. The focus has shifted from building architectures solely on Serverless functions to leveraging managed services, aligning with the platform engineering approach and reducing cognitive overload for developers.

The value of Serverless, such as scaling to zero and cost-per-request pricing, has found new expression beyond the traditional Serverless architecture. Organizations now recognize these benefits and are demanding them in various architectural decisions. While Serverless is one of many approaches to achieve these advantages, organizations are increasingly asking their engineering teams to deliver cost-effective solutions and optimize customer acquisition and support costs. This evolution highlights Serverless principles’ growing influence and impact on the broader architectural landscape.

More information on Serverless can be found by following this topic on InfoQ.

How is the focus on sustainability and green computing impacting cloud and DevOps?

The focus on sustainability and green computing is having a significant impact on cloud and DevOps practices. There is a growing adoption of pricing models considering the environmental impact and resource consumption of applications and services. This trend encourages organizations to make architectural choices that prioritize efficiency and sustainability. Managed services are favored as they offer optimized resource utilization and scalability, allowing businesses to minimize their carbon footprint and reduce energy consumption. The consideration of pricing about architecture and the adoption of managed services aligns with sustainability and green computing goals.

Regarding responsibility, there is a recognition that addressing sustainability falls within the realm of Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) and related roles. These teams are well-positioned to analyze the environmental impact of technology decisions and drive initiatives that promote efficiency and sustainability. Architecture discussions now encompass considerations such as componentization, isolation, security, and cost-efficiency. Organizations are evaluating their requirements and seeking middle-ground solutions that meet security needs without unnecessarily high costs. This reflects a shift toward more pragmatic approaches to security, finding the right balance between enterprise-grade features and cost-effectiveness.

What are our predictions for the future of the cloud and DevOps spaces?

The panelist’ predictions for the cloud and DevOps spaces’ future revolved around simplifying, reducing cognitive overload, and focusing on innovation. There is a desire to streamline processes and tools to allow teams to concentrate on their specific areas of expertise and maximize their impact.

The convergence of AIOps, platform engineering, sustainability, and FinOps is a positive shift that may lead to more focused, more effective, and happier teams. The challenge lies in distinguishing between hype and genuine opportunities, acknowledging the "nuggets of value" within emerging trends while remaining critical of the "overselling" and broad applicability claims.

Open-source adoption, the standardization facilitated by initiatives like OpenTelemetry and CloudEvents, and the potential of AI-infused services such as Copilots and ChatGPT are all points of excitement. Overall, there is a sense of enthusiasm for the ongoing developments and the learning opportunities they bring.

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