Understanding DevOps – What Is DevOps?

DevOps – Adoption and Consulting Services

According to the 2018 “State of DevOps” report, organizations with a successful DevOps strategy in place deliver applications to market 2,555x faster than those who don’t use the methodology.

Based on numbers alone, DevOps has the potential to transform organizations across all verticals. However, before you decide to bring DevOps into your organization, there are some key things to know about the strategy.

What Is DevOps?

Let’s start with the basics: DevOps brings the development and operations process into one unified effort.

The process centers around three main principles: collaboration, communication, and integration. It aims to end the software developer vs. hardware operator mentality with a combination of cultural changes and the right technology.

In the early days of computer programming, a developer would write all of the code required for a computer to perform a specific function. Developers would hand off the code to the operations team, tasked with loading and running the program.

Unfortunately, if something went wrong, operations had no idea how to fix it, and thus returned the code to the developers to correct the problem.

 

As you can imagine, this process got time-consuming — fast.

DevOps emerged as a solution in 2009 and was described by one of its creators, Patrick DeBois, as an extension of “Agile.” Dubois, along with his team, came up with the “Agile Manifesto,” which operates on the following principles that define both Agile and DevOps.

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

Most people can’t answer the question, what is DevOps?, let alone define its relationship to Agile and other methodologies.

Again, we mentioned that DevOps began as an outgrowth of Agile Development. Scrum, Lean, and Kanban, too, are popular methodologies built on the core principles of Agile. The simplest explanation is, Agile is this umbrella under which many iterative and incremental software development methodologies exist.

And while each methodology comes with a unique approach, they all share the same core vision, values, and principles you’ll find in the Agile Manifesto.

They all also feature a process based on a cycle of continuous iteration and feedback, allowing organizations to deliver high-quality software faster while always looking out for ways they can make the next version even better.

The Current State Of DevOps

In looking at the sheer number of major companies embracing DevOps, the number of books and articles covering the topic, and the sharp rise in companies that “specialize” in training, consulting, or even outsourced execution of DevOps, proves that the methodology has taken hold.

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The 2019 State of DevOps report reveals that while the technology sector has embraced DevOps more so than other industries, the practice is gaining traction among a wider range of industries.

According to the report, the top-performing teams were 24x more likely to execute on all five cloud computing capabilities than low performers. That connection showcases the link between cloud usage and software delivery performance and availability.

Elite performers saw 106x faster lead times from commitment to deployment and recovered from incidents 2,604x faster than those considered low performers.

The DevOps revolution is comparable to the rise of cloud computing and the buzz surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT). However, it’s worth noting the current phase of DevOps evolution has yet to hit the level of maturity needed to eliminate the less-qualified contenders and emphasize the strongest players.

What Gets In the Way of DevOps Adoption?

Because DevOps requires more commitment from more people than other methodologies, transitioning to DevOps demands a special focus on culture. As many as 75% of failed DevOps initiatives believe culture is to blame for the failure.

Employees and executives alike have cited that there are many factors that prevent them from adopting DevOps culture. Some report that it’s a shortage of resources — teams lack the tools needed to make DevOps a reality.

Others say that DevOps isn’t a priority and that other technologies or business initiatives are more critical. And then, some simply don’t see any real reason to make the change.

What to Consider Before Implementing DevOps

The definition of DevOps, just like the process itself, is continuously evolving. This means that organizations often have a different interpretation of what “best practices” look like in action.

It’s up to business leaders to define what “best” looks like based on their teams, working conditions, and use cases. That said, here are some key things to think about as you plan your DevOps adoption strategy:

Changing the Culture Is One of the Biggest Hurdles to Adoption

While implementing DevOps is supposed to bring the kinds of changes that benefit human workers, employees might not see it that way.

In the workplace, big changes often mean layoffs or new leadership, which threaten workers’ job security. Leaders should make an effort to be sensitive in dealing with resistance and seek out constructive ways to address the problem.

Instead of leaning into “blame game” tendencies, make an effort to involve your team in the process and help them work toward early wins.

A Dedicated DevOps Team Might Make the Transition Easier

For large organizations in particular, it might be worthwhile to set up a centralized department charged with handling all DevOps tools and implementing Agile methodologies in each development group.

What Is One Key Purpose of DevOps? Constant Improvement.

Central to DevOps is the collaborative effort among development, operations, as well as the testers and other stakeholders to align around the same set of goals.

  • Improve deployment frequency
  • Achieve faster time to market
  • The lower failure rate of new releases
  • Reduce the time between fixes
  • Improve the average time to resolution

The DevOps lifecycle supports these goals using the following steps:

  • Continuous Development
  • Continuous Integration
  • Continuous Testing
  • Continuous Monitoring
  • Virtualization and Containerization

That iterative process yields constant improvements, due in part to the shorter update cycles. Organizations benefit, as the process means they can deliver products to market faster, while also finding and fixing issues well before they reach the end-consumer.

The DevOps lifecycle repeats the following steps on loop:

  • Plan
  • Build
  • Test
  • Release
  • Configure
  • Monitor

In the last stage, monitoring, we’ll gather the information that helps us get set up for the next development cycle. This might mean identifying processes we might automate, potential updates, and so on.

DevOps isn’t designed with an end-game in mind. It’s a never-ending cycle of constant improvement.

What Is DevOps Automation?

Automation is shaking up every industry from marketing and manufacturing to logistics. DevOps, of course, stands among the countless processes that benefit from automation.

Like most process-driven environments, DevOps automation is the key to increasing speed, scale, consistency, and feedback.

Speed

Every time you automate a manual process, you’ll see an increase in speed. So, the more processes you can automate, the faster your development engine becomes.

What’s more, all that speed won’t come at the expense of accuracy. Automation significantly reduces human error, resulting in a higher quality end product.

Scale

Manual processes aren’t scalable because humans can only do so much within a specific timeframe. As organizations start amassing more and more data, automation becomes an essential part of the strategy.

Automated systems have far greater elasticity than their manual counterparts, making it easy to bring in additional resources as needed to accommodate scale.

Consistency

Consistent operations offer more control over processes, reduced risk, and increased speed, as factors like emotions, health, and motivation are no longer part of the equation. As such, automation allows organizations to ensure they get the same results every time.

Feedback

When automation is applied properly, the software can be designed to collect feedback from users during use.

The benefit here is, users are no longer reporting their findings hours, days, or weeks later. Instead, you can automatically reach users at the right moment and consistently collect accurate feedback. That feedback is then used to inform the next round of changes, and the process begins again.

DevOps Tools Should Cover the Entire Development Lifecycle

With the DevOps movement exploding and expanding, organizations have countless options when it comes to selecting which tools belong in their stack.

Often, it’s helpful to review tools based on where they fit in with the development lifecycle. In other cases, you’ll want to look for tools that make it easier to bridge the gap between development and operations teams.

Below, we’ll look at some general categories you’ll want to address. By no means is this an extensive or specific list, but it should help illustrate the point that your DevOps toolchain needs to address the end-to-end development cycle.

Collaboration & Communication

DevOps requires fast and easy communication tools that allow teams to collaborate across the entire lifecycle.

Many DevOps collaboration tools have a built-in chat feature at a minimum. However, you’ll want to find something that offers more communication methods like voice, video, screen share, whiteboards, and more that bring more context into the conversation.

You’ll also want to invest in a planning tool that documents and tracks progress. Look for a project management solution that helps all team members manage deliverables, while also showing C-suite stakeholders what’s happening on the ground.

Test Automation

Testing is often a source of latency in the DevOps process, so it’s essential to apply automation tools where possible. While usability, exploratory, and security tests should be performed manually, code and data quality tests benefit from automated processes.

Test automation can take code and data and run hundreds, even thousands of tests, and move code to the next phase in the lifecycle or send it back to development if there’s a problem.

DevOps automation accelerates the process of developing software, testing it, deploying it, and returning feedback quickly to move to the next iteration. Faster isn’t better if it comes at the expense of quality; the goal is to deliver “quality at speed.”

Code Review

It’s uncommon for a novelist to both write and edit their work. Writers need an objective third-party to identify errors and areas that could be further refined.

Just like writers, developers are poorly-equipped to review their own code. Our inherent blind spots and biases increase the chances a developer will miss basic errors in their work.

Bringing in a set of fresh eyes for code review solves the problem. This person will ensure the code meets all functional requirements and adheres to project guidelines. Additionally, you’ll want to bring in automation tools that can perform standard tests, as well as code review tools that support version control.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)

One of the core principles of DevOps is continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD). Meaning, the process is all about releasing code in reliable cycles, collecting feedback, and implementing changes on loop.

The flip side is that with each new cycle comes increased complexity. CI/CD tools take many different forms, but in general, they help manage the growing complexities by providing an automated feedback loop.

These tools continuously merge code, allowing for near real-time updates. You’ll find that some platforms focus on automating software testing and deployment whereas others focus on integration and delivery.

Other platforms feature plug-ins that will automate just about any task in a DevOps environment. Though keep in mind, many all-in-one tools don’t necessarily perform every job well.

Configuration Management

Everything from networking to the OS, code, and storage must be consistent to optimize speed and ensure that all assets remain in their desired end state. As such, you’ll want to look toward configuration management tools that automate manual processes that cause latency.

Containerization

Containers simplify development and delivery by packaging code, dependencies, libraries, and system tools into a standardized unit.

The benefit is that containers isolate each microservice module from its environment, ensuring consistency across different computing environments and increased security. Additionally, containers support a smoother hand-off from development to operations.

Serverless Computing

Before the days of “serverless” architecture, developers relied on operations to install and maintain physical servers to ensure runtime services they needed to build and test code.

Serverless removes the physical servers and takes the process into the cloud. Service providers handle scaling, automatically adjusting storage capacity as needed. Developers no longer need to worry about server management, and organizations only pay for the resources they use.

For operations, serverless computing is a game-changer, as it gets rid of the purchasing, provisioning, and monitoring of backend servers, allowing them to focus their efforts on more valuable projects.

Across the board, just about every DevOps-related task is accelerated by the constant availability of consistently configured resources from development to testing to deployment.

What Is a DevOps Toolchain?

While DevOps doesn’t technically require any tools at all, the goal is to accelerate delivery and keep improving on past iterations. The categories outlined above represent the key areas where technology can help you achieve those goals faster.

However, it’s important to understand that if you’re going to put together a DevOps toolchain, you’ll need to optimize the entire process, not one or two areas. While the DevOps process isn’t linear by any stretch, it helps to think about each stage in the toolchain starting with the next tool in the chain.

All tools must work together to move the process forward, avoiding latency at all costs. When the various tools in the chain don’t work together, developers and operations teams must devise workarounds to accommodate poor functionality.

This means that organizations need to be strategic when it comes to identifying the best tools in each category, proving that they work well together and meet the needs of the whole team.

While it’s tempting to choose the tools and mandate adoption, that effort, unfortunately, won’t yield the desired outcome.

An aligned team might work together to find the toolkit that works for everyone.

However, that process is time-consuming and can take resources away from more important areas.

Do Integrated Toolchains Exist?

Integrated software services are already the norm in some categories. Think Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, and a long list of productivity suites.

While “all-in-one” is an enticing prospect, the downside is that some modules are better than others.

For example, your productivity suite might come with an awesome word processor, but the spreadsheet application isn’t great. Or, an ERP system could have both a really powerful order processing system and poor functionality where inventory management is concerned.

The main benefit of integrated platforms is each module plays nicely with the other services. Order Entry and Inventory both sync with the general ledger without any problems. Customer interactions and sales metrics can come together in the same report.

Unfortunately, a wholly integrated comprehensive platform that serves as a fully interoperable DevOps toolchain doesn’t yet exist. Some vendors are getting close, but given that DevOps emerged about ten years ago, developers will likely need more time to deliver a solution on-par with a hand-picked selection of best-in-class tools.

On the upside, many of these solutions are developed with Open Source software.

As such, the community can work together, building on existing solutions to create an identifiable, integrated toolchain for end-to-end DevOps management.

Considering a DevOps Initiative?

The benefits of DevOps adoption are revolutionary for almost any business. Tiempo Development’s DevOps experts help teams successfully implement and adopt DevOps initiatives in a way that aligns with their unique business goals.

To learn more about working with Tiempo Development’s DevOps professionals, contact us today.