The DevOps Unicorn: Achieving Success with Speed and Security

TimPrendergast-Evidentio-headshotby Tim Prendergast

The DevOps unicorn. In the IT industry today, these are seemingly rare, mystical organizations that were born in the Internet era and leverage new technologies to break down the traditional silos between developers, security and IT operations. By effectively bridging these environments, the result is a high-trust team that is empowered to innovate, nimble and can quickly improve the competitive posture of their companies.

What if your company is simply a workhorse, trying to subsist on a traditional organizational structure and legacy systems? Is it possible to magically transform into one of these lovely creatures to help your company achieve success with speed and security? In short, the answer is yes. But it will take a significant cultural shift and greater reliance on automation to succeed.

This article is the first in a series of three that are designed to help you learn more about the best practices adopted by today’s successful DevOps unicorns, and hear directly from some of these leading companies about what they have done right – and wrong – as they use DevOps to secure at scale.

What Makes a DevOps Unicorn?
Surely, you are aware of some DevOps unicorns. They include Google, Amazon, Netflix, Adobe, Intuit, Nordstrom and other companies that put a high value on moving fast. This speed can only be achieved in one way – by removing the long-standing friction between developers, whose primary goal is to innovate, iterate and improve faster; and IT, which is often perceived as a roadblock as they slow down progress to ensure that security is not compromised.

Both developers and IT have critical roles at every company, but in the typical organizational structure, they work in their own silos, sometimes seemingly at cross purposes. Unicorns, however, have learned to break down these barriers, enabling all teams – from developers and engineering to security and operations – to share responsibility, information and expertise from the start. This type of collaboration makes a company nimble, enabling them to stop, shift gears and execute something new in a very tight timeframe. So, instead of having to build a product or service that they think customers will like, they can get customer feedback and quickly leverage that input to continually improve their offering.

Another critical aspect to this collaboration is the ability to tie in security from the start, which in turn, accelerates the rate of improvement. By leveraging security tools that work within the DevOps process, organizations can push out code that meets the security team’s standards from the start, or be alerted to potential deficiencies in order to quickly remediate the problems.

Automation also is important to DevOps unicorns because it handles the mundane tasks, such as configuration management, deployment, monitoring and recovery. Not only does it free employees to do more exciting and creative work, investing heavily in automation enables unicorns to scale faster, further strengthening the company’s position as a market disrupter.

Adopting the DevOps unicorn approach – which entails collaboration across the organization for faster iteration, use of automation to scale faster and work more intelligently, and integrated security from the start to accelerate the rate of improvement – is clearly giving those companies a competitive advantage and a defensible market position.

Next up in this series, I’ll discuss the three major milestones your company will have to reach in order to transform into a DevOps unicorn and position itself among the thought leaders, disrupters and innovators in the market.

Tim Prendergast is the founder and CEO of




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