Erica Langhi is smiling into the camera and standing against a white background.
Erica Langhi. Image: Red Hat

‘Success today requires some blind steps and, in many cases, failure’

31 Mar 2020

Erica Langhi, senior solutions architect at Red Hat, draws on her 20 years of experience to discuss digital transformation in DevOps.

Erica Langhi is a solutions architect at open-source technology provider Red Hat with more than 20 years of experience in the sector, having held consultancy and technical roles throughout her career.

Her expertise spans open source, data integration, application development, integration and enterprise architectures and, in her current role, she works with customers across a number of verticals to help them maximise the potential of open-source products within their organisations.

Here, she discusses digital transformation in the cloud-native DevOps field, and how it will affect jobs and organisations.

‘Digital leaders need to be open to experimentation’

How should we be approaching upskilling in DevOps?

In this new age of cloud-native application development, it’s more important than ever that organisations invest in training to prepare their team for new challenges, whilst encouraging developers to constantly challenge themselves by rethinking their skills.

Cloud-native app development is an approach to building, running, and improving apps based on well-known techniques and technologies for cloud computing. A good example of upskilling related to this approach has come about through the emergence of Quarkus, a Kubernetes-native Java framework.

Quarkus is set to become a leading platform for serverless, cloud and Kubernetes environments, and puts Java in a better position to scale and improve faster in the future. With flexible and easy-to-use APIs, Quarkus enables developers to grow their existing skillsets in Java to build cloud-native apps and best-of-breed frameworks.

Most Java developers are familiar with the imperative programming model and would like to utilise that experience when adopting a new platform. At the same time, developers are rapidly adopting a cloud-native, event-driven, asynchronous and reactive model to address business requirements to build highly concurrent and responsive applications.

This provides an indication of how new platforms offer opportunities for developers to use, and build upon, existing skills.

What are going to be the most important skills to help companies keep up with digital transformation?

Developers and operations teams need skills and knowledge to be able to evolve systems rapidly during digital transformation projects in order to deliver new functional benefits.

They should have a detailed understanding of DevOps methods, such as continuous delivery, which helps to ensure that quality testing can be automated at every step of the process. Continuous testing enables fast feedback early, which cuts down on wasted time and effort.

Digital leaders need to be open to experimentation. They need communication skills to reassure their teams that the way they were working in the past wasn’t necessarily wrong, but new tools are now available to unlock a wider range of opportunities for an organisation.

Everyone needs to have a degree of resilience because success today requires some blind steps and, in many cases, failure. Learning from failure has to become an ingrained part of the culture for teams running digital transformation projects.

You need people who are collaborative, able to minimise risk and understand how to ensure greater IT reliability, scalability and security over the course of these projects.

Will there be any new jobs as digital transformation continues?

There will certainly be completely new roles created as emerging technologies mature, whilst tech jobs that we’ve long been familiar with will also evolve. New roles will combine technical knowledge with critical communication and operational skills.

Over many years, we have seen a shift from routine jobs to non-routine ones, and this is likely to continue as automation is increasingly introduced in business and teams are able to unload some time-consuming tasks to focus more on problems requiring human decision-making.

What about the technologies that people will need to be trained on?

Cloud-native development is essential to getting applications to market quickly. The right tools and techniques can help your developers create new apps and optimise existing ones faster to satisfy your customers’ demands.

DevOps is fundamental to this new approach. Containers, APIs, microservices and hybrid cloud are all part of the mix, so developers need the requisite knowledge and skills across each of these areas.

Adopting DevOps processes helps you build a cloud-native culture that adapts quickly to customer needs and delivers continuously.

Is there anything that companies should start doing to help their digital transformation?

Organisations have to invest in technology that serves employees and consumers alike in intuitive ways. New types of storage, analytics, automation and management are needed for clouds, mobile apps and ‘stuff-as-a-service’.

Remember that digital transformation doesn’t happen with technology alone. It requires adjustments in the processes and, ultimately, the culture of an organisation. After all, it doesn’t matter how functional and efficient your applications and infrastructure are if old bottlenecks still slow you down.

Digital transformation is not just about getting to the cloud and automating processes. It’s about changing your business as well as your technologies, and it’s important to remember that it’s never over. Digital transformation projects can be implemented with proprietary or open source, but open source provides the best innovation available.

Big data, mobile, cloud and containers are all open source, and it is the technologies that are powering digital transformation. Hadoop, which got popular a few years ago as the biggest implementation of big data, is based on open-source technology, whilst the largest mobile operating system, Android, is based on Linux.

The leading container technology, Kubernetes, is open source. Today’s largest public cloud providers use open-source software, and the most-used private cloud product is OpenStack.

If digital transformation is evolution sparked by technology, and the leading technologies spurring digital transformation are open source, then digital transformation is inherently open source.

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