The Incredible True Story of How DevOps Got Its Name

If your name is Patrick Debois or Andrew Shafer, you can safely skip this thumbnail history—you lived it. On the other hand, even DevOps aficionados may not know the whole story of how this movement came to be called DevOps. Here’s the inside story, as recounted by Damon Edwards in his The Short History of DevOps YouTube video:

Basically, the timeline goes something like this:

2007: While consulting on a data center migration for the Belgium government, system administrator Patrick Debois becomes frustrated by conflicts between developers and system admins. He ponders solutions.

August 2008: At the Agile Conference in Toronto, software developer Andrew Shafer posts notice of a “birds of a feather” session entitled “Agile Infrastructure.” Exactly one person attends: You guessed it, Patrick Debois. And he has the room to himself; thinking there was no interest in his topic, Andrew skips his own session! Later, Debois tracks down Shafer for a wide-ranging hallway conversation. Based on their talk, they form the Agile Systems Administration Group.

June 2009: At the O’Reilly Velocity 09 conference, John Allspaw and Paul Hammond give their now-famous talk entitled “10 Deploys a Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation at Flickr.” Watching remotely, Debois laments on Twitter that he is unable to attend in person. Paul Nasrat tweets back, “Why not organize your own Velocity event in Belgium?”

October 2009: Debois decides to do exactly that—but first, he needs a name. He takes the first three letters of development and operations, adds the word “days,” and calls it DevOpsDays. The conference doors open on October 30 to an impressive collection of developers, system administrators, toolsmiths, and others. When the conference ends, the ongoing discussions move to Twitter. To create a memorable hashtag, Debois shortens the name to #DevOps. And the movement has been known as DevOps ever since.

(Disagreement about the spelling remains, however. The predominant usage is “DevOps,” but a vocal minority—including founder Debois—advocate “Devops.” And true to DevOps’ spirit of lively debate, a few argue for eliminating capital letters altogether, as in “devops.”)

In an InfoQ video interview from April 2012, Debois admitted that naming the movement was not as intentional as it might seem: “I picked ‘DevOpsDays’ as Dev and Ops working together because ‘Agile System Administration’ was too long,” he said. “There never was a grand plan for DevOps as a word.”

Where are they now?

Patrick Debois is currently a senior consultant for Belgium-based Vlaamse Radio-en Televisieomroep (VRT). Andrew Shafer’s LinkedIn profile lists his recent job title as “Human Swiss Army Knife” and adds, “I’m looking for interesting problems to solve.” Indeed.

fredric@newrelic.com'

Fredric Paul (aka The Freditor) is Editor in Chief for New Relic. He's an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist who has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite, AllBusiness.com, InformationWeek, CNET, Electronic Entertainment, PC World, and PC|Computing. His writing has appeared in MIT Technology Review, Omni, Conde Nast Traveler, and Newsweek, among other places. View posts by .

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