3 Takeaways from DevOpsDays Toronto

What DevOpsDays Toronto taught me about the state of DevOps in Canada

Last week, DevOps practitioners, aspiring DevOps practitioners, industry thought leaders and vendors assembled in Toronto for DevOpsDays Toronto. DevOpsDays is a global conference with several DevOpsDays events all over the world that are organized by members of the local DevOps communities. The conference is technical in nature, with the mission of bringing development and operations together.

One thing that was clear while attending the event is that the DevOps concept is alive and growing in Canada, proven by the diverse group of attendees representing SaaS startups, Canadian enterprises, major banks, tier 1 telcos and virtually everything in between.  

Having had the opportunity to speak with dozens of attendees about their journey to adopting DevOps culture in Canada, three overarching topics are evident to me:

Culture Trumps Technology

Given the growing marketplace for DevOps tools and technologies, which have gained plenty of attention in recent years by bloggers, venture capitalists and leading IT vendors, one might make the assumption that these technologies are the foundation for successful DevOps adoption. While these tools are certainly enablers for DevOps, they are only tools. If a company’s culture does not lend itself to DevOps – that is, breaking down silos, enhancing communication and collaboration between dev and ops and having the right amount of support from the business, the value of these tools will be negligible.

Success in DevOps requires a change in our organization’s mindset and the way that we approach bringing products to market. The focus needs to be on our customers, and the speed of getting these products into their hands.

Executive Buy-in is Lacking

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DevOpsDays Toronto was kicked off with a keynote by John Willis of Docker, one of the world’s foremost DevOps thought leaders. The talk was about DevOps adoption in the enterprise, one of the subjects Willis has had plenty of experience with. While some may have thought the talk would have had a heavy technology focus, Willis instead focused on the business value of DevOps – citing speed over ROI, concentration on the customer and leveraging feedback to become a “learning organization” rather than a revenue focused organization.  Willis provided compelling real world DevOps statistics in terms that would be attractive to business leaders – which might make one wonder, where are the business leaders?

While I realize that business isn’t necessarily the focus of DevOpsDays, my hypothesis is that the amount of executive buy-in DevOps teams receive is directly correlated to how quickly organizations can mature their DevOps model. At the same time, and in-general, the DevOps market does not do a great job of selling the concept of DevOps to the C-suite.

Having had many conversations about this topic at DevOpsDays, it is clear to me that we need to do a better of job as an industry of being inclusive to all stakeholders – dev, ops and the business.

Enterprises Need to Learn From Startups

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We now live in a world where companies only a few years old are successfully competing with the largest enterprises (and eating their lunch, in some cases.) If we look at software companies specifically, many of the success stories can be attributed to the speed that DevOps has allowed this organizations to sustainably grow.

Shopify was a gold sponsor of DevOpsDays Toronto. While they are now a publicly traded entity, they are arguably one of the most mature DevOps shops in all of Canada, and not too far removed from their early startup days. Shopify presented some of their DevOps processes and tools of the trade that has allowed them to become a multi-billion dollar company in a very short amount of time.

While it is fundamentally easier for a brand new company to build DevOps into their culture from  day one, and much more difficult for an enterprise with decades of legacy processes and technology, there is an opportunity for enterprises to learn from some of these “unicorns.”

One recent Canadian example of this is the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC,) the crown corporation that operates lottery games in Atlantic Canada. ALC recently announced a partnership with Halifax-based startup incubator Volta Labs, that will see up to five ALC employees working out of the Volta office, side-by-side with up 60 entrepreneurs. This is all part of ALC’s strategy to “act like a startup” and create new innovative lottery solutions.

DevOpsDays Toronto: A good Starting Point

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One of the things that DevOpsDays executes well on is the sharing concept of DevOps. It is one thing to share, communicate and collaborate internally, but we can learn so much from doing the same externally, in the greater community.

Personally, I highly suggest DevOpsDays Toronto for any organization, at any level of maturity, who is investing in DevOps. While the talks are valuable, the conversations you can have with peers in the industry are indispensable.

Stay tuned for next year!


Geoff Sullivan @sullivg2

Geoff Sullivan is a Cloud Computing Evangelist and resident blogger for 1CloudRoad. He is passionate about open source technology, hoppy beers, travel and the outdoors. He has spent the last two years helping companies get their products to market, leveraging the power of cloud computing.

Some of Geoff’s work has been featured on the blogs of Cloud-A, Cloud 66 and Hustle & Grind.

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