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Posted April 12, 2023

DevOps: All Hype or Worth the Effort?

Learn the value of introducing the DevOps approach to software development for bringing new features to market faster without sacrificing quality.

Since appearing on the software development landscape in the early 2000s, DevOps has become the predominant philosophy for developing new products. Its primary tenet is the combination of software development and IT operations teams to create one continuous process that moves seamlessly from development to deployment to operations. Leaving waterfall methods behind and using a more agile approach, DevOps ensures continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD), with better support and quality assurance testing at all points along the process.

By breaking down silos and shifting away from traditional software development culture, the DevOps development framework offers a nimbler product lifecycle. It gives teams the ability to bring new features to market faster without sacrificing quality, while satisfying customers with a reliable product that meets demanding expectations.

And its usage continues to grow, adapting to a market that requires responsiveness and reliability. A 2021 survey from GitLab found that 60% of developers are releasing code twice as fast by using DevOps frameworks (19% said code is going out the door 10x faster!).

This evolution of efficiency boils down to one idea: quality is everyone’s responsibility, and we must all work together to make sure our product is the best it can be. DevOps enables better team collaboration with standardized environments, offering better predictability and efficiency within the product lifecycle. No longer are software packages thrown "over the wall" to the next team.

What is the benefit of getting teams out of their silos to work together in a DevOps framework? Let’s look closer at the DevOps philosophy.

What is DevOps?

Before the popularity of DevOps, the common way to release software was through large application-wide code releases at regular intervals months or even years apart. Linear development shuffled software through development, integration, quality assurance, security, and operations, sometimes creating risky deployment plans that might not even produce the product that’s needed by the time they’re launched.

Enter DevOps – a software engineering methodology that aims to integrate the work of development and operations teams through a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility. Using a DevOps approach evolves traditional waterfall methods into small, iterative feature or function updates that are released frequently – sometimes as often as every day or even several times a day.

The nimble structure of DevOps teams allows companies to deliver software that meets increasing consumer demand for industry-leading innovative features and interrupted performance. Born of agile development practices, DevOps is all about collaboration and coordination, allowing each part of the software development lifecycle to be involved in the process at earlier stages and with greater buy-in. Ideally, silos are broken down into cross-functional, autonomous teams that can work from start to finish without risk-laden handoffs.

In combining development, operations, and quality assurance teams, DevOps facilitates a working environment of shared responsibility and accountability. It requires a shift in office culture to prioritize automation and integration to deliver higher-quality software. Preferably, it includes all stakeholders – not just development and operations, but also security, compliance, governance, risk management, end-user experience, and infrastructure engineering.

In short, DevOps redefines traditional software development lifecycle elements into a process that involves all team members, resulting in better, faster product launches and updates.

What is the DevOps Lifecycle?

The DevOps Lifecycle

The DevOps lifecycle is a continuous process that loops from the first steps of software development through delivery, maintenance, and security. The key to this format is that testing is integrated at all levels of progress – automated when possible – ensuring final products have fewer errors, smoother rollouts, and more successful long-term performance.

  • Plan – Teams scope out new features and functionality planned for the next release, using feedback from end-users and case studies and input from internal stakeholders. The goal is to produce business value by planning a backlog of features that deliver a desired outcome.

  • Code – Developers test, code, and build the planned features, often writing and testing before it goes any further down the pipeline.

  • Build – Developers integrate the new code into the existing code base, test it, and package it into an executable, automated output.

  • Release – Updates reaching this phase of the cycle are ready for deployment into the production environment, which may be done automatically or manually in accordance with release schedules.

  • Deploy – Teams deploy the output into a runtime environment, where it can undergo quality, compliance, and security testing before end-users see it. This might involve deploying to a subset of end-users in a pilot run, then moving to all users once stability is established.

  • Operate – This step is where feature performance, behavior, and availability are monitored, ensuring there are no interruptions in service and features are running smoothly. This stage involves identifying errors and routing fix needs to the proper departments.

  • Monitor – Monitoring ensures continuous improvement, by automating operations like feedback gathering and the real-time analysis of performance data.

  • Test – Throughout the lifecycle, testing rounds ensure teams can identify and then mitigate or remediate risks from errors or compliance shortfalls. Some testing components are automated to create regular monitoring, reducing vulnerability.

8 DevOps Best Practices

Best practices in DevOps starts with teams and processes, incorporating tools and functionality as the framework grows within the organization. Key practices include:

1. Reduce silos

Remove processes that can lead to roadblocks and constraints by opening up communications between teams, sharing data, and ensuring the measurements of success for one team do not contradict the KPIs of another team. Sharing responsibility drives teams to innovate quickly and transparently and collaborate on all stages of the lifecycle.

2. Automate when possible

Reduce time spent on tasks and the risk of human error by automating any process that is eligible for it, including testing, builds, releases, and the provisioning of development environments.

3. Version control

Tracking and managing source code changes provide a fully-updated roadmap of updates.

4. CI/CD

Maximize development time and compartmentalize risk by implementing more automation and continuous testing. Through CI, teams push a regular integration of code changes to a shared code repository, testing for quality and functionality to lower post-integration errors. CD automatically filters that code through QA, staging, and production, getting the changes into production quickly and reliably.

5. Shift-left testing

By shifting security and testing to take place much earlier in the development process, teams can discover and resolve issues more quickly, speeding up development while also improving code quality.

6. Continuous improvement

Teams can minimize waste and ensure continual improvement by watching performance metrics for ways to reduce release times or mean time to recovery, and monitoring continuous feedback for bugs and performance deficiencies.

7. Use a unified toolchain

Using dedicated software programs can eliminate manual handoff requirements, reduce the possibility of lost ticket items or mistakes in communication, and streamline feedback channels.

8. Focus on users

By focusing on user needs with short feedback loops, teams can take the time to look at what users really want and how to give it to them.

What are the Benefits of DevOps?

The primary benefits of DevOps are efficiency and speed – the quick-moving production environment delivers software to market faster while providing a framework for continuous improvement after launch to ensure reliability. Enhanced team productivity improves the frequency of deployment and mean time to recovery, resulting in faster time to market while maintaining quality.

On the whole, DevOps reduces the failure rate of new software releases, lowering chances for human error with automation and using continuous testing to identify and address errors quickly. Improved software quality can be measured in the number of support tickets, increased user activity, and improved ratings/reviews.

DevOps teams have a better ability to autonomously deliver faster, reducing work-in-progress lists, and allowing them to anticipate and respond to disruptors immediately with less guesswork. Increased collaboration creates alignment between development and operations teams, bringing everyone together with the same goals and objectives and increasing team satisfaction.

What are the Tools Used in DevOps?

A wide range of specialized tools can be used for asynchronous communications, automated steps, and workflow integration. For instance:

  • Project management – Build a backlog of projects and break them down into smaller, trackable tasks with project management tools like Scrum, Lean, Kanban, GitHub Issues, and Jira.

  • Collaborative code repositories – Use version-controlled coding environments to allow multiple developers to work on the same code base and then move it automatically to the next step. Examples are GitHub and GitLab.

  • CI/CD pipelines – Automate code checkout, building, testing, and deployment with tools like Jenkins, CircleCI, Spinnaker, and ArgoCD.

  • Test automation frameworksAutomate unit, contract, functional, performance, usability, penetration, and security tests with products like Selenium, Cypress, Appium, and Serenity.

  • Configuration and coding management – Engineers can configure and provision fully versioned and documented infrastructure through scripts using tools like Ansible (Red Hat), Chef, Puppet, and Terraform.

  • Monitoring – Identify and resolve system issues, gather data, and analyze that data in real-time with tools like Datadog, Nagios, Prometheus, and Splunk.

  • Continuous feedback – Gather feedback from users using heat mapping, surveys, and self-service ticketing.

  • Communication – Ensure your teams have the right environment for collaborative, organized communications with tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Worth the Effort

Implementing cultural change on the scale of DevOps adoption is not a quick or easy task, especially on an enterprise level, but it’s certainly worth the effort. Cross-functional teams who share knowledge, roles, and processes become more innovative and can deliver better services faster. Organizations using DevOps see improved customer experience and satisfaction, achieving better software quality and reducing operational risk.

Good quality products require frequent testing – with the regular testing required by a DevOps model, and with automation to streamline that testing, teams will be on track to deliver the best product at the fastest pace.

Apr 12, 2023
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