Is devopsdays still relevant?

by Yvo van Doorn - 10 October, 2022

“Is devopsdays still relevant?” Daniel Paulus asked his fellow organizers at our retrospective for devopsdays Amsterdam 2022. Standing in a circle surrounded by a peaceful field and a forest settling into fall, each of us had a chance to express our thoughts while the other six listened.

It’s a question that I am sure has been asked by organizers in other cities and by would-be organizers as they read the devopsdays guide. And the root term, DevOps, has been the subject of similar discussions. But that’s another blog post for another day!

The very first devopsdays took place in 2009 in Ghent, Belgium. In the 13 years since, volunteers across the world have held more than 437 devopsdays. That feels like a century in this industry that thrives on change. So it’s certainly reasonable to question the relevancy of the devopsdays tradition!

Some say devopsdays has gone stale

As the discussion went around the circle (in between short walks in the beautiful autumn air), we hit a few recurring themes concerning why our conference might not be as relevant as it once was:

  • 13 years is a long time. Our industry has evolved, and with it the practice of DevOps has grown. Is there still a need for grassroots conferences focused on DevOps adoption, education, and ideas?
  • The core format hasn’t changed all that much. For those who need a refresher, the core format is a single track in the morning with some ignite talks thrown in and open space discussions in the afternoon.
  • Vendors and consulting firms have built an entire industry around what they call DevOps. Whether it’s renaming a CI/CD tool to incorporate the term or a major cloud provider selling DevOps Engineer certifications, the term DevOps is certainly ubiquitous in our industry. Does it still have meaning?

Gathered in the sunshine, we all considered these factors carefully.

Relevance revealed in personal stories

Another discussion topic for the Amsterdam organizers’ retrospective was “Why are you here?”. Answering this, each of us revealed why devopsdays events are personally relevant for us, and hence why they can be relevant for others. We each shared a bit of history around how we ended up organizing devopsdays in Amsterdam:

  • Many of us were former attendees who appreciated learning at an event and saw organizing as a way to give back.
  • Many referenced the open spaces concept as something that they appreciate about devopsdays.

We also agreed that there is no other global, technology-space conference like devopsdays. Sure, there are vendor/technology-specific conferences, and conferences organized by profit-driven event hosting companies that bear the name DevOps. But events created by DevOps enthusiasts with a focus on the work and the people? This is the one and only.

devopsdays is a place to learn from and support each other. One organizer told us that at the 2022 conference they spoke to first-time attendees who said they no longer felt alone. One told them, “I’ve learned that what I am feeling has a word: imposter syndrome.”

devopsdays: as important as ever

As each organizer had an opportunity to hear their fellow organizers share, it became abundantly clear that devopsdays is still a vital and current force in the IT world. Sure, the technology we work with has changed. But devopsdays was never about one technology. (In fact, it’s the perfect environment for learning about new technologies.) What it’s really been about all along is the community and the practice of DevOps.

The application, culture, and community of DevOps is ever changing. While the explicit version of the term represents “Development” and “Operations” coming together, the implicit version of DevOps means so much more than that. It’s a way of working, sharing, and learning from one another.

(This is one critical reason why you can’t “certify DevOps.” But wait, I promised this wouldn’t be a post on whether “DevOps” is still relevant, so let me get back to what devopsdays does!)

devopsdays is the only multi-city conference that is a safe space where you can share your knowledge and honest experiences:

  • It’s non-profit.
  • Organizers come together from different employers.
  • It’s entirely volunteer-led.

Look at the alternatives:

  • At vendor and/or technology specific conferences, all talks are expected to support or relate to the specific technology and/or vendor’s products.
  • At a conference held by a professional event host, the primary goal is to generate profit. (This is forbidden for devopsdays events.)

Whether it’s sharing stories of imposter syndrome, best practices for securing your cloud tenant, or lessons from when your test environment became production, real people share real truths at devopsdays all over the world. I’m privileged to have attended many conferences, but I know that when I attend a devopsdays event, the person standing at the front of the room is sharing something they personally have learned.

Yes, absolutely, devopsdays is still relevant.