In an increasingly digital world, IT organizations are adopting DevOps into their day-to-day processes to increase efficiency and improve delivery times on projects.
Let’s consider some of the industry giants of today, including Amazon, Netflix, and Google. While the main thing that ties these three businesses together is that they are wildly successful, they also all use DevOps to increase agility, accelerate innovation and respond rapidly to the needs of their customers.
DevOps is a term coined in 2009 by Patrick Debois, and relates to three main principles – communication, collaboration and integration. It is typically viewed as an extension of agile development environments that aims to enhance the software delivery process by creating a collaborative environment between developers and operations teams.
In this guide, you will learn all you need to know about DevOps, from a deeper look at what it means, to the benefits it can bring to your business, and the tools and culture you will need to successfully introduce it into your organization.
What is DevOps?
The word DevOps refers to a collection of concepts that have generated a movement that has spread rapidly throughout the software development and IT community.
This set of concepts works to automate and integrate the processes between software development and IT teams, so they can build, test and release software efficiently. The term emerged from the collision of two major related trends – “agile infrastructure” or “agile operations”, and the understanding of the value of collaboration between development and operations staff throughout all stages of the development lifecycle.
The best way to define it in more detail is to follow a similar structure to the definition of agile development. Agile development comprises of four different areas of concern:
- Agile values – this is the top-level philosophy in agile development and are the core values that inform agile.
- Agile principles – these are strategic approaches that are generally agreed upon to support the agile values. Typically, you don’t have to utilize all of them to be agile, but if you don’t subscribe to many of them, you are most likely doing something else.
- Agile methods – once you break down the principles, you will find the more specific process implementations or agile methods. This is where the philosophy gives way to the operational spiels of “how we intend to actually do this”. None of the methods are compulsory, but instead, are possible implementations to follow under the principles.
- Agile practices – these are highly specific and tactical techniques that can be used alongside agile implementations. None of them are specifically required to be agile, but many agile implementations have seen value from adopting them. Some practices to consider are backlogs, standups, CI and planning poker.
In this framework, the higher levels inform the lower levels in a hierarchical structure, providing a clear map to success. When it comes to defining DevOps, the levels can be mapped in a similar way, making it simpler to understand:
- DevOps values – these should be the top-level philosophy in DevOps, with a focus on the overall service or software fully delivered to the customer.
- DevOps principles – there are many DevOps principles that align with agile principles and could be considered as a wider version. This is because they can include systems and operations instead of just code.
- DevOps methods – many of the methods across DevOps and agile are the same, such as Scrum and Kanban. There are also some that are unique to DevOps, such as Visible Ops-style change control. This set of methodologies is growing, so in areas where common methodologies have not been well defined, thoughtful monitoring should be undertaken.
- DevOps practices – these specific techniques are used as part of implementing the DevOps concepts and processes at the top of the hierarchy. This includes using configuration management, metrics and monitoring schemes to implement continuous integration and continuous deployment.
The benefits of DevOps
If your business is on the verge of implementing DevOps, it is likely that you are looking forward to many of the benefits that organizations with successful DevOps practices typicallysee. You might expect that continuous delivery pipelines will enable you to deploy more code, more frequently, and with fewer errors. You may look forward to faster feature releases or a more stable platform. Perhaps you foresee reduced development costs and increased efficiency in your future. No matter the reasons why you are implementing DevOps, there are a number of benefits that you may not have considered that you can reap for your enterprise.
DevOps will improve communication and collaboration organization-wide (not just between operations and development teams
Legacy development practices typically applied the waterfall model, in which software engineering was segmented into a linear sequence of distinct steps, each of which was implemented upon the successful completion of the prior step. The assimilation of development and operations that is fundamental to the DevOps methodology removes the “wall” that was previously between these teams. In DevOps practices, both developers and operations team members participate in a consistent and cohesive process that allows for consistency and repeatability.
DevOps empowers individual employees to take ownership of their contribution to the project as a whole
In the past, a waterfall model practice structurally ran almost like a relay race. Each team passed the baton to the next one when the task it was responsible for had been completed, which provided an efficient and linear development process. This meant an operations team member would receive an artifact from “the development team”, rather than from an individual who could respond to questions, answer concerns and cultivate trust and empathy.
DevOps makes it possible for every team member within the release cycle to see exactly where their individual contribution fits in. It lets them hold the responsibility for their part in the process by making them accountable to the next person within the cycle.
DevOps can enhance professional development opportunities across the enterprise
A core principle of the DevOps philosophy is to automate wherever possible. From infrastructure management and configuration setting to smoke testing, DevOps practitioners strive to maximize the number of places where they rely on time and labor-saving tools within the development and delivery cycle. By leveraging automation to perform manual processes and create feedback loops, they make it simple to find errors earlier in the process, correct them, and enable rapid integration and deployment.
For developers and operations teams alike, the ability to lean on specialized tools and services has the benefit of freeing them from the need to perform mundane tasks. Mature DevOps practices provide their participants with a unique blend of autonomy and shared responsibility. Through this, they come to a better understanding of the product’s end-to-end development across its entire lifecycle, and better appreciate its role in solving challenges across the organization or providing value to the business as a whole.
If you would like to learn more about the ways in which DevOps will change your organization, read our blog post.
How does DevOps work?
DevOps works by removing the barriers between traditionally siloed teams, development, and operations. Under a DevOps model, development and operations teams work togetheracross the entire software application life cycle, from development and test through deployment to operations, keeping the organization goal as a focus to achieve success.
DevOps practices rely on effective tools to help teams rapidly and reliably deploy and innovate towards the business goals. These tools should automate repetitive manual tasks, help teams manage complex environments on a large scale, and keep engineers in control of the high-velocity pace that is DevOps.
The DevOps workflow consists of phases:
- Planning the next iteration of the product’s development
- Building the code
- Testing and deploying to the production environment
- Delivering product updates
- Monitoring and logging software performance
- Gathering customer feedback
Planning. Schedule planning and task tracking tools are needed to ensure the DevOps team knows what tasks are ongoing, what is currently being performed, and whether there are any risks of losing time. Tools like Confluence and Jira help DevOps teams to achieve a smooth and efficient project management cycle, ensuring prompt product delivery.
Build and delivery. Developers need rapid deployment of development and testing environments, and can’t wait long for repairs. Docker containerization ensures consistency across multiple development and release cycles, and provides repeatable environments for development, build, test, and production. Other popular tools for this phase include Kubernetes, Terraform, Chef, Ansible, and Puppet.
Testing. Look for tools such as Jenkins, CircleCI, and GitLab CI. These help to minimize the time and effort devoted to testing without compromising the quality of code or user experience.
Software monitoring and logging. Once software is moved to production, it must be observed to maintain stable performance and increased customer satisfaction. This stage also involves performance analysis and logging, raising smart alerts on various issues, and gathering customer feedback. Tools for performing these tasks include Prometheus, Grafana, Elastic (ELK) Stack, and Sumo Logic.
Several key procedures can help organizations innovate faster through automating and streamlining the software development management process. One fundamental DevOps procedure is to perform very frequent but small updates. These updates are usually more incremental than the updates performed under traditional release practices, but are key to the overall DevOps initiative. Organizations using a DevOps model deploy updates much more often than organizations using traditional software development practices.
Communication and collaboration are keystones of the set of DevOps practices, providing teams with the opportunity to work together to reach a goal. Automation of the software delivery process creates collaboration by bringing together the workflows and responsibilities of development and operations teams. Communication across developers, operations, and even other teams, such as marketing and sales, allows all parts of the organization to align more closely on goals and projects for a streamlined implementation.
Microservices architecture is a design approach to build a single application as a set of small services. Each service runs in its own process and communicates with other services through a well-defined interface using a lightweight mechanism. Organizations can use different frameworks or programming languages to write microservices and deploy them independently or as a group of services.
Continuous integration and continuous delivery
DevOps practices, such as CI/CD, let DevOps teams deliver efficiently and safely. Continuous Integration (CI) is a software development practice where developers regularly merge their code changes into a central repository, followed by automated building and testing. The key goals of CI are to improve software quality, find and fix bugs quicker, and reduce the time it takes to release new software updates. Continuous Delivery (CD) expands on CI by deploying all code changes to a testing or production environment after the build stage.
Monitoring and logging
By capturing and analyzing logs generated by applications, DevOps teams can better understand how software changes or updates may affect users.
Overall, how DevOps works depends on the journey of the organization’s implementation. There is no simple answer that fits all scenarios, but some key takeaways for business leaders would be to not underestimate the cultural change required across your teams, and approach any risks proactively.
What is Agile methodology in DevOps?
DevOps is the streamlining of people, processes and tools to create continuous software delivery. While this is the base concept, DevOps is continuously adapting to encompass new ideas, methods and technologies. So, where is DevOps headed next?
DevOps processes merge together previously separated silos into one team, where members can collaborate from concept to delivery. However, more importantly, DevOps engineers do not view the delivery process as linear, but rather teams working simultaneously and in parallel on various aspects.
Some have argued that Agile and DevOps approaches conflict one another, with some areas of their execution interfering with each other. In reality, an evolved and mature DevOps culture closely mirrors the practices of an Agile one, especially by prioritizing human interaction. Here is a comparison of the four key values from the Agile Manifesto to partner principles in DevOps:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
This aspect of Agile merges perfectly with the DevOps practice of focusing on the people upon which the interactions and tools will center around. Both philosophies stress regular and empowered interaction across team members for a collaborative approach.
Working software over comprehensive documentation
In both DevOps and Agile environments, it is more difficult to document each constant change. This doesn’t negate the need for accurate logging, but rather a rounded cycle of identifying and deploying improvements makes in-depth documentation of each change unnecessary.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
This is a principle that is often a misunderstood aspect of Agile development, but it perfectly fits the DevOps approach to treating the deliverable product constantly, rather than one hard delivery on a predetermined schedule. This doesn’t mean teams can ignore basic business principles though, as customers will still expect deliverables on deadlines.
Responding to change over following a plan
Agile and DevOps both reiterate the need to identify and fix problems, rather than following a static troubleshooting flowchart that may have been last updated several releases ago. This is to accurately represent the active environment and monitor each issue. In a continuous delivery model, new innovations will produce the unforeseen and provide the opportunity for fixes.
Agile thinking helps DevOps teams operate fluidly, using Scrums, Sprints, and powerful DevOps tools to fix problems in real-time using whatever resources necessary.
While Agile and DevOps are not the same thing, their methodologies are closely linked. Agile methodology has informed and shaped DevOps philosophy with slight adjustments to suit the concept.
What is CI-CD in DevOps?
CI-CD is one of the best practices for a DevOps team to implement. Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) create a culture, set of operating principles, and a collection of practices that enable application development teams to deliver changes more reliably. This is known as CI-CD.
CI-CD is an Agile methodology practice, as it enables software development teams to focus on meeting business requirements, security, and code quality.
Continuous integration is a coding philosophy that drives development teams to implement small changes and check in code to version control repositories at a more rapid rate. As the most modern applications require code development in different platforms and tools, the team needs a mechanism to validate its changes. The technical goal of CI is to create an automated method of building, packaging and testing applications. Teams are more likely to commit code changes more often, which leads to better software quality and collaboration.
Continuous delivery picks up where the continuous integration process ends. CD automates the delivery of applications to selected infrastructure environments, with many teams working across multiple environments other than production. CD ensures that there is an automated way to push code changes to these environments.
CI-CD tools help to store all of the parameters that are specific to certain environments that must be packaged alongside each delivery. CI-CD automation then performs any service calls to web servers, databases, and other services that may need to be restarted or follow other procedures when applications are deployed.
CI and CD require continuous testing because the objective is always to deliver applications and code to the end users. Continuous testing is often implemented as a set of automated regression, performance, and other tests that are executed in the CI-CD pipeline.
What is the DevOps lifecycle?
The multiple phases of DevOps are more commonly known as the DevOps lifecycle. This consists of seven stages, including:
- Continuous Development
- Continuous Integration
- Continuous Testing
- Continuous Feedback
- Continuous Monitoring
- Continuous Deployment
- Continuous Operations
These seven phases are the main components that ensures DevOps optimizes each part of the development processes, starting with proposal and through the complete delivery. Here is a breakdown of each stage of the DevOps lifecycle.
The start of the DevOps lifecycle is where the planning and software coding takes place. The planning usually involves understanding the vision of the project and envisioning software based on those ideas.
Over the development phase, the source code gets modified several times on a weekly or even daily basis. The next phase, continuous integration, is the center of the entire DevOps lifecycle. Within this phase, new codes that support add-on functionalities are built and integrated into the existing code.
In the continuous integration phase, bugs in the source code can be detected to prevent issues further down the line. To generate new code that brings more functionalities to the application, developers run tools for unit testing, code review, integration testing, compilation, and packaging.
Some developers may decide to carry out the continuous testing phase before continuous integration. This is because the phase can be repositioned, depending on the updates in the application code.
In the continuous testing phase, the developed software is continuously tested for bugs. Through automated testing, developers can save time and effort that is usually lost in manual testing. Reports that are generated by automated testing usually improve the test evaluation process and analyzing the failed test cases becomes easier. After going through a User Acceptance Testing process, the final test suite is simpler and bug-free. Some of the DevOps tools used for automated testing include TestNG, Selenium and JUnity, all of which can also arrange test-case execution in a pre-set timeline.
Continuous feedback is the phase in which the improvements from continuous testing and continuous integration are analyzed.
In this phase, developers can gain a sense of the outcome of these modifications on the final product. Most importantly, customers who tested these applications will be able to share their experiences during this phase of the lifecycle. The continuous feedback phase provides a turning point in the application development process in most cases. The feedback can be assessed promptly and developers can begin working on the new changes.
Monitoring the performance of an application is key for application developers. In the continuous monitoring phase, developers will record data on the use of an application and continuously monitor each functionality. This allows them to resolve common system errors, such as “server not reachable”.
Continuous monitoring helps with maintaining the availability of services in the application. It also helps to determine any threats and root causes of recurring errors. This means that security issues can be resolved, and problems are automatically detected and fixed.
Sensu, ELK Stack, NewRelic, Splunk and Nagios are essential DevOps tools used in continuous monitoring. These tools provide organizations with complete control in overseeing the performance of the system, the production server, and the application. The operations team can also engage in increasing the reliability and productivity of the applications with the help of these tools.
Usually, the continuous deployment phase takes place before continuous monitoring, but developers make sure that this phase is always active within the lifecycle, especially after the application goes live and starts receiving high traffic.
Within this phase, the finalized code is deployed to the production servers. Configuration management is a key process here and it carries out the precise deployment of application code on all servers. This helps to establish and curate consistency in the application’s performance and functional conditions. Code is released to the servers, updates are scheduled, and these configurations are kept constant throughout the production process. Puppet, Asible, and Chef are some tools used for configuration management.
The final phase of the DevOps lifecycle is the shortest phase and the one that is considered the least complicated. The purpose of continuous operation is to automate the process of launching the application and the subsequent updates. Development cycles in continuous operations are shorter, which allows developers to ongoingly accelerate the time-to-market for the application.
How do I adopt DevOps?
A good DevOps initiative needs a concrete roadmap to succeed, so a thorough plan for adoption is required. The process should begin with aligning an organizational strategy beforeassessing the business’s DevOps readiness or maturity. This can create a vision of the future state of people, processes and technologies that will be affected by the deployment of a new product via DevOps. Establishing a roadmap can help to translate the future image into an action plan, and should follow five steps:
- Align organizational strategy – establish a mission for the initiative, define your goals, and plan expected return on investments through appropriate metrics
- Assess current DevOps maturity – find out the current level of maturity of the enterprise across people, process and technology categories to identify any areas of concern
- Plan future state – prioritize focus areas in alignment with enterprise goals and create a vision for the future of people, processes and technologies involved with DevOps
- Establish a DevOps roadmap – translate the vision of the future state into a plan of action across the identified areas
- Implement and measure – implement the roadmap with regular monitoring of identified metrics and continuously refining the roadmap to align with the organization’s goals
Most roadblocks to DevOps deployment concern the effective management of tools, people and processes. For instance, four out of the top five DevOps roadblocks relate to personnel issues, such as lack of relevant training. This five step adoption roadmap process tackles these roadblocks, particularly those that are interrelated. Here’s how to build a winning DevOps business case.
Software is changing every business by driving innovation and disruption. This can be seen in the disruptions in the retail, transportation, and hospitality industries created by software-driven innovation from Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb. The speed at which software can change and deliver innovation is now the speed at which the business and your competitors can innovate.
The principles of lean manufacturing and continuous improvement aren’t just for manufacturing anymore.
These concepts apply in almost all organizations today. Focusing on work in progress (WIP) and the constraints in your delivery lifecycle is a powerful force. The problem is that if you’re optimizing development, but can’t deliver software to the end-user, you will not deliver value. By looking at the end-to-end value chain, and paying attention to bottlenecks and waste (also known as “muda” in agile software development circles), you can make improvements that dramatically improve cycle time, quality, and the bottom line.
DevOps is applicable to more than just the web development team.
DevOps is an approach that influences the speed of delivery for many systems within an organization, including mobile apps for your customers and field employees. Systems of engagement need to be much more responsive and have the ability to evolve quickly, while systems of record don’t have the same need for rapid change. It’s simply not realistic to expect financial systems or enterprise resource planning systems to change rapidly.
You must build a DevOps business case to sell your plan and gain business alignment, funding, and a timetable to enable the transformation. If you haven’t already started to evaluate where you should start your DevOps pilot, now is the time to help you stay ahead of your competitors.
How should your DevOps roadmap look?
Now that we have identified the usefulness of DevOps to an organization, here are some best practices for creating your company’s DevOps roadmap.
1. Clearly define your roadmap’s objective.
Your first step when creating any roadmap should be to set a clear goal for it. Ask your team about the purpose you are hoping to achieve with your roadmap. A few examples of worthy objectives:
- To improve coordination between our teams.
- To create a single source of truth for our DevOps work.
- To build an archive of development and release plans that we can refer to overtime, to learn which processes are most effective and improve our DevOps efforts going forward.
2. Set focused, short-term goals and plans.
Most organizations plan their product roadmaps between two and six months into the future, or even longer if they are expecting a large launch. This should be enough time to include several of the highest priority initiatives for both the engineering and development teams. However, not so much time that the roadmap itself becomes cluttered and difficult to understand.
3. Use visual cues to make the roadmap easy to grasp.
One of the most common roadmap mistakes that organizations make when they build roadmaps is to use text only. Some use word processing documents, others use spreadsheets, but the result of both can be difficult for teams to process. These roadmaps fail to give viewers a clear understanding of what is a high priority, which initiatives are dependent on others, and who is responsible for what.
Visual roadmaps are invaluable for helping stakeholders quickly understand what is happening with your product’s plans, and for making your roadmaps themselves much more compelling.
4. Share the roadmap with your engineering and operations teams.
Much of the value of a DevOps roadmap is that it helps both teams stay focused and aligned on the initiatives that affect each other’s work. To realize this benefit, and improve coordination and efficiencies between development and operations, you need to make sure both teams have access to this single source of truth.
The way to do this is to give all of these stakeholders access to your DevOps roadmap any time that they may require it. The purpose is so they can monitor their deadlines and to let them check the priority items that may be coming their way from the other team.
5. Keep the roadmap up to date.
Your DevOps roadmap can only contribute to your team’s success to the extent that it is up to date and reflects your company’s current realities. You will want to give yourself an action item to check in with the roadmap frequently to make sure that it continues to reflect your DevOps team’s latest strategic planning, priorities, budget, resource levels, etc. As soon as any of these realities change, you will want to update your DevOps roadmap.
How long does it take to set up DevOps?
DevOps is a journey and there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to talking about how it takes to set up. However, ifan organization follows all of the suggestions, such as designing a roadmap and creating a business case, they may find it quicker to set up than others.
While there is no concrete answer to this question, there are a few things that can be done for DevOps acceleration, including:
Begin with a lighthouse project
A lighthouse project (or a proof-of-concept (POC) project) is a short-term initiative that’s limited in scope, but offers a well-defined plan. It’s called “lighthouse” because it can serve as a beacon for the enterprise as a whole, illuminating the value that can be gained through digital transformation. Plus, it shows teams the exact steps they need to take in order to get there.
Empower engineers to build
It is important to give DevOps practitioners the tools and platforms to learn and experiment, as well as to encourage them to take full advantage of these tools and harness them for future projects. Choose automated tool sets that suit the enterprise’s software delivery environment, the application, and the task at hand. Research tools that are appropriate for your enterprise and encourage teams to use them. Invite practitioners to weigh in on the tool selection process by encouraging them to share their own experiences.
Alleviate the fear of change with knowledge and resource-sharing
Educate stakeholders across the business on the value of the change, perhaps by sharing the results of your lighthouse project. The more you communicate, the better everyone will be able to understand the value of cloud migration, automation, continuous testing, rapid deployment or any other aspect of your new work streams and agile processes. Formal training in the tools, language and practices associated with DevOps can also be invaluable.
Celebrate and encourage openness
Today’s corporate cultures are more open than they’ve ever been before, which means there’s never been a better time to be a software engineer. You can support the shift toward greater openness within your own organization by scheduling frequent meet-ups (either virtual or in-person). Provide DevOps teams with forums and outlets where they can engage with colleagues and discuss their problems. Collaboration tools enable developers to share their successes and challenges in real-time.
Empower developers to give back to the community
The open-source software movement has revolutionized the way development communities innovate and solve problems. Open-source technologies allow for more rapid building and troubleshooting because many engineers are working on the same problem in tandem. As everyone has full visibility into the entire code base, reliability and security are improved. Much open-source software is modular and componentized by design, making it compatible with services-based cloud native architectures.
The DevOps philosophy encourages practitioners to contribute to open-source projects as a means of furthering their expertise and sharing it with the broader development community. This is part of the ethos of openness, but also helps engineers spark greater innovation and creativity amongst themselves and others.
How much does DevOps cost?
Your organization is embracing the cloud and planning to reap all the benefits it offers. You’ve planned a strategy to ensure the cloud environment you’re building will perfectly fityour business goals. However, unless your development and IT operations models can adapt and scale at the velocity of cloud computing, your enterprise will never experience the full benefits of your cloud transformation.
Just as cloud-native applications were purposefully designed to take full advantage of the cloud’s near-limitless processing power, innovative technologies and massive scale, the DevOps methodology enables IT and development teams to build, deploy and collaborate in ways that suit modern cloud environments.
While the cost of DevOps can vary across platforms, it is widely agreed that DevOps can be a cost-efficient initiative for most organizations. Here are just a few ways that it can save costs and increase efficiencies:
DevOps teams work more quickly, resulting in faster delivery and reduced turnaround times.
The old saying still holds true – time is money. Adopting the DevOps approach improves the organization’s overall rate of delivery, as well as individual employee productivity. Simply put, developers are able to accomplish more with their time with DevOps. They use automated tools, test often and early to catch errors faster, and take advantage of pre-built templates and existing services.
Because development is speedier, the enterprise is better able to respond to changes in the marketplace or shifts in consumer demand. This enhances its ability to compete in today’s world at the same time that it increases the value each developer contributes.
Enterprises with mature DevOps practices experience higher employee satisfaction rates, decreasing long-term recruitment costs.
Developers working in DevOps practices report feeling significantly happier in their jobs than those working in traditional IT environments. Happier employees tend to be more engaged, more productive and more likely to stay in their jobs for longer.
What’s more, the cross-functional teams in DevOps organizations usually have stronger collaborative relationships and far fewer conflicts than traditional development and operations teams. Things tend to go smoothly in this kind of environment. When people work together closely, there’s greater overall investment in their shared responsibilities.
With DevOps, it’s easier and cheaper to manage software releases.
In legacy organizations, managing complex software release cycles can quickly get expensive, especially in cases where the enterprise incurs downtime costs or when end user productivity is compromised.
Instead, the DevOps approach calls for automated release pipelines, with much smaller code modules being released far more often. Because changes to the code base are small and iterative, they’re less likely to cause issues in the production environment. And, managing these minor changes requires far less labor.
DevOps organizations see fewer errors in production environments.
Another central principle of the DevOps philosophy is accountability and traceability. DevOps teams typically rely on automated performance monitoring tools to gather detailed information on how code changes impact the software. This data is shared with team members whose involvement spans the whole of the development cycle.
This means that more people share greater visibility into the root causes of potential issues, making it easier to see and fix bugs, and simpler to solve problems. According to industry reports, this makes mature DevOps practices more than 2,000 times faster at recovering from incidents than traditional teams, and their code changes are seven times less likely to fail.
Does your company have a DevOps culture?
DevOps is a cultural shift within your organization. It isn’t a matter of simply adopting agile planning, automated testing orcontinuous delivery. While those practices are definitely important, creating a culture that is about shared understanding and responsibility across teams is key. This means increasing transparency, communication, and collaboration across development, operations and IT.
The fastest way to create a DevOps environment is to combine the development team with the operations team to provide a platform for them to collaborate on. However, to truly achieve a DevOps culture, there are some key principles to follow for a smooth transition:
Nurture a collaborative environment
The main theory behind DevOps is to combine development and operations to create one team that focuses on delivering common objectives. For brands to achieve this, they need to encourage development and operations to regularly communicate, share ideas and problem-solve together, rather than forcing them together.
Impose end-to-end responsibility
In the traditional software development model, developers and operations had separate roles and teams. In DevOps, both groups work together as a team that is fully accountable for the application from beginning to end.
Encourage continuous improvement
End-to-end responsibility also means that brands must continuously adapt to changing circumstances, whether that may be the emergence of new technology, enhancements in competitor output, customer needs, or changes in legislation. DevOps places a strong focus on continuous improvement to optimize performance, cost and speed of delivery.
Automate (almost) everything
To strive for continuous improvement with high cycle rates and the ability to immediately respond to customer feedback, organizations must utilize automated processes. Fortunately, there have been notable developments in automated tools to streamline processes including the CI-CD pipeline.
Focus on the customer’s needs
DevOps requires brands to act like a startup that can innovate continuously, pivot when a strategy is no longer working, and invest to deliver customer satisfaction. DevOps teams must have their fingers on the pulse to consistently meet the needs of ever-changing consumer demands. The data gathered from the automated processes must be constantly reviewed to ensure performance targets are met.
Embrace failure and learn from it
To fully embrace cloud computing through DevOps, a brand must alter the way they think about failure. By accepting failure, brands foster a “climate for learning” which will positively impact the culture.
Unite teams and expertise
DevOps teams are required to be involved at every stage of the software development lifecycle, from planning, building, deployment, feedback and improvement. This requires a cross-functional team where each member is well-rounded, has an understanding of their place within the process, and has a balanced set of skills.
What skills does a DevOps engineer have?
A DevOps engineer is an intrinsic part of the DevOps process and there are several skills that are required for them to be effective. By taking ownership of software applications, fromthe initial design phase through to deployment and the maintenance that may be required beyond, agile software engineers have complete oversight of the congestion that could prevent progress being made and ultimate success realized. Through DevOps, organizations launch better quality products quicker, with less downtime and fewer project failures, DevOps engineers are the reason for their success.
Here are just a few key skills that a DevOps engineer needs to have:
1. Technical skills
The core, specialist skill for any DevOps engineer is their technical abilities. Engineers are required to create the applications the business needs, so it would be a pretty tough ask without any technical knowledge. At the very least, DevOps engineers need a basic understanding of software development languages, IT infrastructure and automation tools.
To take that one step further, a good DevOps engineer is always curious, always seeking to learn about new technologies and innovations, and testing them within their working process. They want to be knowledgeable and keep expanding their knowledge to further assist the organization.
2. Automation skills
Automation sits within the realm of technical skills, but the DevOps Institute specifically calls it out as the most important skill in an engineer’s repertoire.
In reality, almost all manual tasks can be automated by using scripting languages and automating parts of the process. This automation can help to speed up the development and deployment process exponentially. The majority of organizations are looking to grow in some form, so enabling that seamless scalability sits completely within the DevOps engineer’s remit. They should take the time to understand what can be automated within the business’s process and dedicate sufficient resources to make it happen.
3. Process skills
The second most sought after skill, according to the DevOps Institute, is process skills, which are imperative for intelligent automation. DevOps creates a much faster cycle for developing and deploying code. The key to DevOps is automating parts of the process wherever possible so the business is less reliant on manual input, so possessing process skills can help to create a smoother transition to these new ways of working..
Process is also about making things better. There’s no point getting a product to market quickly if it doesn’t work as intended or presents a horrible interface that users don’t want to use. By building a thorough and robust process, an engineer ingrains testing at regular intervals. Usually working in ‘sprints’, they should continually test, evaluate and tweak the project to ensure that it continues to work as planned and avoid any surprises when it comes to the launch.
4. Security skills
DevSecOps (Security DevOps) is a methodology that is growing in importance because it ensures the organization remains protected from hackers and reduces the costs involved later if a breach occurs or problems arise that need fixing. A DevSecOps engineer encompasses anything from code analysis to threat investigation, vulnerability management and security training, so a DevOps engineer with experience of handling security measures would be valuable to any organization.
A good DevOps engineer understands the importance of security and will build it into the application from the start. This would involve knowing how to write secure code to protect the application against attack, as well as defending the end product against common cyber threats, such as viruses and hackers.
5. Customer skills
DevOps isn’t typically a customer-facing role, but that doesn’t mean a DevOps engineer should disregard the customers. An engineer should have an understanding of the needs of a final customer, as well as the needs of the ‘internal’ customers in the organization, including the operations, development and product teams.
A good DevOps engineer should have an understanding of the motivations that drive each business stakeholder within the process. They should understand the personal objectives they need to meet and the things they’re responsible for within their role. Having this context and understanding will ensure that engineers are able to empathize with the stakeholders, balance individual priorities, and ensure transparent communication across teams, so everyone has a common understanding of what is being proposed and why.
6. Soft skills
Finally, we come to the important skill set that underpins everything a DevOps engineer and almost every other employee does – soft skills. DevOps engineers need to collaborate across teams, such as with developers, testers, operations teams and senior business stakeholders. There may also be third parties for engineers to involve and the end customer to consider.
What DevOps tools do you need?
DevOps tools provide the means for planning, development, testing, deployment, operating, and monitoring applications. Furthermore, tools with a whole view of the entire processprovide organizations with the ability to orchestrate the many pieces involved. Organizations often lose themselves in the details of individual tools and processes unless they have something at this level.
Here are just some of the tools that we recommend for DevOps.
Docker is a Linux-based open-source platform that focuses on containerization, which means you package up the software with its dependencies and ship everything together as a unit. It takes away the worry about managing dependencies separately. It’s portable and highly secure, you can use any language with Docker, and it integrates well with a number of other tools, such as Jenkins, Ansible, and Bamboo.
Ansible is an open-source tool for automating software provisioning, configuration management, and application deployment. What’s more, it’s loved by NASA, which is a great reason to use it. You do not need to have a dedicated systems administrator, yet the tool can handle highly complex deployments. Plus, it’s agentless and uses a simple syntax written in the YAML language.
Git is a popular open-source tool used by giants such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. It allows you to track the progress of your development work and coordinate work among team members. Git is great for experimenting because you can revert to previously saved versions of your work, and you can also create branches to add in the new features when they are ready. You will also need to host a repository for the work, such as GitHub.
Puppet is a tool that allows you to manage and automate software inspection, delivery, and operation. This open-source tool has a solid track record, thousands of modules, and can be easily integrated into other platforms. While the free version is great for smaller projects, consider Puppet Enterprise if your projects tend to be larger.
Chef is a powerful open-source configuration management tool that lets you turn infrastructure into code to manage data, attributes, roles, environments, and more. It supports multiple platforms and easily integrates with cloud-based platforms. Regardless of the size of your infrastructure, Chef has the ability to automate your infrastructure configuration and application deployment, as well as manage configurations across your network.
What is DevSecOps?
DevSecOps is the combination of DevOps and security. It means thinking about application and infrastructure security from the start, as well as automating security gates to keep theDevOps workflow from reducing. Choosing the right tools to continuously integrate security can help to meet these goals, but an effective process requires more than new tools. It builds on the cultural changes of DevOps to integrate the work of security teams.
It is always a good idea to include security as an essential part of the entire app lifecycle. DevSecOps is about built-in security, not security that works as a perimeter for the apps and data. If security remains at the end of the development process, organizations adopting DevOps may find themselves back to long development cycles that they were aiming to avoid in the first place.
In part, DevSecOps highlights the need to invite security teams at the beginning of the DevOps initiative to build in information security and set a plan for automation. DevSecOps also highlights the need to help developers code with security in mind, a process that involves security teams sharing visibility, feedback, and insights on known threats. This could include new training, since it hasn’t always been a focus in more traditional application development.
Move fast and break things: Chaos Monkey in DevOps
In 2010, Netflix made the decision to move their systems to the cloud, which allows hosts to be terminated and replaced at any time. They designed Chaos Monkey to test systemstability by enforcing failures via the pseudo-random termination of instances and services inside the Netflix architecture. Following their migration, they became reliant on Amazon Web Services and needed a technology that could show them how their system responded when essential components of their infrastructure was taken down.
Chaos Monkey helped to bring Chaos Engineering to life, which is an approach to identifying failures before they become outages. By constantly testing how a system responds to failures, you have the ability to identify problem areas and fix issues ahead of time. By performing small experiments, you can “break things on purpose” in order to learn how to build more reliable and resilient systems.
In 2011, Netflix announced the evolution of Chaos Monkey with a series of additional tools known as The Simian Army, which could cause other types of failure and induce abnormal system conditions.
Pros of Chaos Monkey
There are several pros to using Chaos Monkey, including the fact that it prepares you for random instance failures. You can schedule terminations so they occur based on a configurable number of days and during a given time period. It also encourage redundancy, which is a major benefit to Chaos Engineering practices. If a single service or instance is brought down unexpectedly, a redundant backup may be able to save the day.
Another pro is that Chaos Monkey relies on Spinnaker, but this could also be a con. It enable cross-cloud compatibility, but if you do not use Spinnaker, it cannot support deployments.
Cons of Chaos Monkey
Chaos Monkey only offers a limited scope, which means that it only offers one type of failure – causing pseudo-random instance failure. It only handles one of the “long tail” failures that software will experience during its lifecycle. It also lacks semblance of coordination, as the end-user is required to inject their own system-specific logic with a user-friendly interface or helper tools. Bringing down an instance is great, but knowing how to act on that information is critical.
The final con is that Chaos Monkey has no recovery capabilities. A big reason why Chaos Engineering encourages performing the smallest possible experiments is so any repercussions are somewhat contained. If something goes wrong, it is ideal to have a safety net or the ability to cancel the experiment.
What does the cloud have to do with DevOps?
In a competitive business world, where organizations need to adapt and react to their market to remain competitive, leaders cannot ignore the need for digital transformation. Adopting DevOps and cloud computing are two of the ways that businesses can achieve this much needed transformation and the two compliment each other. Cloud provides your organization with the tools and services that allow you to optimize and innovate at scale. DevOps supports this. Providing a methodology and culture that enables your organization to be agile and deliver at the required speed.
Cloud technologies and services have become integrated into DevOps vocabulary so easily because they complement the DevOps processes. This is regardless of how your business defines the processes or which DevOps routes you take to digital transformation with cloud integration.
Cloud native development practices allow developers to have more control over individual microservices , which results in smaller wait times for implementation and the ability for developers to own more components. With cloud services and tools available to automate the process of building, managing, and provisioning through the code, there is also an increased speed in the development process, eliminating the possibility of human error and establishing repeatability.
Cloud computing also enables users to create self-service methods for provisioning infrastructure. This means that developers are able to quickly try new things, fail fast, and easily succeed in launching new products to market quicker, without having to wait for services to be provisioned for them.
The principles of being cloud native are built around the idea that the only thing constant is change. Software is designed for automation and the landscape of an IT system is constantly being re-architected to respond to threats and opportunities. This aligns perfectly with DevOps principles around automation, continuous improvement, customer focus and constant iteration. While the two are separate entities, the importance of cloud computing to DevOps (and vice versa) cannot be stressed enough. One could argue that adopting DevOps is the only way to truly realize the value of cloud, and all of the efficiency, agility and innovation benefits it promises.
Can I outsource DevOps?
In short, the answer to this is yes. However, there are pros and cons to both outsourced DevOps and in-house DevOps to consider. Before you decide whether outsourced DevOps is the way forward for your company, consider whether any of these potential drawbacks apply to your situation:
You have dedicated access to full-time personnel
If you hire your own DevOps team, you have 40+ hours of their time every week, and you will be able to decide how and when to use their skills. This probably isn’t an issue for early-stage companies and entrepreneurs, but larger companies may do better to create their own in-house DevOps team.
It’s harder to integrate DevOps into your culture
Generally speaking, hiring DevOps professionals allows you to integrate them more deeply into your own company culture. Compared to outsourced people, other team members might be more willing to collaborate with full-time DevOps employees.
This integration is a double-edged sword, however. If you don’t have a culture that resonates with DevOps and in which a junior person has a say in important decisions about moving a project forward, integrating DevOps professionals into your culture becomes a liability, not an asset. Before deciding to build your own team, you may also wish to consider strategies for integrating outsourced people into a consistent relationship.
Software architecture is one of your key market differentiators
For some companies, software architecture is an essential differentiator. If the mechanics of delivery are essential to your company’s business, it may make sense to take on the challenge of building a robust internal DevOps team. If expertise in cloud architecture and delivery is only tangential to your business, however, you’re probably better off treating DevOps as a managed service and outsourcing it.
There are arguments on both sides of the fence, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every organization. It completely depends on the size of your business, what you can afford, and if you have the resources internally to create an in-house DevOps team. Careful consideration and planning is needed to determine which option is best for your organization.
DevOps is an increasingly popular concept that aims to connect developers and operations teams into a cohesive, integrated unit. It is uniquely differentiated from traditional IT operations and is similar to Agile, but holds distinct differences.
Organizations may want to consider investing in DevOps or DevSecOps if organizations want to improve communication across projects, empower employees to take ownership and accountability for their roles in a launch, and enhance professional development. However, it requires a cultural shift that will see teams collaborating, communicating, and feeding back to each other in a more effective way.
With appropriate research and a well-rounded business case, your organization can take the step towards driving forward with modern mentality and creating an environment for innovation. You will see increased efficiencies, higher productivity, and potentially beat competitors to new advancements.
If you are interested in other key points for DevOps or want to know more about how it can transform your business, Cloudreach have plenty of resources available to help, as well as a Cloudbusting podcast episode with Gene Kim about DevOps.
Agile – an approach to project management and software development that provides teams with a way to deliver value to customers efficiently and with fewer issues. An agile team works in small, but consumable increments, increasing the focus on tight feedback cycles and continuous improvement.
Agile methodology – a way to manage a project by breaking it up into several phases. Agile methodology requires constant collaboration with stakeholders and continuous improvement at each stage.
Chaos Engineering – the discipline of experimenting on software whilst in production to build confidence in the system and test its capability to withstand/overcome unexpected issues.
Chaos Monkey – a software tool developed by Netflix to test the recoverability and resilience of their AWS environment after migrating to the cloud. It offers a way to test failures and identify issues before outages.
DevOps – this is a term that refers to a group of concepts that automate and integrate the processes between software development and IT teams, so they can design, build and deploy applications.
DevOps Tools – a DevOps strategy is only as good as the tools it utilizes and there are a variety available. Take a look at our post on DevOps tools to find out where to get started.
DevSecOps – the combination of DevOps and security around infrastructure and applications. This should be built-in security to help prevent the slowing down of processes.