Guest Contributor: Isaac Sacolick, President | CIO, StarCIO
Two system engineers get on a Zoom at the end of the day to schmooze and discuss their accomplishments.
Joe spent most of his day coordinating with the network team on opening firewall ports and enabling an integration between Jira running in their data center and a third-party SaaS application. He finally got the right ports opened and then needed to coordinate between three teams to determine configuration settings and ensure that the integration was operational. Along the way, he noticed that Jira server backups hadn’t run for several days and that no one had installed an important release Atlassian issued several weeks prior. What should have been an hour's worth of work became a whole day’s activity.
Lynn is laughing. She spent most of her day researching the root cause of a performance issue that comes and goes every few days. Lynn reviewed the monitoring alerts, the incidents reported by end users in Jira Service Desk, and several related code changes recorded in Jira Software and Bitbucket. While Lynn wasn’t successful in identifying a smoking gun, she found two potential areas for the development team to investigate. She opened a defect in Jira Software and marked it as a high priority for the agile development team’s product owner to prioritize.
Where Engineering Efforts are Most Needed
Now, we can debate which system engineer is making the most impact. Maybe Joe is working on a business-critical integration, while Lynn is chasing a low-priority performance issue that’s only impacting a small number of users. From this lens, Joe is working on the task of greater importance.
But I would look at this question differently.
I suggest that Joe’s tasks could have been avoided if the organization was running Jira on Atlassian Cloud. In Atlassian’s cloud offering for Jira, integrations from the marketplace are often configured with a few clicks by a Jira administrator, and opening firewall ports and making system-level configuration changes are usually not needed. On the cloud, Jira automatically backs up the data and updates the application with the new releases, so there’s no chance of missing these critical operational procedures.
On the other hand, Lynn is working on a repeat customer-impacting issue. Her efforts may yield a permanent solution and further demonstrates what DevOps is all about; the collaboration between the operations and development team.
Migrating to Atlassian Cloud has Many Benefits
All too often, debates around moving to the cloud center around the merits of running applications in a data center where IT operations have more controls over the end-to-end environment, versus the public cloud and SaaS where multiple third-parties manage many of these controls. These controls can be important for highly-regulated and mission-critical business processes or applications processing analytics, machine learning, or data processing of highly sensitive data sets.
But running workflow systems like Jira in the data center can create productivity barriers, especially for development teams that are under more pressure working remotely. Development teams also want to integrate Confluence and other SaaS applications to improve documentation and collaboration.
Looking at cloud hosting requires diligence around the service levels, operating procedures, and security credentials of the service provider. That’s why Atlassian works to gain businesses’ and end users’ trust and has several security compliance credentials, including ISO 27001 and ISO 27018.
Let’s then consider three benefits of running Atlassian’s tools in Cloud:
1. Focus Engineers on Work Closer to the End-User Experience
There are many ways engineers provide value and impact to their businesses. Some of what engineers work on is at lower levels of the infrastructure when working with storage, networks, and servers. Other times, it’s high up the stack when working directly on customer experiences, employee workflows, or end user devices. In between are the databases, applications, microservices, data integrations, analytics, machine learning, and other technologies.
In general, there are greater challenges and larger business impacts when engineers take on tasks higher in the stack. Also, another generalization is that there are more often tools, third-party services, and automations that can address tasks and issues at lower levels in the stack.
That’s one reason why cloud computing is strategic for many businesses. The cloud provider handles the lower-level infrastructure tasks and issues, freeing up engineers to focus on everything from applications to end user experiences. This transition is particularly important for internal workflow systems, such as operating Jira on Atlassian Cloud, because developers use Jira multiple times daily.
2. Improve User Adoption of Jira and DevOps Tools
Atlassian puts out monthly releases of Jira Software, Jira Service Desk, and other products. The releases include new features, performance improvements, security upgrades, user experience enhancements, and bug fixes.
Organizations that self-manage Atlassian tools have to install the upgrades on their own. That means an engineer must review release notes, test the upgrade, schedule downtime for the application, perform the upgrade, and validate that end users aren’t experiencing issues. There’s an expense to execute these monthly upgrades that is part of the total cost of ownership when self-managing an Atlassian product.
But what’s worse is when engineers fall behind performing these upgrades. Upgrading IT workflow systems are often lower in priority compared to other business-critical systems, so it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone when an on-premise version of Jira is several versions behind the latest and greatest.
But this means end users aren’t experiencing the latest enhancements in the product. No one likes hearing that a feature or enhancement is released, but not available until IT is freed up to schedule and execute an upgrade. Falling behind versions can lead to reduced user adoption, which can impact the productivity of development teams and collaboration with business users.
3. Collaborate to Drive DevOps Innovation
So what can engineers do when they spend less time on infrastructure issues and more time on end user experiences? In Lynn’s case, she’s taking on an SRE responsibility by investigating the root cause of a performance issue. Maybe tomorrow, she takes on DevOps tasks by improving the performance of a CI/CD pipeline, creating new application alerts, or automating more Jira Service Desk workflows.
When we consider all the work that needs to be done by an IT Ops group, there’s good reason to seek out opportunities to simplify and prioritize more work up-stack. It means engineers have more time to partner with development teams and business leaders on new capabilities and innovation that drive business impact.
Now that sounds more exciting to me!
Isaac Sacolick, President of StarCIO, guides companies through smarter, faster, innovative, and safer digital transformation programs that deliver business results. He is the author of the Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology, industry speaker, and blogger at Social, Agile, and Transformation.