SaaS company executives spend as much as one-fifth of their engineering budgets on DevOps. Yet despite the benefits promised by DevOps, many of these same executives believe they have a “DevOps problem” that hinders their ability to deliver cloud applications as rapidly, effectively, and securely as business requirements demand. The perceived “DevOps problem” is actually the result of a number of factors and historically limited ways of dealing with them, but positive change is on the horizon.

The DevOps Problem: Four Key Factors 

Almost every SaaS company executive I meet discusses having a “DevOps problem.” These executives spend 10% to 20% or more of their engineering budgets on something unrelated to their core business. It’s not helping their companies innovate, differentiate, or compete more effectively. And they don’t understand why DevOps is so complex and expensive.

The more of these conversations I have, the more convinced I am that there is no real “DevOps problem.” That’s just shorthand for a combination of factors that are limiting the business value of those DevOps investments and the productivity of software developers and DevOps engineers. Those factors include speed, cost, staffing, and perception.

Speed. Too often, DevOps is seen as the bottleneck slowing the velocity of development and delivery teams striving to keep pace with customer demands. Multiple factors often affect the velocity of those efforts, but the DevOps team is often seen as a primary cause of actual or perceived delays. 

Cost. The overall costs of  cloud application deployment oftenfail to meet the promise or expectations of “better, faster, cheaper.” When DevOps consumes as much as one-fifth of an engineering budget, DevOps is likely to be held responsible for at least some of the difference between expected and actual costs. The rub here is that when DevOps teams are spending most of their time manually creating and revising deployment configurations, they aren’t fully able to optimize costs or limit potential issues. They just don’t have the time to do both. Strong DevOps processes can help to streamline the application development effort. The issue is the cost and complexity of instilling and enforcing those processes with traditional approaches.

Staffing. Talented DevOps engineers are scarce and expensive, which can limit the ability to grow a team in a timely response to growing demand. Even companies fortunate enough to have DevOps staff in place must invest in retention efforts and opportunities for professional advancement. Those companies must also often manage near-constant turnover, which puts newer, less experienced people on the front lines of meeting customer demands.
Perception. Many business decision-makers believe building and deploying cloud software should be faster, easier, and less expensive than it often turns out to be. Unfamiliarity with how DevOps works can contribute to this perception, especially when developers, customers, and business decision-makers see how easy delivering cloud apps seems to be for established giants such as Amazon or Netflix. 

While there’s a natural expectation for cloud software delivery to appear effortless, most people don’t realize the resources it takes to achieve Amazon- or Netflix-like automation and simplification of cloud software deployment. While those companies can afford and justify those levels of investments, few, if any, SaaS companies will ever be able to do so. However, if the history of modern IT is a reliable indicator, they won’t have to because the relevant enabling technologies will come down in cost and complexity. Innovative technologies are needed, applied with a focus on benefits to cloud software creators, customers, other users,  and the business.

The Solution: More Automation, Easier Collaboration

To maximize the business value of DevOps investments, DevOps needs to become more automated and collaborative. Automation features must extend across the entire software lifecycle, from ideation and prototyping through development, delivery, and deployment. Specifically, DevOps teams need automation and other features that free them from manual, mundane tasks such as building and refining deployment configurations, so they can focus more on a productive developer experience. Effective deployment is or should be the highest priority for every DevOps team. Without effective, efficient deployment, the best software development efforts worldwide don’t matter to the business.

DevOps solutions must also provide tools, best practices, and guardrails that close the skills gaps separating traditional software developers from DevOps engineers. Automating and simplifying access to DevOps functionality helps to increase and improve collaboration among developers, engineers, and other stakeholders. Improved collaboration reduces time to deployment, costs, and staffing challenges.

This is why the OpsCanvas team decided to find and take a different approach. Many DevOps projects begin with a request to DevOps to create the infrastructure as code (IaC) necessary to deploy an application to a new cloud environment or to update an application already running in the cloud. This simple request often turns into the development and line-by-line review of hundreds or thousands of lines of complex IaC configuration code, which is a time-consuming, error-prone process.

The OpsCanvas approach turns the process on its head and dramatically reduces the time and errors traditionally associated with DevOps projects. Instead of requesting DevOps to generate the necessary IaC elements, a software developer simply draws a logical diagram of the desired application or modification. The IaC and deployment scripts necessary to deploy are generated automatically by what we call “Generative IaC” This takes a ton of coding and editing work off of DevOps. It allows them to be part of the deployment process and enables them to work faster, more accurately, and more securely.

This “Draw and Deploy” approach minimizes human error and configuration inconsistencies, making environments more secure and reliable. With OpsCanvas, every IaC environment follows predefined best practices and guidelines for more consistency across each entire infrastructure. Collaborations are improved, productivity increased, and deployment times and time to market are reduced from days to minutes, which makes everyone happy, including the customer. 

I had lunch with a former SaaS CEO, a VP of Technology. I started to describe what we were doing, and before I could finish, he asked, “Can I buy that? What you’re describing would be a game changer for us.” So, I’m confident we’re on the right track. 

Every SaaS company executive pursuing DevOps must ensure those pursuits deliver meaningful, measurable benefits to developers, customers, and the business. To do so requires innovative combinations of modern technologies applied with a focus on the entire cloud software lifecycle, from creation through deployment.

OpsCanvas is building solutions designed to help SaaS companies get the most from their DevOps efforts and investments.


About Brian Kathman:

Brian Kathman, who currently serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of OpsCanvas, has an exemplary career that has spanned more than two decades in the technology sector. Notably, OpsCanvas is his eighth venture, underlining his substantial expertise in launching and scaling early-stage technology companies.

Prior to OpsCanvas, Brian achieved significant success with Signal Vine, a SaaS messaging platform. Under his leadership, Signal Vine Signal Vine developed an enthusiastic and dedicated user base and emerged as the industry leader in conversational text messaging for the education market.

Known for his capabilities in establishing strong corporate cultures and assembling high-performing teams, Brian has a proven track record of transforming complex challenges and untapped ideas into thriving businesses. With OpsCanvas, he brings his extensive experience to bear, aligning the company’s offerings with dynamic market demands and evolving technologies. Given his history of leadership and innovation, OpsCanvas is well-positioned to address the sophisticated needs of modern software deployment.