Achieving a big goal can be intimidating, but visualizing all the different steps is its own challenge. If you’re here, it’s likely that you’re looking for an explanation of the DevOps roadmap, i.e., how can you become a DevOps engineer.
The background knowledge needed to work across the DevOps lifecycle is expansive and complicated. This makes the DevOps roadmap even more critical to ensure you understand the requirements of the job and stay on track to landing a DevOps engineer role.
So, how do you become a DevOps engineer? Let's start by looking at the DevOps career roadmap.
The DevOps Roadmap
Before we continue, let's take a moment to examine the DevOps roadmap below.
You'll notice that the DevOps roadmap covers a lot of concepts within software development. That's because DevOps covers the entire software creation and maintenance process from development to operations, which spans the entire technology stack. This roadmap contains lots of great details, but as we plot our course together, we'll focus on the main pathway and discuss each step in detail.
DevOps Career Roadmap Steps
- Learn programming languages.
- Study operating systems.
- Review networking security and protocols.
- Understand Infrastructure as Code.
- Adopt Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment tools.
- Invest in application and infrastructure monitoring.
- Study cloud providers.
- Learn cloud design patterns.
Let's break down each of the main steps in this roadmap.
1. Learn programming languages.
Although DevOps engineers do not typically write source code, they do integrate databases, debug code from the development team, and automate processes. Automation is a critical part of what gives the DevOps lifecycle its speed, and a DevOps engineer plays an important role in implementing a DevOps automation strategy.
Additionally, a DevOps engineer should have a working knowledge of the languages their team is using to help them understand existing code, review new code, and assist with debugging.
Programming languages to learn include:
2. Study operating systems.
Operating systems (OSs) are a crucial piece of the technology stack that a DevOps team needs to function. OSs, not only power the local machines that the team uses to communicate and complete tasks, but it also runs the servers that host the team's deployed applications.
As such, you need to learn the command line terminal so you are not reliant on the graphic user interface (GUI) to configure your servers. Command line simplifies tasks that would require multiple clicks in a GUI, and some commands are only executable through the terminal. Every OS is different, so learning more than one is advisable.
Popular OSs to learn include:
- Linux (recommended)
You'll also want to learn the larger strategies and rules that govern how OSs are built and run. As a DevOps engineer, technical knowledge and conceptual knowledge are equally important.
OS concepts to learn include:
- Process Management
- Threads and Concurrency
3. Review networking security and protocols.
Any web-based application will use protocols to transfer and receive information from the user. This means it is necessary to understand how protocols support different request types.
Just as important, you need to know the risks of these transfer methods and how to secure them to prevent bad actors from intercepting your data or infiltrating your application. Cybersecurity is a critical skill no matter your role within the DevOps lifecycle.
Networking protocols to learn include:
4. Understand Infrastructure as Code.
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a practice for streamlining the provisioning of infrastructure to support your application deployment. Networks, servers, and other infrastructure are configured and managed using template files to create an environment with your application's exact requirements. IaC allows you to automate this process for faster deployments and updates.
IaC strategies to learn include:
- Configuration Management
- Container Orchestration
- Infrastructure Provisioning
5. Adopt Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment tools.
Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) is a central principle that DevOps is founded on: the integration of development and operations as well as constant iterations. To achieve this philosophy, most DevOps teams turn to tools built to support the DevOps lifecycle. CI/CD tools support multiple phases of the pipeline and automate processes and handoffs to free up team members.
CI/CD tools to learn include:
6. Invest in application and infrastructure monitoring.
Monitoring is the practice of watching for signs of trouble in your application and its underlying infrastructure so that your operations team can fix issues before they turn into outages. This practice breaks down into two parts — application and infrastructure.
Internal issues with your application can manifest in multiple ways, so it's best to monitor multiple metrics.
For example, a lower-than-normal conversion rate on a form may be a sign that the form itself is malfunctioning when users try to sign up. Ideally, your monitoring tools would flag errors generated within the code when the signup request is sent as well as the conversion rate so you have multiple ways to identify issues.
Application monitoring tools to learn include:
- Prometheus (recommended)
Often, problems within your application's supporting infrastructure can have an equal impact — if not greater than the application itself.
For example, issues with your web application's cloud hosting can result in outages for your users when they attempt to access it. Monitoring tools analyze errors generated within your application's stack as well as performance metrics to flag errors early. The sooner your team can respond, the less impact these issues will have on your user experience.
Infrastructure monitoring tools to learn include:
- New Relic (recommended)
7. Study cloud providers.
Most — if not all — modern applications are hosted in the cloud. Cloud services provide many benefits, including the cost savings and scalability that result when you no longer need to host your own servers for your application. Naturally, it's important to understand the different cloud services available and their unique costs and benefits so you can select the best hosting provider for your finished applications.
Cloud providers to learn include:
- AWS (recommended)
- Google Cloud
8. Learn cloud design patterns.
Cloud design patterns are the philosophies that produce the scalability, reliability, and security of cloud applications. Just as important as understanding cloud providers, you should also understand these patterns.
There are many lessons to learn from cloud best practices (e.g. high latency) that you can apply to applications hosted in the cloud and to your development approach before deployment. For example, backing up your source code in a cloud-enabled repository so you don't lose access if your local storage is unavailable.
Cloud design patterns to learn include:
- Data Management
- Design and Implementation
Everything we have covered does not represent the full knowledge you will need to be an effective DevOps engineer, but it does cover the core knowledge you should have before focusing on the finer details. You will find learning is much easier once you have this background to guide your research process.
To close this post out, let's run through some key takeaways based on the different steps of the DevOps roadmap.
Takeaways From the DevOps Roadmap
1. Leverage any prior technical experience that you have.
A DevOps engineer will cover the full software development lifecycle, so any experience they have in this field will enable them to better coordinate the different DevOps phases and collaborate with their teammates. It will also help them feel more confident in their recommendations as they work to optimize the pipeline.
2. Prioritize concepts, not just tools.
Technical knowledge is important, but if you don't understand the reasons why you are using a particular approach, then you won't be able to vocalize them to the rest of the team. A DevOps engineer is an advocate for the DevOps method on top of everything else they do within the team, so understanding the concepts behind the technology is key. A conceptual understanding also gives you a head-start in attaining more related technical knowledge down the line.
3. Be a generalist, not just a specialist.
Since DevOps engineers touch the whole DevOps lifecycle, it's better to know a little of everything than to be strong in only a few areas. The individual contributors on your team are meant to specialize in their specific areas (development, networking, monitoring, etc.). You are responsible for moving the product between each contributor.
If you do have a good understanding of the full process and want to learn more, then don't limit yourself, either. Those with a passion for learning will excel as DevOps engineers. Just make sure you're focusing on the larger picture as well. In a growing field like DevOps, there is always a bevy of knowledge — like books — to consume.
4. Always look for new learning opportunities.
These eight steps are just the beginning, becoming a DevOps engineer means staying on top of growing trends and staying on the hunt for new learning opportunities. Once you've mastered our roadmap, check out this interactive roadmap
Special thanks to Kamran Ahmed for creating this excellent resource and making it available through his GitHub repository.
Getting Started With the DevOps RoadMap
The DevOps roadmap is full of different technologies and concepts to explore. If you have the drive and passion for learning, then this roadmap should serve as a valuable guide as you start building your expertise. Focus on the individual steps and soon you will have the skills needed to start your career as a DevOps engineer.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.