Pope Francis and Devops – On Further Genuflection


I have long been uncomfortable with the branding of “devops” in what used to be the world of system administration. It’s becoming almost as dynamic and imprecise as the F-word is (just two more parts of speech to go, i think), up there with “cloud” even (someone out there must be proud).

Matt Simmons had a good write-up on his blog about what he called the “worst ideas of the [devops] movement” and I have to agree with his take on that whole matter (except his misspelling of sherbet, which I’m told is now an accepted spelling).

We practicitioners in the sysadmin world are surrounded by marketers, headhunters, and opportunistic writers who latch onto different flavors of the Devops concept. People outside our sphere see the buzz and the branding from us and from this border element as well. When those of us doing the work can’t agree on a message that is clear and accurate without being exclusionary, we do more harm than good.

But this morning, I figured out the core of my objection, while being berated on Twitter by someone who could be considered one of the “high priests” of Devops. What bugs me is the “organized religion” nature of Devops.


I don’t need people who say “either you’re [a] Devops or your dumb[sic].” I don’t want to trick people into Devopsing. And I don’t feel the need to tie any particular buzzword or brand identity into everything interesting and useful in my industry or profession.

What does Pope Francis have to do with all of this? Well, recently he’s been talking about deeds and actions, rather than branding and dogma, and going a bit gentler than his predecessors on people who are conscientious but not Catholic. My take on that is that it doesn’t devalue the good works and good conscience of a Catholic to acknowledge that you can have good works and a good conscience without being Catholic.


Now imagine if you could play well with others in a technology setting, be a good sysadmin, and build scalable and sustainable environments… even without calling them, yourself, your department, or your religion Devops. (ps: it’s easy if you try; I was doing that at the turn of the century, although I wouldn’t even label that as hipster devops.)

And imagine if you could acknowledge others doing the same, without having to staple the Devops label on them. It’s true, you’ll risk losing the people who have bought into the upper-case D branding, or people whose managers say “we have to be Devops, take a few devopses and go devops at that devops conference.” You may also confuse HR people who are under fire to hire X number of devopses. But the profession and your environment probably won’t suffer.

If you have to brand, or rebrand, your personal practice for your own reason, go ahead and do it. It’s your business card, after all. But if you feel that building scalable and sustainable environments, working well with your coworkers, and being a good sysadmin require a brand label that is inconsistently defined at best, well, you’ve lost me, and probably at least a few other sysadmins.

Disclaimer: I used to be Catholic, still believe in the one true spelling of sherbet, and claim fair use on the Toy Story picture above, which obviously is not owned by me.

3 thoughts on “Pope Francis and Devops – On Further Genuflection

  1. One fun thing about this article is that it wouldn’t take much efforts to s/DevOps/ITIL/g and then you’d probably have the kind of arguments why some people are now part (or adepts) of the DevOps movement. I can’t speak for others but in big enterprise-y environments, ITIL has become such the one, unique, true religion that some people are very uncomfortable with the pain & broken promises, so they try to find an answer that’s less process-centric and adopt it as a new “religion”. Do you think it’s a contributing factor ?

    Btw I’m totally with you on the exclusion part, people should have a bit of doubt and humility sometimes.


    • Thanks for the feedback. I don’t know how much cross-pollination there is between ITIL and Devops, as I haven’t been too deep into the big enterprise side even of the big enterprise I work for. Although I could imagine people dealing with ITIL in a big company, and then wanting to get as far away from it when they move on to a smaller company.

      I think a lot of people want a banner to do their stuff under, and there are some charismatic figures pointing at this banner. I was unintentionally doing config-as-code after a fashion, working with scalable methods for building and maintaining servers, and dealing closely with developers and DBAs and stuff with a very small banner that just said “SA3” and it was enough. 🙂


  2. Superlative, thanks! You could say the same for ITIL, SDLC, and several of the project management (Kaizen, Six Sigma) and Agile methodologies/buzzwords. They’ve all got quasi-religious aassociations, especially among headhunters and non-techie managers. All have merit, but I believe reasonable human sysadmins and others can and do get along and adopt some of the best principles as relevant to their environment without needing or perhaps even wanting to use the trademarked label(s).

    Thanks for an awesome post.


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