Type “what is DevOps” into Google and a staggering amount of results show. Considering DevOps is a relatively new term and job function in IT, there still seems to be some confusion among non-technical professionals as to what the role involves. This blog post gives a history of DevOps, provides a short comparison to System Admin, and finishes off with a glossary of DevOps terms.

A History of DevOps

The earliest mentions of DevOps date back to the 2008 Agile Conference and a talk on Agile Infrastructure by Andrew Clay Shafer and Patrick Debois. At that time, businesses were experiencing problems with their tech infrastructure because the various departments weren’t effectively working together. Developers wrote code in isolation of the final product, which essentially meant that code often wasn’t compatible with the product environment. This caused a lot of problems in relation to deployment and bug fixes, which left System Administrators spread thin, and developers and product owners annoyed.


Naturally this process was neither smooth nor efficient. The Agile movement first revolutionised the IT industry by increasing deployment frequency from one deployment every two to three weeks to 10 deployments per day. Since then, DevOps and Agile have kept pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and today companies like Amazon do several thousand deployments per day. In fact, Amazon are said to be doing one deployment every 11.6 seconds!

Does DevOps replace System Admin?

There seems to be a common misconception that DevOps is merely System Admin repackaged, but with fancier tools. The stereotype goes: DevOps code, System Admins don’t. In reality, it is fairer to say that there is a difference in focus between the two roles. System Admin is rather operative and maintenance, fixing things once they go wrong, while the focus of DevOps is automation through coding.

However, I must emphasise: System Admin shouldn’t be replaced; the role is still very much needed. Errors will still occur, and System Admins are vital for daily operations and maintenance, and DevOps cannot and should not replace Ops people. Instead DevOps should be seen as the bridge to make the lives of developers and System Admins a lot easier.

… so what is DevOps?

DevOps removes the incompatibility between development and product environments by creating code that automates and speeds up the tasks of System Admin. Previously System Admins had to complete lots of fixes, restructurings, deployments and small bits and pieces manually.

With DevOps, these things are automated and changes can be applied to all servers automatically rather than one-by-one manually. This means fewer tedious tasks and limitations for System Admin, allowing more time for server management and other maintenance tasks. For developers this means a better fit between the code they write and the actual product environment, therefore less rework and more time to focus on creating and developing.

At its best, DevOps improves workflow processes, infrastructure, and product performance through testing and fixing. Ultimately it’s faster time to market, improved response times, better scalability and a much nicer IT environment to work in.

DevOps Keywords and Glossary:

So what tools do DevOps Engineers use? The absolute top buzzwords to look out for are Chef, Puppet, Salt and Ansible, which are all configuration tools. However, for a more detailed insight in keywords and tools, Honeypot has created the following glossary.


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Kathrine Nicolaisen

Kathrine Nicolaisen

Kathrine is Marketing Manager at Honeypot. Originally from Denmark, she spent 4 years in London focusing on art, fashion and business, before moving to Berlin to explore the tech and start-up scene in the city.