We have a bunch of point of view about what is DevOps.

Some consider it's only about culture and organization, other use it as a generic term to encompass Agile/Lean/ methodology and process and some see it as a role due to a bunch of Job offers for a DevOps Engineer.

The question came to my mind after those questions:

  1. What are some methods to measure the ROI for DevOps? where we have mainly 2 type of answer, one is mine aimed at culture/organization change, others are more aimed at the Software Engineering metric and automation
  2. Would choosing the integration branch strategy be part of DevOps? where answers talk about DevOps engineer.
  3. Is DevOps compatible with ITIL? which this time revolve around processes/practices.

In my opinion, DevOps is a culture and organization "model", there's practices (management, development and operations one) easier to achieve when this culture and org. is in place a but I don't feel Automation and any extreme programming method should be defined as DevOps.

If it's the case we'll always have a problem answering a question when the field is not determined, the question 1. above is a good example of this "too broad" interpretation in my opinion.

So should we have a "What is the definition of DevOps ?" on main site ?
Or am I just wrong thinking we should have a clear cut definition to avoid faceted answers ?

  • 1
    Kinda feel like someone answered that question already...
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 20:50
  • That's kind @Shog9 :) but my concern is more about a reference question to cut off debates and if it is really needed or not. I'm kinda worried about the multiples définitions of this site name and how it would influence it.
    – Tensibai
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 20:54
  • Well, this should clear things out :) What is DevOps? Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 17:53
  • @Pierre.Vriens - which is why deleting posts is IMHO not a good idea. Now it's just a matter of time until someone else asks that question... I'd suggest you undelete it and maybe edit it to not blatantly ask for opinions. There is a largely accepted answer to that question, which should be useful to clarify the term. Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 18:32
  • @Pierre not exactly surprising, calling for opinions verbatim is not really well received :( stating a position and asking what you missed could be better I think.
    – Tensibai
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 19:18
  • What I mean is that the question can be worded in a more closed manner to drive an answer backed up with littérature / references @pierre . I still haven't found a satisfying wording btw
    – Tensibai
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 19:30
  • No deal for disclosure @Peter. Happy to discuss it in depth tomorrow if it fits for you
    – Tensibai
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 19:39
  • The site is 24/7, I am not :)
    – Tensibai
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 19:54
  • Don't bother too much with downvotes @Pierre.Vriens :) (And this typo on my nick has already been done a bunch of times, sorry to say you're not the first one :D)
    – Tensibai
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 18:05

5 Answers 5


I tend to agree, although there are some reservations which need clear answers to really make it work well.

For example, when eventually a question like "What does a DevOps engineer do all day?" appears. Will it be closed as off-topic or 'too broad' with a link to "What is DevOps?" list of answers?

Most of us, who are involved with DevOps for long enough, and watched enough presentations and read some books - understand intuitively that it is not a job title or role. Yet many people in the real world do have these job titles and roles, and they didn't read any books or attended any conferences (yet). A good way to approach answering their questions should be defined as well, or else all their questions will by definition (pun intended) be off-topic.

  • 1
    I agree this won't solve all problems, but this may help addressing a too broad or misdefined question by pointing the asker to a reference so he/she can review the question with a more specific term. I've been really caught by the ROI one, where I felt it was quite broad but still with a precise goal and finally answers start to pile up in an approach I hadn't think of. Which makes me think the question is not enough specified finally.
    – Tensibai
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 9:16

The other, slightly flippant, answer to this question is:

If you were to ask 10 people what DevOps is you would get 10 different answers.


I am also of the opinion that DevOps is a Culture and multiple Operating Model span Software Development and Technical Operations making it very difficult to define in absolute terms, some have tried such as the DevOps Manifesto:

We are uncovering better ways of running systems by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes over tools

  • Working systems over comprehensive documentation

  • Customer and developer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.


It's difficult. For a subject like DevOps, it's very appealing to say, "Let's decide what's DevOps and what isn't, so we can just point to it when people aren't sure what it is!", or, "Let's make one huge answer to be a canonical duplicate for every future question!".

Something like that, where you just ask "What is DevOps?", is not likely to work on Stack Exchange, where answers should aim to be verifiably correct with proof (see the Back It Up! principle).

Asking what DevOps is makes people respond with what they consider to be DevOps, so, as noted by Richard Slater, you end up with 10 different answers from 10 different people.

Some criteria to help write a question which avoids this trap:

  • Does the question have a practical answer? Asking what is or isn't DevOps is one thing, but why does it really matter if you count [insert favourite tool/process] as DevOps? Real questions have answers, and the answers should solve a problem rather than just discuss the question.

  • Is the scope reasonable enough that you could actually answer the question? DevOps is generally considered to be quite a diverse area with many different tools, ideas, processes and people—could an answer to 'What is DevOps?' really do that justice in one post?

  • Can the answers prove that they're right? Opinion-based answers, spam and non-answers thrive on questions that are really open and quite subjective. If you ask specifically for what certain groups think about DevOps, you can get an accurate, factual answer. If you just ask what DevOps 'is' (which usually gets interpreted as 'What do you think DevOps is?'), problems start to arise.

If you can write a question like that well, that would be a rather great accomplishment, and I certainly hope that someone manages it.

Regarding the 'DevOps as a Role' issue, I've attempted to ask a question that has practical answers on it: Why shouldn't I try to hire a 'DevOps Engineer'?

  • My idea is more about having descriptive answer to point toward so people can refine their question when they use devops term à se portemanteau. But maybe it would be too long to be useful at all.
    – Tensibai
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 20:40
  • @Tensibai It is an idea that's appealing, but from my (admittedly limited) experience it doesn't work well. It was tried on IoT at the start of the beta, but there are 5 contradictory answers because everyone sees IoT differently. Since DevOps is also a little bit less clearly defined, I fear it will suffer the same problem and just cause more arguments about whether the DevOps definition the site uses is 'correct'.
    – Aurora0001
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 9:45
  • Agree, that's why it has to be worded in a way to avoid contradictory points, which sounds hard. Maybe a question "Is really DevOps a role ?" should be a better approach to what I had in mind when writing this question at first.
    – Tensibai
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 9:48

We deal with this problem at the Hermeneutics.SE all the time: Many questions are too broad and/or primarily opinion based. The solution is all in how you ask. So instead, of asking "What is DevOps" ask more narrow, pointed questions like "What are are the 'Three Ways' of DevOps?" or "What is Kanban and why is it used in DevOps?"

Once you successfully eaten all of the parts of the elephant, you can start a Meta question to collect a list of them in one place.

On the other hand, this answer is a pretty succinct description of what DevOps is...


Yes. There can be a question to define what is DevOps. (And receive 10, or more answers (: )

No. The answer should not be used as a yardstick to filter what questions can be asked.

Let see, let's start redirecting AWS CLI questions to Stack Overflow; what tools to use questions to Software Recommendations; culture questions to The WorkPlace; security questions to Information Security; database questions to Database Administrators; network questions to Network Engineering; kanban questions to Software Engineering; ...

Oh, we are left with questions that ask what is DevOps!

The fact that this site come into existence means there is a broad interest in the DevOps movement.

Why do I ask my "how to handle application secrets" here instead of Server Fault?

Because there are people in the same devops journey that understands where the question is coming from, have done that, and have a solution.

DevOps in itself is multi-facets. It is natural that questions will be multi-facets as well.

I'm for a broader, encompassing view.

Oh dear! Am I writing an answer or an opinion?

  • Apologies. I might not have understood your question. Do you mean to have a definition of DevOps so that answer can only be fitted to the definition? .... btw, what is "fantasmated"
    – kenchew
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 20:52
  • Nevermind, I feel I'm less and less in line with the direction this site is going after. So I'll just take a step back and see how it evolves. But indeed the point here was not a filter question, just a canonical one to point all those question melting DevOps with a Role, which are useless as there's multiple roles in a devops org, and I know no one encompassing all of them. But seems the community is in favor of using this word as a role, so let's see..
    – Tensibai
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 7:38

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