Ken Cheney, chief marketing officer at Chef

Organizations that break down silos to create cross-functional IT teams benefit from quicker deployments, more efficient patching and overall better services.

Seattle-based Chef, which provides support for business infrastructure and applications, announced these and other findings this week in its annual state of IT survey. The company interviewed 1,500 Chef users in January for the study.

Cross-functional teams are also most likely to have already completed cloud migration projects and be running containers in their infrastructure, the report noted.

"What really popped for us was the fact that cross-functional teams, which really represents DevOps at its best, are pulling away from teams that are organized in silos," Ken Cheney, chief marketing officer at Chef, told CMSWire.

"They're pulling away in some areas I think are interesting. They're releasing changes to production faster. They're recovering from failure faster. They're moving to modernize their applications, so they're moving to microservices-based architectures."

Chef researchers found cross-functional teams are:

  • 17 percent more likely than application teams to release changes to production on a continuous, on-demand basis
  • 23 percent and 24 percent more likely than infrastructure and security teams, respectively, to release changes to production on-demand

Cross-functional teams are more likely to move faster, have greater resiliency and adopt new technologies faster than traditionally structured teams, Chef found.

Traditional IT Model Stifles Change

About 29 percent of survey respondents are cross-functional. Traditionally, Cheney found, IT teams are split between line-of-business team members who build an app and a shared services team that provides infrastructure on which those apps are built.

Organizations have long been too focused on ensuring 99.99 uptime and therefore "locked down environments and put in controls to minimize the impact of change," according to Cheney.

"They had checks in place because of the fact they had bonuses tied to maintaining uptime," Cheney told CMSWire.

Conversely, cross-functional teams embrace change, constantly worry about speed inhibitors and are "laser-focused as a team on how to remove those roadblocks."

The Rise of Containerization

Chef researchers also found most organizations want to run their code in containers to support faster deployments. More than 67 percent are already experimenting with containerization, which CMSWire reporter Scott Fulton defined as:

"a concept of workload virtualization that transcends virtual machines as we have come to know them. Virtual machines (VMs) enabled existing workloads to transcend the boundaries of single servers, and later moved them outside the firewalls of their data centers. Containerization (such as Docker) shifts the focus of data center management from virtual machines (servers that don’t know they’re not real) to applications, running within virtualized components that know where they are and what they’re doing."

IT professionals need agility: Chef researchers cited the pressure to deploy infrastructure and code changes on-demand.

"Emerging and legacy technologies are being rebuilt around the needs of developers, and companies are piloting and adopting new technologies like microservices and containers in service of speed," Chef officials wrote in a report brief. "But despite advances, security and speed remain at odds in the enterprise."

Containers are seeing a widespread adoption, and security infrastructure and versatility will make them easier than ever to implement in 2017, according to CMSWire author Asaf Yigal. But Chef users who have adopted containers said only 44 percent of their infrastructure will be container-based.

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Hybrid Move

Chef researchers also found three-quarters of all respondents run cloud-based apps in a public or hybrid cloud, and only 25 percent run them purely in a private cloud. Overall, there is an even split between public and hybrid private use, with 37 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

George Miranda, product marketing director at Chef, said organizations want to maintain flexibility. "It is not only an essential part of any solution that manages our hybrid infrastructure and applications," he said, "but teams that promote that same hybrid approach in experience lead the pack when it comes to addressing these challenges."

Chef found managing hybrid infrastructures is the reality for most users. The majority of Chef users employ some form of a hybrid operating model for the foreseeable future.

However, Cheney noted a good proportion of workloads will remain on-premises. Organizations will face a mix of increasing complexity but should focus on ensuring developers have the best path to production.

Compliance Automation Helps

Cloud or no cloud, many organizations represented in the survey struggle with staying on top of compliance regulations.

Of the respondents with compliance standards at play, 73 percent wait to assess compliance after development work has begun and new features are implemented.

Another 59 percent assess compliance once the code is already running in production, and 22 percent of users make compliance assessments inconsistently. About 23 percent do not assess the state of compliance at all.

Nearly 60 percent take days, weeks or months to address compliance vulnerabilities, Cheney noted.

"That's kind of scary that they have that kind of exposure," Cheney said. "That they can't readily assess their exposure plus their environment and remediate quickly. And that's largely due to the fact that while they have tooling in place to help with releases and deployments, they don't really have a full-on strategy in place to assess their environments and remediate quickly."

Automation solves these challenges, according to Chef researchers. Organizations that support infrastructure automation can "create a detect and repair loop with short feedback cycles that also alleviate some of the unplanned work challenges in the previous section," researchers wrote.

Microservices Appeal

Other finds in the report include:

  1. Most respondents have or are in progress of re-architecting monolithic applications into microservices: 11 percent have completed a project to do so, 44 percent are in progress, and 12 percent will be managing a project to do so. 22 percent are unsure or exploring, and only 12 percent have no plans to run monolithic apps as microservices
  2. 86 percent of respondents have completed or are in progress to migrate infrastructure from physical to virtual
  3. 81 percent of respondents have completed or are in progress to run some applications in cloud-based architectures
  4. When a failure occurs in production, 55 percent are able to recover in one hour and 33 percent recover in four hours
  5. Cross-functional teams are 26 percent more likely than security teams to recover from failure in one hour