DevOps Journeys: Ian Miell

03/02/2017   Industry insights   LinuxRecruit community   DevOps Journeys  

As part of our DevOps Journeys series, we spoke to Ian Miell, experienced software professional and author of Docker In Practice about his experiences with DevOps.

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What does DevOps mean to you?

To me, DevOps is pretty simple. It's about breaking down the divide between developers and operations. If you're serious about development, you need to understand how operations and infrastructure works, and vice versa. My career has gone from developer through development lead, third line support manager, IT Director to enterprise infrastructure software architect, and the most effective teams I've worked with have always been cross-functional. I've always tried to work in as many different areas as possible and have encouraged my staff to spend time in other areas too.

What was your first experience of DevOps like?

In the early 2000s, the company I then worked for (OpenBet) built an application support team. It hired 'support engineers' from the industry who had not worked with the code, and the effort completely failed. This team was disbanded and replaced by experienced developers, who could code solutions and tooling to improve the service - similar to the SRE model at Google. I joined this team and ended up leading the DevOps effort when we rebranded as such. Having engineers who knew how the code worked, when and how to fix it, and when to push back to the development specialists improved relationships at work and with customers immensely.

If you could give yourself some advice when you first started your DevOps ‘journey’, what would you say?

First, read 'The Goal' and 'Getting Things Done'. Secondly, If you see a solution to a problem or an improvement to a process, implement it. Even if you fail, you will learn heaps. If you have a solution to a problem (however limited it is), you are ahead of 99% of people that turn up to meetings. This is true in startups and in enormous enterprises. Cultivate good relationships with those that do instead of talk about doing.

What's exciting you within the DevOps space at the moment?

For me, the answer is obvious, as I wrote a book on it: Docker! It is changing the way software is constructed, distributed and consumed. Organisational structures and the architecture of software itself will have to adjust to this new world. I find the ways in which technological innovations affect organisations fascinating.

What challenges are you seeing at the moment?

The biggest challenge I see is the continuing separation of responsibility between dev and ops. Teams should be jointly responsible for delivery and maintenance. To me, having dev and ops teams delivering projects separately is not going to make for a happy organisation. While you need specialists, they need to empathise with one another to ensure the end-to-end process runs smoothly.

What do you think the next 'big thing' in the DevOps world will be?

Stateless architectures (if it's not already big). The idea that your application could be deployed 'anywhere' and needs to cope with suddenly dying gracefully. If you've worked in erlang or at Google this is nothing new, but this architecture is as significant as the three-tier one I grew up with and is going to spread fast as applications built to target it get deployed and operate.

What are your predictions for DevOps in 5 years?

The spread of the concept of the site reliability engineer, consolidation in the automation space to a few big players, and the slow death of the OS as a monolithic software deployment. And that these predictions are likely to be wrong.


Ian is an experienced software professional with over fifteen years' experience working with FTSE-100 companies delivering mission-critical and performant software and services in technical, managerial and leadership capacities. A true all-rounder, he is comfortable dealing with everything from operational management issues to system architecture analysis right down to line-by-line code. He is the Author of Docker in Practice (Book, Manning Publications), and runs a great blog on DevOps and Docker at