What does the future of DevOps for devices look like?

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Interview with Yadhu Gopalan, CEO of Esper

Image: Unsplash

We live in a world where our data is one of the most valuable things we possess. The same goes for businesses that use data to drive business decisions, connect teams, and more. But data is tricky and technology is advancing at a rate that many businesses simply can’t keep up with.

One aspect of this comes in the form of DevOps. Essentially, DevOps is how software, businesses, and IT teams connect and interact with each other. A newer extension of this comes in the form of DevOps for devices, which looks to tie together all of the devices an organization uses on a daily basis.

That said, DevOps for devices is a newer field so there is still a lot to learn about treating business devices like smartphones, tablets, and kiosks as a DevOps problem.

One competitor in the field is Esper, a company helping to define what a “DevOps for devices” approach for device management means, as well as what it can do for businesses and their customers.

To better explain what exactly “DevOps for devices” is, I asked Yadhu Gopalan, CEO of Esper, over email to give me a basic breakdown of what the term means. They note:

“At its core, DevOps for Devices is all about automating software development processes to enable frequent software delivery cycles to end devices. DevOps for Devices enables the constant updates, iteration, and automation, necessary to deliver exceptional device experiences.”

So, how does this approach different from Esper’s competitors? According to the company, its approach is “built from the ground up with the unique needs of enterprise-grade dedicated devices in mind.”

kiosks

Image: Unsplash

As to why this approach is important for businesses now (and in the future according to reports), it comes down to complexities – especially those of the people kind. Gopalan notes,

“When a business has to manage thousands or tens of thousands of devices the drift from the desired state can be difficult to identify, let alone fix. An intelligent approach to devices makes it not only manageable, but easy. DevOps pipelines make it easy to test in smaller groups to determine impact before rolling out changes to the entire fleet. Having a controlled release process means that developers can test without fear of negatively impacting the end-user experience.”

That all sounds great, but one aspect of managing a fleet of devices comes down to usability and how manageable a system is by someone less informed. That can be important for smaller, dedicated teams that don’t have access to IT departments or other technically-minded people.

The future of device management will need to be accessible because device numbers continue to grow and become integral parts of teams. Part of that will be accomplished through the use of on-device apps that allows mass changes across devices. This way, a team can push an update without manually updating individual devices.

Gopalan offers a good example of this with its Esper Agent app, explaining how Esper Agent uses a cloud-based system that allows the console to communicate with all devices at once, while those devices communicate back with it through the cloud.

“For example, if a restaurant has customer-facing tablets for ordering and a change is needed—maybe having the device only power down after business hours—then that update can be done through Esper’s console.”

samsung phones

Image: Unsplash

One interesting note about Esper’s service — and something that could be an indicator for the future of DevOps for devices — is that it is focused on Android. I asked Gopalan if there was a reason for that. They noted, 

“Apple has done a brilliant job of defining the mobile experience for consumers, but Esper is focused on dedicated devices—devices with a single focus—instead of consumer electronics. For example, the consumer privacy concerns that Apple has recently focused on are critical for the general public, but a trucking company would want to be able to trace where each of their tablets are, and if devices are being used while the truck is in motion.”

Finally, I talked with Gopalan about what industries will see the most benefits from this new delivery strategy:

“We’re seeing it rise particularly in the retail, restaurant, healthcare, and fitness industries. But it’s showing up in almost every industry in some manner, from manufacturing and trucking to education and utilities. Devices are enabling services in new and innovative ways, especially in instances where a person-to-person interaction is not feasible or even possible.”

It’s clear that data and device management isn’t going anywhere and that the field still has plenty of room to grow. The industry is currently worth over $5 billion and it is estimated that it will hit $20 billion by 2026. With more businesses continuing to offer more flexibility in work environments, that number could reach even higher.

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