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DevOps, Software DevelopmentDec 15, 2018

Benefits of Outsourcing Your Company's DevOps

Atlassian DevOps Tool Ecosystem

Modern DevOps has changed (mostly for the better) the way that companies are delivering software, enhancing the way we manage code, builds, tests, deployments, configurations, and monitoring. The downside is that hiring good talent to set up and maintain the modern DevOps infrastructure can be quite expensive and in a lot of cases, very hard to find. In comes DevOps as a Service, or outsourced DevOps. If you're a software company that falls into one of the following categories, outsourced DevOps is likely a great option to consider:

  1. You value DevOps but can't quite afford a full-time DevOps engineer
  2. Your software engineers are currently filling the DevOps role, eating into your precious development time
  3. You have a small team of DevOps engineers, or only one person, who is either unqualified or overloaded for your company's requirements

If any of those situations sounded familiar, read on!

Reduced Costs

One of the biggest benefits, and for the finance-minded readers out there, most important benefit of outsourcing your DevOps is reducing your labor costs. When you have a full-time DevOps engineer on your team's payroll for 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, your labor costs alone are going to be very, very high. Depending on your company's geographical location, you could be looking at $150,000+ a year after accounting for base salary, taxes, benefits, etc. For the average DevOps setup, outsourcing your DevOps to a third party is going to be quite a bit less expensive than that. I can't speak for all agencies, but in most cases, our DevOps as a Service offering is a better financial option than hiring in-house.

Broader Scope of Knowledge

As you likely know, it's not all about the money. Another huge benefit for outsourcing your DevOps to an agency versus hiring an in-house DevOps engineer is the fact that you're getting access to an entire team, not just one lone-wolf. Having an entire team of DevOps engineers who all come from different backgrounds, think differently, and have different skillsets are going to offer you a much more comprehensive DevOps package than one person ever well. Additionally, when you work with an outsourced DevOps agency, you're likely working with an agency who has been around the block. They've worked with many companies in a variety of industries, they know what works, they know what doesn't work, they know all the quirks of each tool and they know how to handle different situations. When you hire in-house DevOps, your typical DevOps engineer will have only worked with maybe a couple companies in the past, and their experience is limited to the tools and setup those companies were using. When you go with an outsourced DevOps agency, you're not just getting multiple DevOps engineers - you're getting access to their huge database of experience, knowledge, suggestions, and tips & tricks.

Flexibility

Your company changes all the time. People come, people go. New product lines are added, teams are reorganized, your software's usage can decline, and it can spike exponentially. The other major benefit of outsourcing your DevOps is increased flexibility. You can think about it the same as hosting a scalable application in the cloud, like AWS for example: Let's say you have a massively scalable e-commerce infrastructure running on EC2, and holiday season is around the corner. In the old days when everything ran on dedicated physical hardware, this was a huge problem. But in the age of modern cloud providers like AWS, it's no big deal, your infrastructure is already configured for scale and you just increase your EC2 instances to account for the increased bandwidth needs. Then, when January hits and the holiday season is over, and you no longer need that extra power, you click a few buttons and you reduce your instances back to what they were to reduce your cost. When you hire an in-house DevOps team, it's not that easy. If your needs increase and you need to hire additional resources, it can take months to find good talent, onboard them, and get them up to speed. If your needs decrease - uh oh, now you either must eat the costs or let someone go, neither of which are very pleasant. With an outsourced DevOps team, you can easily increase or decrease the resources dedicated to your account to reflect your company's needs in real-time.

The Cons

If you've read this far, you're probably thinking "okay, this sounds too good to be true, where are the cons?". As with outsourcing any department of your business, there's risk involved and it's not the correct move for every team. Here's a few potential cons of going with an outsourced DevOps team versus hiring in-house resources:

  1. Geographical distance. If you decide to go with a US-based team, this likely won't be an issue. However, if you were to go with a team in say, India, this could be a huge problem if not done correctly. Given that India can have a 10.5- to 13.5-hour difference depending on where you are in the US, efficient communication with your outsourced team can prove to be very difficult if not impossible. Then there's the language barrier and cultural differences to think about as well. This is not to say that it isn't possible, I've seen it done correctly myself, but it requires a lot of work to get it done right. If you're looking at going with an offshore team, I would advise you get these concerns squared away as a first priority.
  2. Lack of transparency. When you're working with any agency, it's very important to ensure there is complete transparency when it comes to the work they're doing for you. The first thing you should do when beginning your relationship is establish what exactly your DevOps team will be doing for you on a regular basis, what tasks fall under their service, and what isn't covered. While it's very important to have trust in any relationship, I always follow the principle "trust - but verify". Ensure your vendor is providing you with regular reports on the work they're doing, time spent on various tasks, their roadmap for your infrastructure, and documenting your infrastructure in the case you decide to end your relationship.
  3. Double-outsourcing. If you're looking at hiring a local or US-based agency for your outsourced DevOps work, and the fact that they're onshore was part of your decision, it's crucial to make sure the team doing the work is actually onshore. A lot of outsourced agencies out there, not limited to DevOps, often outsource their work to another party, often to resources in another country such as India or Brazil. Not only can this be disingenuous, but the quality of work you receive can be greatly diminished. Take the time upfront to ask the proper questions and make sure your provider of choice isn't offloading the work to someone else.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you're a company in need of DevOps resources, but you can't quite justify hiring an in-house team, outsourcing to an agency that specializes in DevOps as a Service is a great option to consider. You can reduce your costs, gain access to a broader scope of knowledge, and gain flexibility. As always, do your due diligence when considering each agency in order to ensure you find an agency that works well with your team - you'll know them when you find them.

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