Once upon at time, there was just IT—the people who fixed the desktop computers and peripherals. Then networks and the internet came along, and Web operations was born to differentiate the folks who support corporate systems and sites from the printer repair person. Eventually, that grew into something called IT operations that actually combined both functions. At some point, “operations” got shortened to “IT Ops,” most likely to make it sound cooler. (You know, like “BlackOps” for super-secret military missions.)

Apparently, though, some people thought “Ops” was so totally, intensely cool that they started attaching it to every part of the information technology world—a noble practice that occasionally veers into absurdity.

On the most useful end of the spectrum, perhaps, lies DevOps—the combination of dev and ops into a single, unified approach to technology development, implementation, and keeping the trains running (which does not include traditional IT). To be sure, DevOps as a practice has done a lot of good for a lot of companies, but this naming trend doesn’t stop there. In fact, there’s now a flavor of ops for just about everything you can think of. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most interesting ones:

padlockSecDevOps: Also known as Rugged DevOps, the emerging field of SecDevOps is all about injecting security considerations into DevOps workflows. As New Relic’s Stevan Arychuk wrote last year: “SecDevOps seeks to embed security inside the development process as deeply as DevOps has done with operations.

Sysops: This one is a little different than the others. Going back to the omniscient folks who ran early BBS (Bulletin Board Systems), it predates the internet. And instead of a process, a Sysop is a person, a system operator or administrator, typically of a multi-user computer system. Sysops is the plural. 

ChatOps: With the rise of chat bots and chat interfaces, companies like GitHub, Slack, Atlassian, and others are now slinging around the term ChatOps to mean “conversation-driven development and operations,” says Stevan. According to VentureBeat, “By bringing your tools into your conversations and using a chat bot modified to work with key plugins and scripts, teams can automate tasks and collaborate, working better, cheaper, and faster.”

App Ops: This one has a double meaning. First, App Ops refers to people focused on application deployments and code pipeline, but who don’t call themselves DevOps because they use waterfall dev practices, or who simply aren’t ready to embrace DevOps (or just hate the name). Second, App Ops is a feature in Android designed to allow tweaking the permissions of individual apps. So, yeah.

Frontend Ops: This became a thing a few years ago as more and more application logic was being deferred to the client side. The bridge between an application’s intent and its reality, a Frontend Ops engineer would be adept at serving and hosting frontend resources—according to Smashing Magazine in 2013. There was even a New Relic webinar on the topic and a Frontend Ops conference in 2014. And what about Backend Ops, you might ask? Well, that’s pretty much just plain Ops.

smartphone with gear symbolMobile Ops: No, not the game! As mobile devices and apps become omnipresent, making sure everything runs the way it’s supposed to is the goal for Mobile Ops. Realistically, other than focusing on mobile, Mobile Ops isn’t all that different than plain old everyday Ops.

NetOps: NetOps is not just Network Operations, which involves monitoring and managing network systems and then fixing whatever breaks. NetOps also refers to the DoD-wide operational, organizational, and technical capabilities for operating and defending the Global Information Grid, according to Wikipedia. (Not to mention Nuclear Emergency Team Operations!)

Storage Ops: Not surprisingly, this refers to managing the storage of data in corporate IT systems. I think we’re starting to see the pattern here.

DataOps: As Data Nerds, this Ops is close to New Relic’s heart. Lenny Liebmann, founding partner at Morgan Armstrong, described it this way in SearchCIO: “DataOps is ‘the set of best practices that improve coordination between data science and operations.’” It’s also sometimes called AnalyticOps. Tamr Co-Founder and CEO Andy Palmer, meanwhile, says, “DataOps acknowledges the interconnected nature of data engineering, data integration, data quality and data security/privacy—and aims to help an organization rapidly deliver data that accelerates analytics and enables previously impossible analytics.” Sounds good to us! 

cloud icon with gears insideCloudOps: Per David Linthicum writing in SearchCloudComputing, CloudOps “refers to how an enterprise runs and manages a cloud-based system.” Linthicum cites four key factors in CloudOps: abstract management layers to operate the cloud, managed provisioning of machine instances in the cloud, limits on what users can do in the cloud, and automation of as many processes as possible.

Ad Ops: Clearly, the Ops tag no longer applies only to classic IT. The moniker has also been adapted to running almost anything, including the “processes and systems that support the sale and delivery of online advertising.”

MarkOps, or Marketing Ops: If there’s Ad Ops, there has to be Marketing Ops, too, right? And there is! New Relic’s own marketing guru Isaac Wyatt describes it as DevOps in disguise: “Running the systems that allow digital marketers to do what they need to do. That includes managing technology, automation, enablement, and analytics—all the data- and software-based stuff behind the slick artwork, slogans, and calls to action.” Basically, all that marketing automation increasingly requires today’s marketers to think like engineers. (FYI, Isaac sometimes calls it MOPS!)

dollar icon with gearsSales Ops: See above—in a world of AdOps and MarkOps, do you really think sales folks want to get left behind? Of course not. But that doesn’t make it sexy. According to the Harvard Business Review, Sales Ops was described back in the 1970s as “all the nasty number things that you don’t want to do, but need to do to make a great sales force.” Now, with the rise of data analytics, Sales Ops is finally getting its day in the sun.

Visible Ops: Now we’re getting esoteric. According to the Visible Ops Handbook by DevOps leaders Kevin BehrGene Kim, and George Spafford, “Visible Ops is a methodology designed to jumpstart implementation of controls and process improvement in IT organizations.” They cite four key steps to Visible Ops: Control risky changes; inventory all assets, configurations, and services; implement effective release management processes; and enable continuous improvement.

NoOps: Finally, in a bit of a paradox, the ultimate ops may be NoOps. According to TechTarget, “NoOps (no operations) is the concept that an IT environment can become so automated and abstracted from the underlying infrastructure that there is no need for a dedicated team to manage software in-house.” Sounds good if you can make it work, but some observers see NoOps as a disaster waiting to happen.

But why stop there? The Ops suffix can make almost anything sound cool. In the spirit of EverythingOps, we offer the following examples:

  • Able to get to work faster than your colleagues? Must be CommuteOps!
  • Got a new way to perform surgery? It’s OpsOps!
  • That special, slightly OCD, system for stacking the dishwasher? DishOps
  • Really good at changing your baby? Call it DiaperOps!
  • A better technique for slicing vegetables? ChopOps
  • Temporary retail stores catering to young dads? PopOps

That’s all we’ve got. Unless you want to Ops-Out, we invite you to share any Ops we forgot on Twitter at @NewRelic using the hashtag #MoreOps

Sincerely, the team at New Relic BlogOps.


Ice cream, padlock, smartphone, cloud, and dollar images courtesy of Shutterstock.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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