Grounded Theory for DevOps Education

  • Author / Creator
    Pang, Candy
  • DevOps, which stands for Development-Operations, is an important software engineering topic that arose from the IT industry in 2009. XebiaLabs claimed that, in Google Search, DevOps is one of the hottest search terms in technology over the last five years, and continues to rise [1]. According to Gartner in 2018, "DevOps processes would drive over 80% of the industrial-strength technology on the market" [2]. Currently, there is a high demand for DevOps practitioners, with many related job postings. DevOps is on its way becoming a required skill for IT practitioners. Therefore, I am motivated to study how people get their education and training to become DevOps practitioners, and how DevOps education should proceed in the future.
    Since DevOps is very popular in industry, there are many blogs, webinars, conferences, communities, and organizations in industry trying to understand, promote, assist, and improve DevOps. However, there is limited academic research on DevOps. To the best of my knowledge, no research has studied the state of DevOps education.
    DevOps education is different from other technical training, for DevOps is much more than a technology. DevOps is a cultural, procedural, and technological movement [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]. Therefore, I employed Grounded Theory (GT), a social science qualitative research methodology, to study DevOps education. GT allowed me to discover the state of DevOps education from external data without making presumptions.
    Following the GT process, I started with interviewing IT practitioners. Through GT’s open coding and microanalysis, I discovered from the interviews that IT practitioners were interested in DevOps education and training. Continuing with the GT process, I used data analysis, interview, and survey to investigate the current state and challenges in DevOps education from academic and industrial perspectives. Based on my findings, I proposed future direction for DevOps education.
    From the academic perspective, I found that most institutions were not teaching their undergraduate computer science students much about DevOps. Academics were not motivated to learn or adopt DevOps, for they thought the cost of adopting DevOps could not be justified in their research projects. There need to be the right incentives for academics to adopt DevOps, in order to stimulate interest in teaching DevOps.
    From the industrial perspective, I found that industry has not clearly defined roles and responsibilities for DevOps practitioners. Therefore, it is not clear what students should learn to become DevOps practitioners. In addition, the DevOps community was evolving too fast for a single DevOps curriculum to be defined. Finally, DevOps experts established that classroom education and training was only the starting points of learning DevOps. DevOps practitioners advance their DevOps skills at work.
    From my findings, I proposed five groups of future studies to establish the benefits academia stands to receive from DevOps education. The first group studies whether incorporating DevOps processes into programming assignments improves student learning outcomes. The second group studies whether DevOps skills are transferable to other computer science subjects. The third group studies whether DevOps adds value to academic publication. The fourth group studies whether DevOps knowledge improves students’ employment opportunities. The fifth group studies how to align DevOps industrial practices with academic education. These future studies would lay the path and direction for DevOps education in academia.
    The scope and impact of DevOps has expanded rapidly. In addition to DevOps education, I collaborated with other researchers to study other DevOps related topics. In one research study, I identified maintenance processes that are necessary to sustain a continuous environment in DevOps. In another research project, I defined interactions between microservices, which go hand-in-hand with DevOps. Finally, in a different research study, I found that programmers needed more knowledge about software energy consumption to support the DevOps’ trend of cloud deployment. In conclusion, the field of DevOps is very wide. I have only studied DevOps education, its continuity, its processes interaction, and its effect on infrastructure. There are many more research opportunities in DevOps.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.