DevOps and XaaS

It seems there is a lot of confusion and debate around DevOps and XaaS, specifically the PaaS portion of XaaS.

The below is an attempt to shed light on some of the definitions and thinking around that.

XaaS (DC as a service, Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service) is all about delivering services to consumers (subscribers of a service). There are notions of expectations from a subscriber (requirements) and notions of guarantees that a service provider can provide, which are bound together by a contract between the subscriber and the provider using Service Level Agreements.

It helps to think of XaaS as layers that build upon an underlying layer and providing capabilities. As such, IaaS builds upon capabilities provided by DCaaS services and provides it’s capabilities that are services that can be bound in SLAs. Similarly PaaS builds upon those IaaS services and provides platform capabilities as services that themselves can be wrapped in SLAs. SaaS then builds upon PaaS services and provides applications and other higher-level capabilities as services. This layering provides a facility to bound the capabilities into like umbrellas that can be delivered/changed independently of each other. It’s sort of like the OSI model in a certain sense.

All this, keeping in mind that SaaS capabilities do not always have to deal with the PaaS layer, they can directly consume services from the IaaS layer. If there are more cases of this happening then it may help to think of it as a case of the PaaS layer not being able to fulfill all of the SaaS requirements. The PaaS layer may need to accommodate those requirements in future versions of it’s services.

DevOps is an evolving model that attempts to ease some of the hardships around delivering and managing these services. It comes from the disciplines of development (as in software development) and operations (infrastructure and platform operations). As such, the goal of DevOps is to minimize the hurdles that a developer (builder of application services) faces while still maintaining typical operational goals like uptime, availability, resiliency, change tracking etc.

DevOps stresses things like provisioning automation, build automation, test automation, repeatability, scriptability, version tracking, near-instantaneous instantiation etc to enable the development folks to work closely with the operations teams. In fact, the idea is to meld the development aspects and the operations aspects into one continuous and cohesive set of processes and teams.

As such, besides the processes and actions that are recommended by DevOps, there are foundational components that are also recommended by DevOps, such as host configuration management systems, centralized version control systems, distributed version control systems, continuous build systems, debugging hooks, image build systems etc. In fact I would go so far as to say that DevOps takes the typical components in an application Lifecycle Managment (ALM) set of systems and merges Operations principles with it.

All of these components can also be one of the XaaS offerings themselves with their own guarantees and SLA bindings.

One could go so far as to say that DevOps principles and services could be used to itself build not just SaaS services (applications), but also PaaS services and even IaaS services. On the flip side, one could say that the XaaS service offering themselves can and should provide hooks and apis that enable integration with other services to holistically provide the developer and operator conveniences and control that DevOps advocates.

As one can see, DevOps and XaaS do not conflict with each other. In fact I would argue that they are complementary viewpoints to the same set of issues. The key to seeing the synergy between them is to see offerings of capabilities from a Service management point of view, even DevOps oriented offerings.

This will be crucial to enterprises trying to tackle PaaS/SaaS/Cloud technologies and DevOps paradigms together.

As always thoughts and comments are welcome.

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