By Gologic with the collaboration of Alexandre Couëdelo.
As we step into 2024, it is good practice to guess what the year to come has to offer. Leaving behind the festive season and preparing ourselves for the year’s challenges, we look ahead with a mix of anticipation and caution. The start of a new year often brings a sense of renewal and opportunity. What new tech are we expecting, and what new tools and new approaches do we want to add to our stack? etc.
Still, it is an important time for strategic foresight and preparation in a more challenging climate. Organizations are compelled to maintain their efficiency, if not enhance it, despite increasingly constrained resources.
In this context, we have identified three challenges that IT managers will likely face: optimizing infrastructure costs, ensuring user satisfaction, adopting a proactive rather than reactive approach (observe rather than extinguish to maintain brand image), and addressing technical debt to have an up-to-date and secure application portfolio.
In this article, we delve into each of those challenges to provide you with guidance for the year to come.
Challenge one —“Optimization”
Companies face challenges that require optimizing operations and reducing costs due to economic difficulties, which are characterized by staff reductions and cost pressures. Our collaborators have reported that 2023 was marked by a change of focus, “Less Dev, More Ops,” to maximize the efficiency and stability of the systems already in place.
FinOps and Smart Spending
In this context, the importance of FinOps has surged. FinOps extends DevOps principles like agility and continuous delivery to financial governance, focusing on budgeting and cost optimization. FinOps was already part of our January 2023 trends to follow. However, many companies have ignored it as Data Science and Cost Analysis are often viewed as cost centres, and reallocating data scientists for better cost analysis was considered unnecessary as a simple Cost-per-user calculation was a sufficient indicator of the company’s financial health.
Companies now need deeper awareness of their spending habits, promoting a culture of “smart spending” as Gartner suggests to Deliver IT Strategic Cost Optimization Through Smart Spending. In the FinOps framework, Cloud Infrastructure Cost Management is a shared responsibility, and leaders need to:
- Raise awareness about smart spending. This means cost data transparency and availability.
- Identify new required behaviours for cost optimization. This means defining what we expect from solution architects and product teams regarding cost and budgeting.
- Reinforce smart spending behaviours with IT teams. This means recognizing progress, filling knowledge gaps, and setting rituals to reinforce new cultural traits in IT spending.
On-premise and Hybrid Cloud temptation
Among the important financial decisions for 2024 is the temptation to shift back to on-premise infrastructure, which is growing as a cost-saving response.
We expect hot debate on the subject of Cloud vs On-Premise vs Hybrid.
The true value of cloud computing lies in its flexibility, lowering the time to market for many solutions, as highlighted in the State of DevOps Report 2023. Cloud providers have worked hard to appeal to companies with easy integration (tooling, SDKs, IaC, etc.) and easy orchestration.
Interestingly, 30% of surveyed companies (State of DevOps Report 2023) use a hybrid model, blending public and private clouds. This approach requires advanced tools capable of managing such complex environments transparently. Those tools exist and are getting better and better. Still, the Hybrid cloud demands a highly skilled and available infrastructure team to harness its potential effectively.
One trend that significantly influences this decision is the stricter requirement regarding user data localization. Organizations may consider transitioning to a model where user data is stored at the edge (closer to the user) instead of using centralized regions for most of their operations to ensure security and comply with local authorities.
Challenge two —“Satisfaction”
Satisfaction is a crucial factor in driving high user retention and acquisition. Conversely, unstable systems or unsatisfactory experiences can lead to high churn rates and negatively impact the brand’s reputation, hindering financial stability, something we can’t afford in the current financial climate.
Stability and reliability
Being proactive rather than reactive to improve customer service and development efficiency is the new watchword for 2024.
Much of the observability/monitoring heritage stems from the early days of IT operations. During this time, operators were primarily focused on the “technical system’s health” rather than the “users’ happiness.” This was due to their siloed/limited knowledge of the actual functioning of the system. With DevOps, the mantra “You build it, you run it” has emerged, but observability practices haven’t fully adapted. Mainly, application observability is bound to outdated frameworks such as RED or USE.
Proactive monitoring requires better planning and design to develop more stable and reliable applications that provide metrics about the user’s journey and experience.
We define reliability as the extent to which a service meets its stated goals for measures like availability, performance, and correctness. (State of DevOps Report 2023)
Setting goals for an application before it goes live and collecting user-centred metrics are key to being proactive. That way, we can monitor variation and degradation in the user’s experience, clearly evaluate the impact in case of an incident, and act preemptively to maintain the system above the set goals.
Today, the leading approach for proactive monitoring is Site Reliability Engineering (SRE). The framework it promotes, SLI/SLO, is specifically designed for this purpose. Additionally, there may be emerging AI-driven observability frameworks, but widespread adoption is not expected at this time.
Security and Trust
The role of security in software delivery, especially through DevSecOps practices, is essential for maintaining client trust and protecting sensitive data. Users have never been more concerned about their privacy and the security of their data, and regulators have never been so strict with companies that neglect their duty. The 2019 Desjardins data breach serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of security lapses ($201 million to settle a class-action lawsuit, according to CBC).
In the DevSecOps framework, where security is a shared responsibility, its role in software delivery is pivotal for client trust and data protection. Companies adopting this approach need to focus on:
- Integrate Security Early in the Development Process: Embed security practices at the start of the development cycle, rather than as an afterthought.
- Provide Continuous Training: Offer regular training and updates on the latest security practices and threats.
- Implement Automated Security Tools: Utilize tools for continuous security testing and monitoring throughout the development lifecycle.
Challenge three —“Modernization”
As applications evolve, it is crucial to manage technical debt to ensure that systems remain efficient and easy to maintain. Year after year, we blame technical debt for holding us back, but with the rapidly evolving IT landscape, it seems as if we never see the end of it. However, this year, we will be better equipped than ever before.
Legacy Technical Debt Management or Legacy technical debt, the accumulation of outdated practices and technologies, requires dedicated efforts for rectification. With this type of debt, the challenge is looking for new solutions and providing teams with time to experiment.
Encourage developers to be curious and explore new ideas, and provide opportunities for knowledge exchange through activities like lunch and learn sessions or hackathons. Encourage individuals to research new technologies and share their learning through blogs, videos, and talks.
The technology landscape is very large, and you need everyone to scout the cloud native ecosystem. Many already exist, and refreshing your ecosystem of fixing a problem might be easier than you may think.
We have saved the best for last. Progressive modernization yields results alongside day-to-day development activities. Incremental improvements are easier to handle compared to accumulated legacy technical debt, what poses the real threat is small debts accumulating over time.
Luckily, the ecosystem is flourishing with solutions that fight against it. Tools like Renovate or SonarQube are great at identifying these issues, enabling teams to address them systematically. But we can do even better with the emerging AI tools and coding assistants such as GitHub Copilot, Tabnine, and Openrewrite. We are at the boundary of a potential productivity jump with automated code improvement and generation, automated test generation and automated refactoring.
These tools assist in keeping applications updated and secure, preventing the accumulation of new technical debt. The real challenge will need to select the right tool and learn to use it properly.
In conclusion, as we enter 2024, IT managers will face several challenges in the DevOps landscape:
- Optimizing infrastructure costs. This requires raising awareness of smart spending and identifying new behaviours for cost optimization. Additionally, organizations should resist the temptation to shift back to on-premise infrastructure and instead leverage the flexibility and benefits of cloud computing.
- Ensuring user satisfaction. Being proactive in improving customer service and development efficiency is essential. By setting goals for applications before they go live and collecting user-centred metrics, organizations can monitor and evaluate the user experience to maintain high levels of satisfaction.
- Addressing technical debt. By focusing on legacy technical debt and ongoing technical debt, organizations can explore new solutions, encourage knowledge sharing, and leverage tools that assist in identifying and addressing technical debt systematically.
Overall, overcoming these challenges in 2024 should lead to a more efficient and secure application portfolio.
By Gologic with the collaboration of Alexandre Couëdelo.