Sure you’re doing cloud computing? Report suggests you might not know what you’re talking about


This year’s “Accelerate: State of Devops” report is out, looking into how cloud adoption, use of open source, culture, and organisational practices influence software delivery performance.

The study groups companies as elite, high, medium, and low performers. Measures taken into account are throughput, which means the deployment frequency, as well as change lead time, stability (time to restore a service, and change failure rate), and – for the first time this year – availability. Some findings suggest that a good performance in those areas leads to competitive advantages. To get there, technical practices like monitoring, continuous testing, database change management, and the inclusion of security measures early in the development process are important. The study’s highest performers were also more likely to use open source products.

So-called misguided performers make appearances in several subsections of the report. They describe organisations that excel in some measures, but don’t reach their potential due to some misconceptions. Companies that fear high deployment frequencies and lead time for changes and justify their low scores in those areas with change fail rates better than those of low performers for example, have to buy those with the longest times to restore services once they’re down. Another example is outsourcing: those who outsource whole elements of the lifecycle – testing or operations for example – the most are more likely to suffer from slow performance and take longer to recover from failure.

Since the report is also supposed to serve as a benchmark for companies to get a better idea of where they’re at in the market, Dr. Nicole Forsgren – one of the study’s initiators – leaves those at the lower end with a glimpse of hope. “High performance is achievable – anyone can do it. We saw the high performance group grow in amazing ways. It’s all about execution: picking the capability that’s holding you back and just executing.” To get a culture that supports this kind of thing, the study suggests that leaders give their teams autonomy in their work, since this instills a sense of ownership which Forsgren feels is important to succeed.

Head in the clouds

Cloud usage was one of the major aspects of this year’s study, with 67 percent of respondents mentioning that their primary application or service runs on some cloud platform. 40 per cent didn’t just work with one provider but across multiple clouds, with reasons ranging from availability concerns (40 per cent), disaster recovery (28 per cent), lack of trust in one provider or leverage of unique benefits (23 per cent), to legal compliance (22 per cent). While 39 per cent stated to only be working with public cloud offerings, 32 per cent preferred private and 18 per cent hybrid clouds.

One of the points Dr. Forsgren wants to drive home is, that using the cloud right really makes a difference. Although more than two thirds said to use some kind of cloud platform for their primary offerings, it became apparent, that the definition of “using the cloud” is pretty lax to most. “[according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology] There are five essential components of cloud computing. We asked the people, if they did these things.”

The NIST characteristics are on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and measured service. Only 22 per cent of those saying they were using the cloud were able to tick those boxes and therefore doing cloud computing by the NIST’s standard – or the right way, as Forsgren likes to call it. Looking into this might be worth the while: “You’re 23 times more likely to be an elite performer if you do cloud computing right. People who say, that it isn’t working for them, often aren’t actually doing it right. It’s about execution. Of course it will be challenging and difficult, but if you do it the right way and dedicate yourself, you can have incredible performance, and deliver value for your company, your customers, and stakeholders.”

Since the cloud imposes special challenges, cloud native development – often using containerisation techniques – was also one of the items discussed in the report. 47 percent of those deploying their applications to a cloud agreed that their offerings were especially designed for that scenario. Those described as elite performers were 1.8 times more likely to run those cloud native applications. 36 per cent used containers only in development, 31 per cent only in production and 29 in both stages.

Some numbers

The study is based on the feedback of about 1900 professionals from a range of industries, technology being the leading one with 40 per cent, followed by financial services with 15 per cent. Most of the respondents (50 per cent) stem from North America, residents from the UK and other European countries factor in with nine and thirteen per cent respectively. The demographic is mostly male (83 per cent), females made up 12 per cent, the rest either didn’t specify (four per cent), or is non-binary (less than one per cent). 13 per cent identified as a member of an underrepresented group, which can mean race, gender, or other characteristics – so a few more than last year, where 12 per cent stated that.

38 per cent of the people that took part in the study work in organisations with more than 10,000 people, followed by those with 100 to 499 (14 per cent), 500 to 1999 (13 per cent), 20 to 99 and 2000 to 4999 (both 10 per cent), and 5000 to 9999 (seven per cent) employees. Organisations smaller than 20 people make up six per cent of the respondents, three percent didn’t know these numbers.

More details can be found in the report itself. To get access you should be willing to hand over your phone number and contact details to Google, though.