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DevOps must-reads: Practitioners share top books

Mike Perrow Technology Evangelist, Vertica

You can find plenty of new books on the basics of DevOps, but you're probably well behond that. Fortunately, it's  easy to find DevOps books that take on advanced and specialty topics such as DevOps and big data analytics, or DevOps and Java apps, Kubernetes, and blockchain technologies

In fact, so many new books on DevOps topics came out that it can be difficult to decide which to choose.  

That's why TechBeacon pulled together this guide to the state-of-the-art in DevOps books, both published and upcoming. You'll also find a sampling of the special-interest DevOps books, and a roundup of DevOps classics.

While it might be premature to call a book on anything as recent as DevOps a classic, we expect that these books will be on practitioners' shelves for years to come.

9 new books on general DevOps practices

A Seat at the Table

by Mark Schwartz

As described by the publisher, A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility explores "the role of IT leadership as it is now, and opens the door to reveal IT leadership as it should be―an integral part of the value creation engine." With an easy style, Schwartz reveals that the only way to become an Agile IT leader is to be courageous―to throw off the attitude and assumptions that have kept CIOs from taking their rightful seat at the table."

Agile and DevOps enthusiast Malcolm Isaacs calls it "an extremely well-written book that describes the pearls of wisdom gleaned from Schwarz's personal experiences as CIO of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Although written for CIOs, it's a must-read for anyone looking for practical advice on what it really means to be an Agile IT leader, and their role in delivering value to the business."

DevOps evangelist and trainer Dominica DeGrandis agrees:

"A Seat at the Table challenges traditional thoughts on managing IT. Schwartz emphasizes how the DevOps movement is changing the way IT operates and how IT executives can deliver more business value. The book provides the reader with solid how-to information in an entertaining style. If you lead IT and need a seat at the table, this book is for you."

The book also includes a reader's guide for those who want expert advice and commentary.

The Startup Way: How Modern Companies Use Entrepreneurial Management to Transform Culture and Drive Long-Term Growth

by Eric Ries

Ries builds on his earlier book, The Lean Startup, where he described the minimally viable product and build-measure-learn methods. This time he trains his sights on both established businesses such as GE, Toyota, Amazon, and Facebook; and new companies such as Airbnb, to lay out what he calls "a system of entrepreneurial management that leads ... to sustainable growth and long-term impact." 

"Eric brilliantly describes the limitations of old management thinking in a time where competitors bring out new products in an order of magnitude faster than legacy companies," says Jeff Sutherland, CEO of Scrum, Inc., and author of Scrum. "The Startup Way describes how to foster entrepreneurial leadership essential to corporate survival in the twenty-first century."

Dr. Steve Mayner, SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT) and senior consultant at Scaled Agile, writes:

"The Startup Way takes Lean Startup into the institutional enterprise context...this will extend DevOps to include truly the full value stream and ecosystem of domains, not just the technology domains, for leaning out the business."

Implementing Modern DevOps: Enabling IT Organizations to Deliver Faster and Smarter

by David Gonzalez

This title, which is #8 on the BookAuthority's list of 31 new DevOps books, "follows a unique approach to modern DevOps using cutting-edge tools and technologies such as Ansible, Kubernetes, and Google Cloud Platform."

"This book starts by explaining the organizational alignment that has to happen in every company that wants to implement DevOps in order to be effective, and the use of cloud datacenters in combination with the most advanced DevOps tools to get the best out of a small team of skilled engineers. It also delves into how to use Kubernetes to run your applications in Google Cloud Platform, minimizing the friction and hassle of maintaining a cluster but ensuring its high availability."

Sense and Respond: How Successful Organizations Listen to Customers and Create New Products Continuously

by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams

by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

I'm pairing these two books for several reasons. They're by the same two authors, and the newer book, Lean and Respond, from 2017, builds on the concepts in Lean UX, from the previous year.

From the publisher's description of Sense and Respond: "Now, organizations are emerging, and thriving, based on their capacity to sense and respond instantly to customer and employee behaviors. In Sense and Respond, Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, leading tech experts and founders of the global Lean UX movement, vividly show how these companies operate, highlighting the new mindset and skills needed to lead and manage them—and to continuously innovate within them."

From the publisher's description of Lean UX: "This book shows you how to collaborate closely with other members of your Agile product team, and gather feedback early and often. You'll learn how to drive the design in short, iterative cycles to assess what works best for the business and the user."

Kurt Bittner, head of enterprise solutions at Scrum.org, and formerly a principal analyst at Forrester Research focused on agile development techniques, recommends both titles. "I've been reading about teams, culture, and leadership. These two books are important because DevOps practictioners can focus too much on improving cycle time and forget to measure the results they are trying to achieve. Various studies have shown that much of what gets built and delivered isn't used or doesn't result in improved customer outcomes."

"Realizing that every requirement is really just a theory that needs to be tested, running experiments to test these theories, measuring the results, and then adapting accordingly, is essential to being successful. DevOps and Agile practices help to run these experiments."

Stella Report from the SNAFUcatchers Workshop on Coping with Complexity

Anders Wallgren, CTO at Electric Cloud, alerted me to this report, based on a meeting in New York that coincided with the massive winter storm named Stella. 

He writes:

"It's not a book. But I recommend the Stella Report from the SNAFUcatchers Workshop on Coping with Complexity. It highlights the challenges associated with scaling DevOps in the enterprise and, more particularly, how to address the challenges associated with the human factors in IT. Taking a systems-level view and approach to the software delivery pipeline is critical to the success of any modern enterprise, and, this report reveals why it is important to understand where and how our systems are both resilient and brittle."

Effective DevOps: Building a Culture of Collaboration, Affinity, and Tooling at Scale

by Jennifer Davis and Ryn Daniels

Though published in 2016, this book is recent enough to be considered a new addition to the canon of DevOps literature. Its focus on culture makes it a standout on the shelf, alongside other books focused on the technology aspects of DevOps practices.

From the publisher: "Some companies think that adopting DevOps means bringing in specialists or a host of new tools. With this practical guide, you’ll learn why DevOps is a professional and cultural movement that calls for change from inside your organization. Authors Ryn Daniels and Jennifer Davis provide several approaches for improving collaboration within teams, creating affinity among teams, promoting efficient tool usage in your company, and scaling up what works throughout your organization’s inflection points."

An Amazon reviewer writes: "The book is an outstanding exploration of the connection between culture and tools in implementing DevOps. In particular it highlights how all the expensive, fancy technical tools in the world will not make you successful if your organization has a poor culture. Technical skills and cultural skills cannot be considered mutually exclusive, nor are they things that can be addressed separately. [Davis and Daniels] have written a fantastic resource for technologists, managers, and those who have only heard about this 'devops thing.'"

Mirco Herring, APAC lead for DevOps and agile at Accenture Australia, says:

"I have a special place for Effective DevOps. The voices of women [Davis and Daniels] in IT are absolutely needed in the DevOps space."


The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations

by Gene Kim, Patrick Debois, John Willis, and Jez Humble

Published in late 2016, this was one of the most referenced books in the field of DevOps last year. It remains a must-read for any organization seeking to scale up its IT capability and expand DevOps practices across multiple departments or lines of business. A big part of the message here: DevOps is not just for startup businesses. It can be a way to transform and unify well-established companies that need a competitive edge in their IT capabilities.

From the publisher: "Authors Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, and John Willis developed this book for anyone looking to transform their IT organization—especially those who want to make serious changes through the DevOps methodology to increase productivity, profitability and win the marketplace. It is the all-inclusive guide for planning and executing DevOps transformations while providing background on the history of DevOps and dozens of case studies to support DevOps principles. It also provides best practices to help organizations unite disparate teams, achieve common goals and obtain support from the highest levels of leadership."

The DevOps Handbook: Transforming Your Organization Through Agile, Scrum And DevOps Principles (An Extensive Guide)

by TechWorld, an IDG UK company

Many new books have "DevOps handbook" in the title, riffing off the success of the Kim et al. book referenced above. In any case, this one is at the top of BookAuthority's new DevOps 2018 book list.

Amazon reviews of this particular book are enthusiastic, including Pam Brenham's note: "This guide helps to narrow the gap that exists between development and operations to streamline the general software delivery process."

Amazon reviewer Ivan Ramirez, calls this book a "must-read for anyone in the DevOps field. ... very useful, especially for those who are studying computer technologies. It's also applicable to the real world, you can tell it's well researched ... by experienced people, written in a simple and understandable language."

Waleska Moreira Bermudezon writes that "this book provides a decent introduction to DevOps. If you've heard the term, but are not clear as to what 'DevOps' means, then this book will help you understand the concepts. What it boils down to is 'agile done right.' The book provides many amazing examples of companies who have implemented DevOps principles."

DevOps special interests

These books  take the collaborative spirit of DevOps into more specific realms of IT and management. You are likely to find, with a simple search, other DevOps books dealing with particular technologies or areas of concern. But the books listed here should be of interest to many readers.

Hands-on DevOps: Explore the Concept of Continuous Delivery and Integrate It with Data Science Concepts

by Sricharan Vadapalli

Touted by Amazon as a way to "transform yourself into a specialist in DevOps adoption for Big Data on cloud," this book provides a data and analytics context for DevOps.

From the author: "DevOps strategies have really become an important factor for big data environments. This book initially provides an introduction to big data, DevOps, and cloud computing along with the need for DevOps strategies in big data environments. We move on to explore the adoption of DevOps frameworks and business scenarios. We then build a big data cluster, deploy it on the cloud, and explore DevOps activities such as CI/CD and containerization.

"If you are a big data architect, solutions provider, or any stakeholder working in big data environment and want to implement the strategy of DevOps, then this book is for you."

Continuous Delivery for Java Apps

by Jorge Acetozi

This book sports a long subtitle: Build a CD Pipeline Step by Step Using Kubernetes, Docker, Vagrant, Jenkins, Spring, Maven, and Artifactory. It's described by the publisher as a guide "through the implementation of the real-world Continuous Delivery using top-notch technologies that are in high demand by the best companies around the world.

"Instead of finishing this book thinking 'I know what Continuous Delivery is, but I have no idea how to implement it,' you will end up with your machine set up with a Kubernetes cluster running Jenkins Pipelines in a distributed and scalable fashion."

DevOps with Kubernetes: Accelerating Software Delivery with Container Orchestrators

by Hideto Saito, Hui-Chuan Chloe Lee, and Cheng-Yang Wu

The authors explain how to implement DevOps using Docker and Kubernetes.
As described by the publisher, this book will help you "leverage Kubernetes as a platform to deploy, scale, and run containers efficiently. This book is targeted for anyone, who wants to learn containerization and clustering in a practical way using Kubernetes."

What you will learn:

  • Fundamental and advanced DevOps skills and tools
  • A comprehensive understanding about containers
  • How to move your application to a container 
  • How to manipulate your application via Kubernetes

The publisher continues: "Readers will be taken through fundamental DevOps skills and Kubernetes concepts and administration with detailed examples. It introduces comprehensive DevOps topics, including microservices, automation tools, containers, monitoring, logging, continuous delivery, and popular public cloud environments. At each step readers will learn how to leverage Kubernetes in their everyday lives and transform their original delivery pipeline for fast and efficient delivery."

GDPR for DevOps: The Law, Controls, and Solutions

by Alasdair Gilchrist 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be law for EU countries by late May. According to the latest draft of the regulation, "The proposed new EU data protection regime extends the scope of the EU data protection law to all foreign companies processing data of EU residents." Oh my. That could mean you, if your company does business or is thinking about doing business in Europe.

This book can help you think through the many issues involved in complying with the GDPR regulation.

From the publisher: "This book aims to educate, develop and guide DevOps as well as security practitioners on how to plan, develop and manage product development so that their products will meet privacy compliance. The book aims to educate DevOps about the GDPR and also to explain how DevOps and security work better together when designing and developing products. We will discuss why we need Privacy By Design and Default, and why every developer must strive to meet these goals."

Making Work Visible: Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Work and Flow

by Dominica DeGrandis

From DeGrandis's introduction: "When Elon Musk is faced with too much work-in-progress (WIP), he has the authority to delegate, deprioritize, or simply say no. When variation rears its head and a well-thought-out strategic plan no longer aligns with the organization's needs, Sheryl Sandberg has the ability to switch gears. And when Jeff Bezos is confronted with conflicting priorities, it is likewise doubtful he needs to seek direction via a convoluted bureaucracy to gain clarity over which course to follow. ... When these things happen to us (and let's face it, they often do), we're faced with a very different set of repercussions."

Amazon puts it this way: "IT time management expert Dominica DeGrandis reveals the real crime of the century―time theft, one of the most costly factors impacting enterprises in their day-to-day operations.

"Through simple solutions that make work visible, DeGrandis helps people round up the five thieves of time and take back their lives with time-saving solutions. Chock-full of exercises, takeaways, real-world examples, colorful diagrams, and an easy-going writing style, readers will quickly learn effective practices to create high-performing workflows within an organization."

Upcoming titles

Look for these books to arrive over the next few months.

Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations

by Nicole Forsgren PhD,‎ Jez Humble,‎ and Gene Kim (Available March 2018)

From the publisher: "Through four years of groundbreaking research to include data collected from the State of DevOps reports conducted with Puppet, Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim, we set out to find a way to measure software delivery performance―and what drives it―using rigorous statistical methods. This book presents both the findings and the science behind that research, making the information accessible for readers to apply in their own organizations."

DevOps for the Modern Enterprise

by Mirco Hering

Mark Richards, SAFe fellow at Coactivation, wrote an early review: "DevOps is a hot topic. Pretty much every major organisation wants it, and pretty much every major organisation is struggling to come to grips with what 'it' is and exactly how to get it. Mirco is a rare entity in the space. He's an architect who has grown up in large, complex organisations working with even larger, more complex systems integrators and delivery partners heavily reliant on ERP, CRM, and other COTS applications that seem to challenge much of what DevOps is about.

"Both pragmatic and practical, he not only gives great tips on how to find your way down the DevOps path in these environments, but will help you avoid many a mistake as he shares his own."

The 'classics' of DevOps literature

Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation

by Jez Humble and David Farley (2011)

Winner of the 2011 Jolt Award handed out by Dr. Dobb's Journal, this book remains one of the definitive guides to continuous delivery and the modes of automation it requires. While many of the specific technologies have been displaced since the book was written, the detailed processes described and the practical approach to CI/CD principles make this book a valuable reference for novices in DevOps practice. With a foreword by Martin Fowler.

Leading the Transformation

by Gary Gruver and Tommy Mouser (2015)

From the publisher: "Leading the Transformation is an executive guide, providing a clear framework for improving development and delivery. Instead of the traditional agile and DevOps approaches that focus on improving the effectiveness of teams, this book targets the coordination of work across teams in large organizations—an improvement that executives are uniquely positioned to lead."

Mary Poppendieck, lean expert and author of The Lean Mindset, writes: "Today's wise executive will know enough about the underlying principles of software systems to ask the right questions and make sure that their organization is solving the right problems. That's where this book comes in—it contains just enough theory to inform executives about critical issues and just enough detail to clarify what's important and why."

The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

by Gene Kim, Keven Behr, and George Spafford (2014)

Yes, this is a novel. That is, it's a story that puts a small team's gradual embrace of DevOps principles in a true-to-life context that any IT practitioner working for a competitive business can relate to. You can read the hard copy, or listen to the Audible version during your commute. 

You'll no doubt find much in common with Bill Palmer, the fictionalized parent of a three-year-old and "director of midrange technology operations." Eventually he's forced to take on more responsibility than he thinks he can handle.

From the publisher: "In The Phoenix Project, we describe the underpinning principles that all DevOps patterns can be derived from as 'The Three Ways.' It is intended to describe the values and philosophies that guide DevOps processes and practices."

This review on Amazon says it all: "As someone that has been in the IT world for over 20 years, this story is frighteningly true to life. I have experienced most of the situations in the book personally. From having a guy that knows everything and doesn't always have the time to do the right thing, to the business jargon of ITIL and dealing with things like change control. If anyone ever wants to know just how difficult this world is all they have to do is read this book."

Dr. Steve Mayner says: "My recommendations for the DevOps conversation always start with The Phoenix Project and The DevOps Handbook as the seminal works in this space (not surprising). The resources Gene [et al.] includes in the bibliography are rich and on target for expanding the reading list for deeper dives into specific topics."

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

by Simon Sinek (2009)

This often-quoted and referenced book by self-described optimist Simon Sinek is not about DevOps. But like Crossing the Chasm (Geoffrey Moore) and The Mythical Man Month (Frederick Brooks), Start with Why offers business leaders responsible for IT an expert look into successful leadership practices. Some find the book redundant in places. Others find it extremely well written, resourceful, and inspiring.

Here's an Amazon reviewer who falls into the latter camp:

"This book is one of the all-time great works in business success and personal development. Simon helped me to find my why with this book and I am forever grateful to him for that. Imagine how great our world would be if more companies really did start with why and build a business from the inside out, consistently applying their why and core values to everything they do? Wow. The thought excites. I've re-read this book 3 times and have highlights everywhere. Do yourself a favor; if you run a business or want to discover how to lay a foundation that will last, read this book. Get it, read it, apply it."

Did we miss one of your favorite DevOps books?

That's our list of DevOps must-reads. What's on your bookshelf that we missed?  Post your thoughts and recommendations below to help your peers find the best reads.  

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