Inception team launches DevOps at Red Hat

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How do you kickstart a DevOps culture at your company? It's not easy, but focusing your team on the open source can be a big help. Many of the principles of DevOps are similar to the open source way like rapid prototyping, knowledge sharing, and collaboration.

At Red Hat our DevOps team was already familiar with open source principles, so we had a leg up. But, it still took some planning and discussion to figure out how we would use the open source way to help us.

In this conversation with Gene Kim, award winning CTO and author of The Phoenix Project, we talk about how we got our DevOps enablement team, called Inception, up and running in Red Hat IT. One of the most interesting things to note is how we validated our decision to build a temporary, cross-functional team to kickstart our DevOps culture.

Gene Kim: I recently heard your CIO, Lee Congdon, share his enthusiasm for your exciting DevOps pilot program, project Inception. What business problem were you trying to solve and how did it lead to this team being created?

Bill Montgomery: Like any IT shop, we’re faced with constantly increasing expectations around speed, agility, and innovation. The Inception project came out of last summer’s larger IT reorg, which had a goal to set up IT for better efficiency and fewer handoffs. As a part of that reorg, Lee and his team established this DevOps Enablement team. We later called it "Inception." It’s been great to have support from the top since the start of this DevOps journey.

Gene: As you were thinking about selecting the team, how big of a team did you settle upon, and what roles or specialties did you choose?

Bill: We recruited a team of four engineers, a product owner/scrum master, and myself. We set it up to be an Agile team, to transform our global IT organization of a few hundred FTEs. The four technical roles we intentionally got onto the team were systems administration, information security, development, and release engineering.

Steve Milner: It actually worked out that every person had at least two of those skills on them, so there was enough crossovers that we were able to very quickly work together on stuff.

Jen Krieger: It is a product owner’s dream Agile team. It’s not like I have this task and I can only ask one team member to do it. I can actually ask any number of team members to do it, which is not always normal for Agile teams.

Gene: Fantastic! All these people are solely dedicated to project Inception—wow! How did you make that happen?

Bill: We have an 18‑24‑month charter with all six team members dedicated fulltime to the project. We’ve made similar efforts in the past on a catch-as-catch-can basis, and made really little progress. The decision was: "Look. If we want to have DevOps, let’s invest in it for real and allocate some fulltime people to the project."

Tim Bielawa: There was a period of time where we didn’t know who else was going to be on the team. We wanted to start so fast that we were fighting—like, "Can we know who our team members are so we can start working together right now?”

Bill: There was definitely a bit of horse‑trading involved because it was a team formed by pulling top contributors from intentionally diverse parts of IT.

Gene: How long did it take to get Inception off the ground, from "PowerPoint approved" to running?

Tim: LibreOffice, not PowerPoint. [laughs]

Gene: Oh, yeah, right. Sorry about that—that’s what I meant to say! [laughing]

Bill: The IT reorg was unveiled in August, and it was end of October when we got the team together and officially had our first day–moved seats, and all that. So, it was a fat two months, from declaration of, "There shall be a DevOps Enablement team" to "Okay, now we’re off to the races." The in-between time was spent creating our charter, recruiting team members, ramp-down time on other projects, and tackling logistical issues like desk space and cost center transfers.

In part two of our discussion, Gene asks how the Inception team partnered internally with other IT teams to start moving the needle on DevOps at Red Hat. 

To read all parts of this series, visit these articles:

Part 1: Getting DevOps Off the Ground

Part 2: The Importance of Partnership in DevOps

Part 3: A DevOps Implementation Strategy

Part 4: DevOps Successes and Failures

Gene Kim is hosting the DevOps Enterprise Summit on October 21-23, where more stories will be told about DevOps transformations in large, complex organizations. Learn more about the summit and submit your own talk here! Do you have a DevOps initiative in plan or in progress in your organization? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section.

Bill Montgomery leads the Inception team in Red Hat IT, bringing DevOps culture and practices to Red Hat. He brings more than a decade of IT experience in both the development and operations side of the house at Red Hat and Follow Bill on twitter: @billmvt

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