What is DevOps ?

DevOps in simplest terms is “how you build and deploy your software”.

It is about the culture that your team members live, the principles that guide your development process, the set of practices you follow to automate and speed up your delivery, the mindset you demonstrate to achieve complete customer satisfaction.

We all know, the word DevOps is a shortened acronym of Development and Operations. In essence, it is bringing together your software development team and operations team to work towards a common goal and have a unified vision. Their collective focus is always the product or the application which is being developed, rather than individual performances or targets.

In the DevOps world, Dev and Ops don’t work in silos anymore, but rather work in collaboration, as a single unit more efficiently and effectively. They perform their specialized roles effectively, but possess an end-to-end visibility of the whole process. Blame-game is replaced by mutual admiration and celebration of each other’s success. Challenges are solved together and continuous and rapid software delivery becomes the ultimate aim.

The assured benefits of DevOps philosophy are rapid software releases, shorter development cycles, reduced risks, quicker issue resolution, and better productivity. DevOps is a logical extension to agile and the main force behind the dynamism exhibited by many tech-giants for their extraordinary high performance. Shared responsibility, agile processes, automated tasks, smarter workflows, fearless innovation and continuous feedback are the driving factors of a DevOps approach.

DevOps is definitely not about “unlearning” how you have been developing software, but it is about “learning the new dynamics of software development” – improvising the existing processes, prioritizing tasks, changing perspectives and looking at the larger picture from organization’s benefit rather than individual accomplishments.

A DevOps team will also begin from requirements and go until deployment, code and test software, but they will integrate and automate the steps to make the whole process seamless, faster and productive. Let us now understand each of these steps in detail.

The important phases in a DevOps cycle
  • Continuous Development
  • Continuous Testing
  • Continuous Integration
  • Continuous Deployment
  • Continuous Monitoring
  • Continuous Feedback

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Continuous Development

Software functionality is implemented and the versions of code is maintained using Version Control tools like Git, SVN, CVS etc.

Maintaining versions helps the developers to collaborate on the latest committed code and to rollback to previous versions in case of an unstable deployment.

Continuous Testing

Automation Testing is an efficient way to ensure code is thoroughly tested before it is released to production. Tools like Selenium, TestNG, Junit/NUnit are used to automate the test cases execution which saves time and effort. Reports generated help in defects analysis.

Triggering the entire automation testing process is vital and hence, the Continuous Integration tools come into the picture.

Continuous Integration

Developers commit their code after each update, to a shared code base and each integration is verified by an immediate build to minimize integration errors. It is undoubtedly the most crucial phase of DevOps cycle which holds it all together.

Popular tools are Jenkins, Bamboo and Hudson where Jenkins is the most widely used. These tools orchestrate the DevOps cycle.

Continuous Deployment

This is the phase where the code is actually deployed in production-like environments. Continuous Delivery is the process where new versions of an application are deployed frequently. In Continuous Deployment, we deploy each successful build to production automatically.

Configuration Management and Containerization tools that help in Continuous Deployment are Puppet, Ansible, Chef, SaltStack, Docker etc.

Continuous Monitoring

Monitoring performance of an application is as vital as its development. Defects that are left during Testing phase have to be reported as bugs and dealt with.

Splunk, ELK Stack, and Nagios are some of the popular tools for monitoring. These tools help you minimize the impact of failures.

Continuous Feedback

Feedback is the synergist for organizational changes. DevOps feedback loop has transformed the complete software delivery by highlighting all the major issues and bottlenecks before the actual release. Feedback is an integral part of the all phases.

Due to shorter development cycles, we get frequent feedback from users which helps us to adapt quickly to changing dynamics. Each time we integrate, we test, or we deploy and run, the data we gather, are important feedback mechanisms for constant improvisation.

What led to Devops ?

Every organization must innovate and constantly improve to stay competitive in this expeditious IT world. Whether you sell physical merchandise, provide some online services, or deliver values through a web-based application, your business definitely has to build some code, run it in production and manage some IT infrastructure at an ever-growing rate.
But how do you achieve this?

As we all know, there were many challenges with the conventional waterfall process. Software development and IT operations were two separate units that worked independently. Developers coded their pieces in secluded environments with unique configurations.

IT operations then took all the software artifacts and put them together as a running application in deployment that had desirable attributes such as high availability, scalability, and security.

Clients as well as production support were typically unaware of what the developers and testers were working on and if the business requirements changed midway, incorporating them within timelines and assuring quality was very difficult. The teams always blamed other counterparts for faults and failures.

With manual internal processes and workflows, productivity is always hampered by process bottlenecks or other dependencies.

Agile methodology could address some of these issues as it bridged the gap between developers and testers but Operations was still a separate entity, resulting in a huge delay in deployment. Agile made the development process faster through smaller and iterative deliveries, but there was a demand to reduce time-to-market and assure supreme quality.

DevOps was thus born, merging development and operations under one umbrella and significantly accelerating software delivery and offering incredible benefits.

DevOps owes its conception to Patrick Debois who coined the term ‘DevOpsDays’ for his conference in 2009 which emphasized on the power of different teams working together as ‘ONE’. Since then, started a new wave in technology and DevOps gradually became the IT buzzword which every organization wanted to adopt and experience.

DevOps is not a differentiating factor anymore
rather
an essential element to compete and survive in the IT industry.

Benefits of DevOps

DevOps brings strategic shifts in processes, mindsets, culture, and collaboration and results in beneficial business outcomes.
IT Professionals with DevOps knowledge and expertise bring along important strategic skills that propels an organization’s culture.

NThe following benefits from DevOps will help an organization appreciate the impact of a DevOps approach, such as:

  • Accelerated Time to Market
  • Shorter development cycles
  • Effective communication and collaboration
  • Improved Product Quality and Higher customer satisfaction
  • Reduced Deployment Failures and Rollbacks
  • Reduced Time to Recovery
  • Reduced Costs

Benefits Explained

Accelerated Time to Market

01DevOps practices can minimize confusion and delays occurring due to communication gaps. The release frequency has increased dramatically. An application now releases once a week on average compared to once every one to six months, previously. Some applications can be deployed multiple times in a day if needed.

The software development cycle time until production has decreased from several months to a few days. Companies gain advantage as they are able to deliver business value to customers quicker. There is proven data through reports that organizations which implement DevOps principles, have 200x more frequent deployments, on average and are able to achieve 2555x shorter lead times.

Shorter Development Cycles

02DevOps promotes a culture of increased collaboration and communication between the development and operations teams. This translates into shorter timeframes to move from engineering code into executable production code.

Effective Communication and Collaboration

03The team’s productivity increases multiple folds when all members target application/product performance rather than individual goals. Since there is mutual trust, they can share, experiment and innovate openly. The overall process becomes harmonious as all individuals work toward a unified vision.

Reduced Deployment Failures and Rollbacks

04Rapid development and deployment are of no use, if the resulting release is a failure. But when software is developed using a DevOps mindset, an operational viewpoint is taken into account as well which minimizes chances of such deployment failures. With improved defect detection techniques, the number of pre- and post-deployment issues and rollbacks, have decreased to a large extent.

With substantial automation and monitoring, DevOps teams can easily identify and eradicate roadblocks and establish a more powerful and smooth release process. Reports suggest that quick and structured responses to unexpected production issues yield a 24x faster mean time-to-recovery in organizations practicing DevOps and a 3x lower change failure rate.

Improved Product Quality and Higher customer satisfaction

05One of the major reasons behind poor quality products is programming defects. With shorter development cycles and frequent code releases, it’s easy to identify code defects. The CICD pipeline has eliminated the errors that occurred due to manual configurations and error-prone practices. Also, highest priority incidents are a rarity now.

Frequent releases provide quicker user feedback to the development teams. This lets them work on only the useful features and build the right product. As a result of constant feedback throughout the process, there is faster identification of the capabilities customers care about most, hence increased customer satisfaction.

Reduced Time-to-Recovery

06Even if the probability of failures is minimized, failures will still occur. How well you bounce back from a failure is what matters. The time to recover to operational efficiency is reduced in a DevOps environment compared to a traditional IT environment.

Recovery is much faster due to the gained efficiencies as a result of effective communication and better understanding across teams. The CICD pipeline automatically rolls back an unsuccessful release. This further reduces the risk of a release failure and makes it more reliable. The CICD pipeline automatically rolls back an unsuccessful release. This further reduces the risk of a release failure and makes it more reliable.

Reduced Costs

07While measuring and quantifying people’s behavior, in regards to DevOps, may be difficult, it is still possible to measure tangible benefits of DevOps such as an observed decrease in development and operations costs.

Once organizations track the time and cost for software application projects using a traditional non-DevOps approach and compare it against using DevOps, they will realize and better appreciate the quantifiable benefits of DevOps.

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Essential Elements

DevOps does not prescribe how it must be implemented to be effective. It is the perfect mix of the essential ingredients that makes DevOps practices fruitful.

Culture

DevOps culture is all about recognizing and valuing mutual success, collaboration, and joint responsibility. DevOps emphasizes on understanding others’ viewpoints and strongly believes in adjustments to accommodate others and collaborate with them, productively. For successful DevOps, all possible reasons of friction or misalignment, need to be proactively removed from the system.

Process

A communication channel is a must for manifesting a DevOps culture in practice where developers and IT operations can share expert ideas and together troubleshoot issues. So, a good and effective collaboration framework should be in place.

Well-defined contracts should be made which states that the configuration settings will remain same for dev, test, or production environments, hence removing environmental parity issues which often cause delays and failures.

Joint processes should be established like using a centralized repository to store software dependencies, always holding current data. With such mechanisms, it is feasible to push releases to production frequently and seamlessly, with minimal errors and downtime.

Automation Tools

Automation is at the heart of the DevOps approach. It is an important aspect that makes the process ‘lean’ as all repetitive tasks are automated and the risk due to human errors is also reduced. DevOps automation is vital to achieve agility. There are many tools involved in each phase of DevOps cycle which are rightly called the key enablers of DevOps.

There are multiple tool options available in the market to choose from, for various phases of DevOps – integrating these tools together to form an efficient CICD pipeline is the key to DevOps success.

THE KEY ENABLERS OF DEVOPS : AUTOMATION TOOLS

A question that I am sure intrigues our mind often is – Why tools like Jenkins, Ansible, Chef, Puppet etc having been in existence for several years, did not get the traction that they have now? What is the reason behind their sudden popularity?

Individually, the tools may have lesser significance but in the DevOps context, they create a huge impact. CICD pipeline integrates them together for a bigger purpose – a common goal, making them extremely relevant and useful.

No wonder, organizations typically spend around 73 percent of their DevOps budget in tool acquisition. It is best to have a tools strategy that adheres to a common set of objectives while providing seamless cross-tool collaboration and integration.

No single tool will satisfy the needs of every project, but with so many high-quality open source solutions available in the market, there’s a fair possibility that you will be able to find a combination that is a viable fit for your requirements.

While some organizations may debate over the importance of Automation tools over people for DevOps success, people and automation tools both are the pillars of DevOps philosophy and it is the perfect combination of both that will lead to effective DevOps implementation.

  • Respect the CULTURE by respecting each other
  • AUTOMATE wherever possible to eliminate error
  • Perfect process and eliminate wastage through LEAN practices
  • MEASURE progress
  • SHARE feedback freely without blame
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What to keep in mind if you’re considering DevOps

Pitfalls to Look Out For

Here are some of the points that you must consider and proactively handle, to reduce the number of challenges you face, during the implementation of DevOps practices. The key to improving how the world builds software is solving both hard technical and organizational challenges.

Don't misinterpret Devops

People often misunderstand the true meaning of DevOps. It takes a while for people to truly realize the motto behind DevOps and the appreciate the benefits it offers.
DevOps never advocates that every team member should be capable of doing everything. Rather, it emphasizes that team members accomplish their individual tasks and collaborate effectively to meet team goals.

Always Customize as Per Requirements

DevOps practices should always be structured to meet the unique needs of the organization, taking into account several parameters like organizational structure, team incentives, current software life cycle, sources of delay, and opportunities for automation. At the same time, accountability, transparency, and continual learning should not be compromised.

Inadequate Foresight is Not Good

Lack of vision makes it challenging for project owners to create a clear plan about estimates, milestones, and deliverables. Since DevOps is relatively new, it is difficult to find members who have adequate expertise in this field. Due to this, most of the roadblocks are intimidating for organizations which follow a streamlined set of guidelines.

Take one step at a time

Insufficient Tool Knowledge

People working on legacy tools prefer to continue them, as getting familiar with the functionalities of the latest tools is often a tough task. A shortage of tool knowledge and the technology behind it, often leads organizations into making incorrect choices of tools that would best align with their technical vision.

Proper cross-tool collaboration and integration is also difficult to achieve, with incomplete knowledge about tools.

It's all about Teamwork

People are always reluctant to change, hence it is difficult to adapt easily to the cultural shift DevOps brings. As DevOps focuses heavily on collaboration, each member must be ready to share responsibility and look beyond his own boundaries of work.

Without a harmonious outlook, even the best of tools will not be effective. Automation tools are a must for quicker deliveries but the foremost step in succeeding with DevOps is creating a cross-functional team guided by empathy, transparency, respect, and aligning towards a common goal.

Avoid Unnecessary Complexity – Integrate Cautiously

Keep things simple and integrate cautiously
Too many vendor solutions in the market, lead to huge confusion and often result in significant overhead and complexity. Ideally, all teams across organizations should adhere to a standardized tool stack and a unified approach. This will surely smoothen your DevOps implementation.

Understanding DevOps is an expedition

A shift to DevOps culture is comparatively easier for small companies like startups than for larger organizations. It is best to take an incremental approach, slowly introducing DevOps to bring out changes in people’s behavior and maximize chances of acceptance.

DevOps practices must be dynamic and grow along with the evolving requirements, to fulfill its purpose of enhancing the software delivery experience.