Q&A with Eric Vanderburg - A Cyber Security Expert

- By Pavan Belagatti on September 17, 2017

We recently had the pleasure of talking to Eric Vanderburg, the cyber security and DevOps expert to understand his viewpoints on DevOps, the digital transformation of workforces and legacy systems to cloud and community-based models. 

Who is Eric Vanderburg?

eric vanderburg.jpg

Eric Vanderburg is Vice President of Cybersecurity at TCDI and a well-known author, blogger, and a thought leader.  He is best known for his insight on cybersecurity, privacy, data protection, and storage. Some have called him the “Sheriff of the Internet” because his cybersecurity team at TCDI protects companies from cyber threats, investigates data breaches, and provides guidance on safe computing. Eric is passionate about sharing cybersecurity and technology news, insights and best practices. He regularly presents on security topics and publishes insightful articles on his blog,Security Thinking Cap. You can find him throughout the day posting valuable and informative content on his social media channels.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/evanderburg

Facebook: http://facebook.com/VanderburgE

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/evanderburg  


Without further delay let us see the interesting Q&A session we had with Eric.

How would you define digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the continuous optimization and fully leveraging opportunities from new technology to increase speed and quality.  This often leverages internal and external stakeholders to understand better how the product or service can be enhanced.  Even the best companies are limited in what they can imagine for their products.  The community, however, is intimately in touch with their own needs and desires and can extend a product’s functionality to solve the problems that are of primary concern to them. 


Why should companies adopt DevOps?

DevOps uses various automation technologies that can lower costs, increase speed and efficiency for many businesses.  Furthermore, DevOps tools automate reports, provisioning, and other time-consuming tasks to reduce costs and improve efficiency.  In some cases, companies are having a difficult time producing incremental change, and DevOps can bring about large changes which make the company more comfortable with other changes thereafter.  DevOps offers that wholesale.


What is the relationship between DevOps and Digital Transformation?

DevOps can challenge established assumptions and lead to more innovation and Digital transformation.  DevOps provides fast development, and efficient deployment of reliable systems that can be updated rapidly leading to digital transformation by streamlining changes, testing, and deployments. 


Where is the industry at now?

At this point, 80% of organizations have adopted DevOps practices.  DevOps was originally about faster development. Now it has grown to optimize speed, reliability, quality, and automation.  Companies who have implemented DevOps are seeing an increase in spending on application development, data science activities, SaaS and integration software. 

However, IT has been excluded from much of the technology decision making, leading to poor decision making, shadow IT, business redundancies, and unrealistic expectations. 

Many companies that have moved to a DevOps model are still performing key functions with third parties who do not fit with the DevOps mindset. 

There are also companies that utilize open APIs to allow for community development.  Open APIs move beyond just having an open dialog with consumers, and allow the consumer or others on their behalf, to take their ideas and turn them into solutions using a company’s core product.  Open API’s, therefore, become a catalyst for innovation at scale and ensure that the product is continually optimized and more fully leveraging opportunities as part of the company’s digital transformation strategy.  However, Open API initiatives must be managed so that API updates and community communication are integrated into DevOps. 


Legacy infrastructure has been seen as an inhibitor to DevOps and digital transformation.  Is this the case?  If not, are there some common misconceptions that promote this view? 

No, legacy infrastructure is not an inhibitor.  It can be more challenging in some cases, but it should not be used as an excuse to avoid DevOps because DevOps is the future of software development and IT operations teams. 

I see four main misconceptions about DevOps and legacy equipment.  Firstly, mainframe code may be updated, but there are often modules that have stayed the same for generations.  These processes will be more difficult to integrate into a continuous improvement model, but they do not inhibit the process. 

Second, there is a misconception that DevOps is just a skill to be learned.  Instead, it is a methodology that must be adopted and reinforced in order to integrate modern and legacy systems.

Third, DevOps not just about automation. It is primarily focused on collaboration, which reduces misinformation and optimizes workflow.  These optimizations in workflow often involve automation. 

Lastly, another misconception is that DevOps can be implemented as just a change in procedures. However, this is not the case.  DevOps takes a cultural change, and that is not easy.  DevOps is not a TPS report. 


What are the challenges of DevOps, and how are leaders addressing them?

Each DevOps tool must be developed with legacy systems in mind. In some cases, a hybrid environment can be used to serve both new and legacy applications.  It is important for DevOps tool sets to work with existing tools and add in new functions, like on-site tools that interact with cloud based services.

Another challenge is thinking you can buy digital transformation with DevOps. This is not the case because DevOps is not an off the shelf product or SaaS.  It's what you do with it.

Another challenge is training.  Many poor implementations are the result of management forgetting the human side of IT, namely that employees require training to adapt to the new processes and methodology.  Those that do incorporate training often underestimate the amount of training involved in implementing DevOps. 


What should leaders do to address this?

Organizational leaders must start their DevOps transition with a clear understanding of key expectations and outcomes from transition.  Ensure that the DevOps team is acutely aware of these expectations and work with them to identify how the team will plan to meet those objectives. 

Second, leaders must provide the necessary resources, including training, to employees.  Once DevOps objectives have been defined and agreed upon, a plan has been created, and the resources provided, leaders must hold employees accountable for accomplishing goals. 

If your business has multiple development and ops teams, use one as a pilot test.  You can work out the kinks there and then show that success to other teams to better foster support for the remaining projects.

The learning and improvement process never actually stops.  That is one characteristic of DevOps.  After initial goals are met, tech leaders need to focus on evolving the operational model and leveraging change.  Training needs to continue as well.  It can be helpful to send different people to different training and then have them teach each other to foster better team communication and collaboration.   

Don’t forget about third parties that interface with the DevOps team. Implement a process to evaluate and manage new vendors. 


What problems must companies overcome when their workforces are not adequately equipped to implement DevOps?

Metrics need to be clearly defined and applicable to the new DevOps job roles.  Sometimes, metrics used by executives speak little to actual user adoption and instead work on broad-based assumptions of user-base.  It is best to establish metrics with those who will be held accountable so that they know how they will be measured and how they can achieve success.  It can be helpful to establish metrics like Return on Experience x Engagement (ROE^2),

Making digital transformation DevOps projects requires IT leadership to make a shift in mindset from provisioning IT to utilizing a services provider.  This has a workforce and a process change component that must be managed appropriately to maintain morale.  Unfortunately, the workforce may need to undergo some turnover to adopt the right mix for DevOps.  Such turnover is something to be expected, not feared.  However, workforce changes must be managed appropriately so that those who remain do not fear for their jobs or consider the DevOps project just an excuse to terminate employees. 

Business leaders need to evaluate not only their own employees but also the contractors and third parties that work with them to ensure that the entire internal and external team is consistently focused on the DevOps mission. 

Well, that was an insightful Q&A that revealed some fundamental challenges related to DevOps and Digital transformation. 

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Topics: DevOps Automation, devops