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ITOps vs. DevOps: What Is the Difference?

June 4, 2019


ITOps vs. DevOps: where does one end and the other begin? These two terms are commonly confused even within the IT industry, which is understandable since neither is set in stone and they often overlap, especially when talking about infrastructure. What does each role encompass and how can you tell the difference between them?

What Is ITOps?

There is no one uniform definition of ITOps, but it generally involves IT roles that can’t be listed under software development, but are responsible for delivering and maintaining services, applications, and the technologies needed to run a business. ITOps includes job titles like system administrator, network administrator, and help desk.

What does ITOps cover:

  • Network infrastructure
  • Computer operations and help desk
  • Server and device management

In practice, this usually includes tasks such as installing and maintaining internal and external networks, security and regulatory compliance, data center management, internal help desk management, licensing and managing software for internal use, setting up and maintaining desktop and mobile devices, storage management, configuring and maintaining network infrastructure, etc.

You should take into account that every company’s organization and infrastructure are different, so not everyone in ITOps works on all three aforementioned segments. The ITOps role can also stretch over many areas outside the list, so these bullet points serve only as a guide to the tasks most commonly attributed to the phrase “ITOps”.

What Is DevOps?

The term DevOps was coined as a combination of software development (Dev) and information technology operations (Ops). Defining DevOps is even harder than defining ITOps because some use it in a broad context to describe a set of practices “intended to reduce the time between committing a change to a system and the change being placed into normal production, while ensuring high quality", while others use DevOps to describe a distinct role within a company involved in development, implementation, optimization, and maintenance of custom apps.

What does DevOps cover:

  • Development and testing phases
  • Deployment, operation, and maintenance of the product

Some of the most common tasks a DevOps person is in charge of are ensuring CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous development), developing (microservice) architecture, automating the delivery pipeline, migrating software to new platforms, deploying custom IT infrastructure, etc.

Similar to the ITOps role, the DevOps position can greatly vary from company to company.

What Are the Differences Between ITOps and DevOps?

Due to both ITOps and DevOps being so vaguely defined, differentiating between the two is not an easy task. One way of setting them apart is by observing the opposing principles these two are built on.



Rigid vs. Flexible

This includes adhering to standards and regulations and various security audits. ITOps historically follows a precise and linear approach to installing, securing, and maintaining systems. While this approach tends to reduce risks, it makes it hard to implement any quick changes. It is typically used for non-application related IT tasks and with commercial-off-the-shelf software (COTS).

On the other hand, the role of DevOps tries to be as flexible as possible, experimenting with different approaches to find the fastest and most suitable solution. DevOps mostly uses agile software development methodology. This methodology breaks the process into small increments called sprints, which gives the developers more freedom to apply frequent changes.

Delivery Time

ITOps’ greatest concern is to provide a stable and secure infrastructure, and ensuring this requires a lot of time. Today’s market dictates a fast pace of product development, which is hard to follow with the traditional ITOps approach.

When it comes to DevOps, everything about their role revolves around speed. DevOps’ main goals include shortening the software development lifecycle (SDLC) as well as shortening time to market (TTM).


ITOps vs. DevOps: The Price of Speed

Since DevOps aims at speeding up the delivery process, they have to act quickly and may fail to communicate the full extent of the changes to the rest of the the organization. ITOps is left with a system that changes its complexity at a rapid rate, which fuels frustration with the DevOps team, especially when tight deadlines are included.

ITOps vs. DevOps: ShadowOps

Every project requires a different approach, which is why the ITOps team needs to accommodate new infrastructure requirements. For instance, the company can work on a big data project that requires a lot of storage, then move to a project where it’s paramount to read data in the fastest possible way. Instead of waiting on ITOps to develop new infrastructure, some DevOps decide to cut out the middleman and get the infrastructure they need from a cloud provider. This quick fix is sometimes inevitable due to time restraints, but it poses a security risk. Since ITOps has little control over the outsourced infrastructure, they can’t always perform all necessary compliance and security audits or respond to a security issue in time.

ITOps vs. DevOps: Working Together

The work of ITOps and DevOps is very intertwined, creating many interdependencies. The two teams need to work together, and communication is key. If DevOps fails to keep ITOps informed of changes, system stability and security is at risk, but if they wait on feedback from ITOps in every iteration, the process will be too slow.

Aligning your ITOps and DevOps teams helps prevent conflicts and misunderstandings and, what’s most important, optimizes the software development process.

ITOps vs. DevOps: Shared Tools

One way to help with alignment is to ensure everyone is working with the same tools and data wherever possible. Centralized log management can be used to collect data for every component - change logs, audit logs, performance metrics, error alerts, transaction logs - across operating systems, custom apps, networking equipment.

Centralized log management should also be integrated with change management automation and orchestration systems for a comprehensive tech stack.

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