To DevOps, or not to DevOps, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in mind to suffer bugs and issues of poor development, or to take arms against a landscape of frustrations and by opposing, end them?Ok, I'm heavily paraphrasing, but this is what DevOps does. It aims to ease the frustrations of the software development industry by opposing outdated practices. In this way, DevOps helps forge a path forward towards a better future for software development.
In this post, we will go over what DevOps is, some of its benefits, and more.
DevOps is an alternative approach to the software development workflow, improving speed, efficiency, and productivity. Integrating two previously siloed roles — development and operations — DevOps also reduces the number of steps in the software lifecycle.
DevOps' focus is to encourage the use of several techniques to improve the workflow — and results of it — for your team. It promotes collaboration, automation, and an iterative approach to managing your software development (Dev) and software operations (Ops).
In the past, roles of development and operations were separate or "siloed," leading to a knowledge gap between teams and a disjointed workflow — these problems presented primarily in the form of miscommunication and cross-team misconceptions, often causing release delays.
The software development life cycle consists of a series of pipelines; rather, this is the way it was thought of in the past. The process starts at the beginning and moves down the pipeline; once it completes one, it moves on to the next. Often, the development team and operations team may have a misinformed understanding of the other team's responsibilities or capabilities, which can lead to issues within your pipeline.
The DevOps approach is a bit different; it proposes a combined iterative and infinite approach. It solves many of these frustrations by creating a more informed environment for your teams. It moves all responsibilities to the front of the process giving everyone a personal stake in their work. With both teams sharing responsibility, the workload is better delegated, more organized, and the communication/knowledge gap is decreased.
This is based on the Agile methodology, which asserts — quite effectively — that iterative re-evaluation of your project goals leads to better results.
Next, let’s talk a bit about how DevOps works.
How does DevOps work?
DevOps is meant to unify the development workflow and reduce downtime, errors, bugs, and more within the development and operations phases. It does this by unifying the two roles and encouraging a "shift left" mentality. By moving the operations tasks to the left within the pipeline, we can aim for optimal results from the start instead of waiting till the end.
DevOps removes the need for last-minute fixes and issues that may go unnoticed until it is time to deploy. Employing a DevOps team workflow will also save on extended downtime and streamline handling the operation end of the software development lifecycle.
In the end, what DevOps does is solve long-standing issues and pain points within the software development lifecycle. It embraces a “continuous everything” approach to development and operations, allowing for constant improvement at every step of the process. Because DevOps is continuous by nature, it is further supported by taking an iterative approach to the lifecycle.
DevOps also encourages communication across roles and teams, and not just within the development and operations roles. For example, the development team may need info regarding runtime, environment, and database setup. In contrast, the operations team may need to consider design implications and thus may need information from the design team.
With the operations roles as the last step in the development process, many of these would go unchecked until the last minute, slowing down the entire process. DevOps solves these issues by ensuring all project requirements are identified and planned for at the beginning of the software development lifecycle.
What does DevOps do?
In a traditional development environment, the development team typically produces the code and delivers it when they feel satisfied with its functionality. Furthermore, if there are issues in the production phase, it falls on the operations team to implement fixes.
This siloed approach leaves a considerable gap within the development lifecycle and can cause downtime for users and the organization. In that vein, DevOps solves several problems for organizations working on software development. DevOps teaches teams how to plan their workflow, manage on-the-fly adaptations, and better communicate the needs and requirements of the project to inform the software development process.
It also adds extra layers of protection to your workflow, preventing overlooked problems and ensuring smooth development and operation of the project. Through a properly informed and educated team setup with improved communication, the traditional software development lifecycle issues can be circumvented.
The DevOps lifecycle may look a little different from team to team, but in the end, the process is relatively similar across the board. So, let's review an example of what this lifecycle may look like in practice.
The planning stage is precisely what it sounds like; it is planning the lifecycle of the project. However, unlike traditional approaches to the development lifecycle, in this case, it considers that each stage will be repeated as needed. In that vein, planning for the DevOps workflow is designed, keeping in mind that there will be future iterations and likely past iterations.
This means that we will likely have information from previous iterations that will better inform our next one and that the current iteration will also inform the next. This stage usually includes all teams to help ensure the planning does not leave any aspect forgotten or overlooked.
The coding stage is where the code will be written by the developers and readied for the next stage. Developers will write code based on the requirements laid forth by the planning stage and ensure that the code is produced with the project's operations in mind.
Building is the stage where code will be added to the project, and if needed, the project will be rebuilt to incorporate the new code. This can be done in many different ways, but typically is done through GitHub or a similar version control platform.
The developer will request to add the code, and the code will be reviewed as needed. Provided the code is ready to be added, the request will be approved, and the code gets added to the project. This process is effective even when adding new features, fixing bugs, and much more.
The testing phase is where the teams will implement any testing needed to ensure the project functions as expected. This step is also where teams will test for edge and corner case issues. An "edge case" is a bug or issue that only presents at an extreme operating event, and a "corner case" is where a bug or issue presents when multiple conditions are met.
The release stage is when the project code has been verified as ready to be handed off for deployment and is given a final check for production readiness. Provided the project meets requirements and has been appropriately checked for bugs or issues, the project will then be moved to the deployment phase.
The deploy stage is where the project will be readied for its production environment and is running as expected within that environment. This would be part of the operations team; in DevOps, this is a joint responsibility. This shared responsibility encourages all team members to work together to ensure a smooth deployment process.
The operating stage is where teams try out the project within the production environment, and users get to use the product. This vital stage is by no means the end of the line. Rather, it informs future development iterations and handles the setup of the production environment as well as any runtime requirements that are implemented.
Suppose any unexpected issues arise within the production environment and operation of the product. In that case, this is the stage that will identify those issues and pass them on to the next iteration.
In the monitor stage, the product’s use, as well as any feedback, issues, or opportunities for improvement, are identified and recorded. This information is then passed along to the next iteration to help inform the development process. This stage is vital for planning the next iteration and smooths out the development process for the entire pipeline.
Why should you care about DevOps?
The reasons to care about DevOps are abundantly clear when you see the process for what it is; a means to improve a once broken workflow. Any IT organization that produces software — especially SaaS (Software as a Service) — can benefit from implementing a DevOps workflow.
If you care about producing high-quality software with regular unfettered releases, low bug count, improved communication, and a decreased workload on your teams, then you should care about DevOps. Furthermore, if you and your organization care about staying up on current development trends, industry standards, and best practices, then DevOps is something you should consider.
Software development is an ever-changing landscape of information and technology, always moving in a direction that encourages constant improvement, hence the DevOps process. In this field, the last thing you want to do is get left behind with outdated technology and practices. Unfortunately, it’s always harder to play catch up than to stay caught up.
The principles of DevOps are simple, yet can vary quite a bit from organization to organization. Since they can be summarized in just a few points, let’s take a look at some of these principles.
Solving for the Customer
Solving for the customer from the start will save time, energy, money, and resources that will prove invaluable later. It also encourages the "shift left" mentality at the core of the DevOps process, allowing teams to consider essential factors right away.
This principle is vital for the DevOps workflow, which is iterative by design; since the DevOps workflow is continuous, every step and stage within it should be as well. Continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) is an excellent example of this approach, and you'll often hear of continuous testing, continuous delivery, continuous monitoring, and so forth.
Considering the Entire DevOps Lifecycle
When going into any new endeavor — such as a vacation — we often plan how we would like things to go. We will consider the facts and factors that may play a role in how things unfold. In the DevOps workflow, you would be highly remiss to leave this step out as it can shape the lifecycle of your entire project.
Considering the end-to-end needs of your project can save hours of work and simplify your team's workflow. Additionally, it helps identify tasks that can be automated, anticipates needs, and circumvents issues that may otherwise arise from otherwise unexpected variables.
Cross-Team Autonomy and Responsibility
Cross-team autonomy and responsibility are in many ways synonymous with considering the entire lifecycle of your project. It brings teams together on the understanding of expectations, requirements, and helps improve delegation of tasks. It also fosters a sense of ownership within your organization — with that comes a sense of pride in one's work.
Additionally, this cross-team autonomy and responsibility encourage a culture that lessens the knowledge gap between team members and previously siloed roles. This decreased gap means fewer communication issues and improved efficiency with delegated tasks.
Automating as Much as Possible
This step speaks entirely for itself. Why do work that you don’t need to do?
In a DevOps workflow, you should automate as many actions within the process as you can without sacrificing the quality of your team's work. Many of the steps within the stages of the DevOps pipeline do not require regular manual work; actions like testing can often be handled automatically.
Much of the software testing process has been automated for years. A few examples would be route testing and UI testing. These tests ensure that only expected routes can be accessed and only with proper permissions.
Top 8 DevOps Benefits
The benefits of a DevOps workflow are pretty straightforward. Let's discuss a few of them below.
With DevOps, your pipeline will see significant improvement in speed across the board. This is true in all aspects of your workflow, from response time to deployment.
Improved efficiency means less hassle and mess. You will see smoother transitions between stages and handling of tasks, such as delegation and issue tracking.
Communication is often an issue in software development; as such, any opportunity to improve communication will lead to better results within your organization.
Reliability, not much needs to be said here to understand the benefits of improved reliability within your team. Being able to rely on your team to meet deadlines and requirements throughout the lifecycle of your project is essential to maintaining fast, consistent releases.
The quality of your project will consistently improve in an almost autonomous manner as the DevOps workflow naturally encourages said improvement. Painpoints are identified in each iteration and are then included in the planning for the next iteration. This allows for a very concise approach to implementing improvements that guarantee high-quality software.
DevOps is built so that the workflow is iterative, which means that the process is the same each time around. This leads to very consistent results along the way, a very "wash, rinse, repeat" kind of process.
Agility is not to be confused with adaptability, as they are somewhat different at their core. Agility is your organization's ability to be proactive about potential changes, issues, and more. Agility is where a lot of your time-saving benefits will come from, and it also affects the quality of your planning stage.
Adaptability is your organization's ability to respond in real-time to changes and issues as they arise. It's no less important than agility, however, agility affects how much adapting you'll need to do within your organization.
Implementing a DevOps workflow into your organization can be stressful, especially when you don't know where to start. Fortunately, we are going to discuss a few tips on how to get started.
Organize your DevOps initiative.
The best place to start is by organizing your DevOps initiative within your IT department, including the teams that plan and organize your DevOps workflow. This will also help identify the right tools for the job.
Build your strategy.
You'll then want to build out your strategy and set up your tools, including automating any steps that do not require manual interaction. This can all be done from within a containerized environment, which can help ease the deployment and operations process.
Test your workflow.
Once you have completed the previous steps, your team should be ready to start testing your workflow. Testing will identify pain points and further polish your approach before applying your DevOps lifecycle to your organization.
Moving Forward With DevOps
Moving forward with your DevOps team will lead to growth and development within your IT department. If you are diligent and work hard with your teams to ensure everything runs smoothly, you will see the benefits of DevOps almost immediately.
Remember that recording feedback and responding to it is vital for improving any team — even more so with a DevOps team. Continuous everything means continuous everything, including reevaluating your DevOps lifecycle if needed and as needed.
One of the biggest takeaways from this post should be that you have some flexibility in your DevOps setup, as it isn't a "set in stone" package of rules. Instead, it is a collection of ideas, practices, and culture used to improve the software development process logistically. Starting the journey is half the battle but worth its weight in gold.