The Complete Guide to DevOps

Basab Dey

March 12, 2021

The Complete Guide to DevOps

For the longest time, development and operations teams worked separately in silos. Developers wrote code while the system administrators were in charge of its deployment and integration. This negatively impacted the enterprise’s overall productivity because there was limited communication between these two modules.

Fast forward to the 21st century, Agile and continuous workflow are among the most widely used methodologies in software development, which renders this model ineffective. To match market demands, brands are adopting a DevOps approach to streamline the development, deployment, maintenance, and management of software at scale.

This article introduces the concept of DevOps and why enterprises need it. Find information on the crucial DevOps principles and best practices including how implementing them can help your organization get the most out of DevOps. Get insights on how to select the right DevOps partner and the appropriate tools to help you create value for users and strategic business processes.

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a set of practices and cultural values that ensures collaboration between development and operations teams to make software production and deployment faster in a repeatable and automated way. It helps increase the speed of delivering software applications and services.

The word “DevOps” is a combination of the words “Development” and “Operations.” It allows organizations to serve their customers better and become more competitive in the market. Simply put, the DevOps lifecycle removes the barriers between traditionally siloed teams, development, and operations, and fosters better communication and collaboration across the entire software application life cycle.

Why Do You Need DevOps?

A good working relationship between development and operations teams can be the difference between a good organization and a great one.

DevOps teams comprise a team of developers and IT operation professionals that makes teams well-rounded, and multi-gifted. By utilizing a shared codebase, test-driven approaches, continuous integration, and automated deployments, DevOps teams are quick to identify critical IT glitches and perform real-time system performance analysis to clearly understand the effect of application changes on an organization’s operations. They are also able to resolve IT problems as fast as possible.

Additionally, the DevOps teams will also be more flexible to adjust to increasingly changing market conditions, which helps the organization save big on the bottom line.

To accomplish all these goals, DevOps teams have to build a cross-functional environment. Trust and shared responsibilities reign among DevOps teams. They also leverage the best automation technologies to streamline and cut down costs in transformation, configuration, and deployment processes to achieve continuous delivery.

DevOps Principles

The adoption of DevOps as a service has produced several principles that continue to evolve constantly. All these principles have a holistic approach to DevOps, and companies of all nature can adopt them.

Here are key principles that are essential when adopting DevOps:

Foster a Collaborative Environment

The main idea behind DevOps is to develop trust among developers and IT operations. To achieve this, Dev and Ops teams need to communicate, share ideas, and collaborate throughout the whole development and deployment cycle.

The groups are also responsible for ensuring the application produce results. This requires continuous optimization and improvement of the performance, costs, and service delivery while focusing on user satisfaction.

Fostering a collaborative environment furthers involves embracing a cultural shift within the organization. In this setting, executives and DevOps teams need to be working together to deliver realistic software solutions that bring value to the organization and its customers.

Customer-Centric Action

It’s imperative to have short feedback loops with customers and end-users. To achieve this, organizations need to create products and services centered around fulfilling the client’s needs.

DevOps requires organizations to act as lean startups that can innovate continuously, adopt new strategies if the current ones are no longer effective, and invest in new features that will deliver the maximum level of customer satisfaction.

Additionally, to deliver customer-centric action, organizations must focus on the right data. In this case, focus on the metrics that deliver results to your company including focusing on the actual kick-off of software development, changes that occur during production, incidences of errors that may occur during deployment of new software, and the recovery time whenever there are service interruptions.

End-To-End Responsibility

The traditional software development model involved development and operations teams working in complete isolation. DevOps brings the two together to work as a team that is vertically organized and accountable for the development process from concept to grave.

The teams take full responsibility for the IT products and services they create. They provide end-to-end performance support, which significantly improves the responsibility level as well as the quality of the products created.

Foster Continuous Improvement

In the fast-changing world characterized by constant technology innovations, changes in business goals and consumer demands, end-to-end responsibility means that organizations must adapt continuously to these changing circumstances.

A DevOps culture ensures that organizations strongly focus on continuous improvement to get rid of process waste and optimize performance, cost, and speed of delivery.  It helps unites teams to support continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) pipelines through optimizing processes and automation. Such an approach promotes efficiency during the development and deployment process while automation allows for rapid application releases with minimal downtime.

Implement Automation

With continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), there’s no time to waste, releases are made much more frequently, and automation is what keeps the process running.

One of the critical DevOps practices is the automation of the software development cycle. Automation enables instant response to customer feedback, which comes in handy when organizations rapidly release new, highly anticipated features. By automating workflows, developers are able to focus entirely on writing and improving code as well as developing even more advanced features.

In a DevOps setting, teams can use various software solutions to create and test different applications by running one simple command and determining if it works in the production phase.

In addition to CI/CD, automated testing is imperative to ensure successful DevOps practices. These tests may include integration tests, end-to-end testing, performance tests, and unit tests. By automating all the steps in the development and deployment process, machines can be trained to deploy software faster, safer, and more efficiently than ever.

DevOps Best Practices

The DevOps as a service approach utilizes key practices and methodologies to streamline software development and operation processes. They include planning, development, testing, deployment, release, and monitoring.

Let’s have a look at the core practices that make up the DevOps.

Agile

Agile is an iterative approach to software development and project management that helps teams deliver value to their clients faster and more efficiently. Unlike traditional approaches of project management, Agile organizes tasks in short iterations or sprints to increase the number of releases.

In this setting, teams need to break large projects into smaller manageable tasks and respond to changes in needs or scope as they arise. Testing is implemented early on so that developers can fix problems and make necessary adjustments while they build, providing better control over their processes and reducing many risks associated with the waterfall methodology.

Continuous Development

The concept of continuous development involves interactive software development. In this phase, instead of improving software in one single batch, the development process is divided into small development cycles where updates are made consistently, enabling software code to be delivered to customers upon completion and testing. Automation is key to secure continuous development.

Automated Testing

Regular testing of software is necessary when it comes to composing quality code. Automated testing involves automated, prescheduled, and continuous code tests as application codes are being written or updated. With automation, the team in charge of testing can spend time coming up with innovative test cases while working with developers to prevent bugs.

Continuous automated testing also reduces the cost associated with testing while helping the development teams balance speed and quality. Additionally, it eliminates testing problems with the help of virtualized services and facilitates the creation of virtualized test environments that are easy to share, deploy, and update as systems change. Not only do these capabilities cut down on the cost of provisioning and maintaining test environments but also shortens the testing cycles.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery

The earlier you identify the defects in the software, the better the quality of the product. Teams can achieve this by shifting tasks to the left early in the software development cycle.

In this setting, instead of sending multiple changes to a separate QA team, a variety of tests are done throughout the coding process and developers get to fix bugs or improve code quality while they continue to build the codebase.

The continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) approach support the ability to shift left. It encourages developers to integrate code to a central repository several times a day and obtain rapid feedback on its success during active development.

Some of the main goals of continuous integration are to eliminate integration issues, reduce time to release, improve quality, and allow feedback loops that are necessary for daily deployments. Continuous integration leverages automated testing systems and continuously addresses critical problems to keep the system in a good working condition.

Continuous delivery (CD) is all about frequent building, testing, and releasing code changes to a production or testing environment in small chunks after the creation stage. CD approach helps to eliminate any risks of frequent interruption and other system performance problems since the team is only dealing with minor code changes. Additionally, it enables companies to release top-notch features faster, ultimately removing any costs in the deployment stage, and increasing time-to-market.

CI/CD approach needs constant testing to ensure that the new code experience defect and other performance issues. Additional tests that scrutinize the security of the code and its structure can also be applied during the integration stage.

Continuous Deployment

At this stage, there is a continuous release of code in versions and continuous deployment as the code builds. This provides a continuous delivery pipeline that automates critical processes. The ultimate goal is that as long as the build has passed different automated tests, the Operations teams can deploy the code in the production environment.

This process reduces the number of manual processes, rework, as well as wait times for resources by enabling push-button deployment. As a result, there is an increased number of releases, reduced errors, and transparency.

There are various automated tools available to facilitate continuous deployment. The most popular are Chef, Azure Resource Manager, Puppet, and Google Cloud Deployment Manager

Continuous Monitoring

A business process is considered effective if the teams can monitor, send alerts, and tackle any underlying problems. The same applies to monitoring in DevOps.

Continuous monitoring involves implementing monitoring technologies to proactively monitor, alert, and take necessary action in key areas to gives teams visibility into how the application is performing in the production environment.

Think of DevOps monitoring at different levels. On one level we have infrastructure monitoring that enables teams to recognize and respond promptly when there is a defect in the system or when they’re underperforming.

Next are the tools to help in monitoring and capturing metrics related to automation in DevOps. These monitoring tools require more attention as more developers and services continue to be deployed.

Then we have the last set of tools for monitoring performance, application uptime, and other runtime insights. These monitors act as frontline defense mechanisms to alert DevOps lineups when applications or APIs are operating beyond the recommended service levels.

Infrastructure as a Code

Initially, when waterfall methods were popular, automation and management of infrastructure were difficult. Immediately an architecture was chosen, operational teams had to go to numerous infrastructure components to build and configure them as per the requirements.

Today, instead of using web interfaces and manual configuration, DevOps has made it possible to automate the entire process with code. Infrastructure as a code (IaC) allows teams to automate their entire infrastructure setup and management.

IaC uses scripts to automatically set the deployment environment to the required configuration no matter its nature. It’s a type of IT infrastructure that operation teams can manage automatically and provision with the help of code, instead of using a manual process. This process also allows the operations team to track changes, monitor environment configuration, and simplify the rollback of configurations.

Containerization

Sometimes, problems may occur when moving the application from one computer environment to another. For instance, moving from a developer’s laptop to a virtual environment for testing.  A powerful tool to solve such problems is containerization. It entails packaging an application along with its necessary files, libraries, frameworks, and configurations to ensure it can run in various computing environments efficiently.

With containerization, DevOps teams can focus on their priorities. In this case, the Dev team focuses on efficient coding of applications that are easy to deploy, and the Ops team prepares containers with all the required dependencies and configurations.

This automation helps teams to eliminate errors, accelerate time to market as well as efficient utilization of resources. Other benefits of containerization include a guarantee of the highest application density and maximum utilization of server resources.

Microservices

Microservice architecture is the design approach that involves building a single application as a single package of small pieces of functionality and is made available as a service. Because it consists of independent building blocks, they make it easier to create, test, and understand an application. The advantage behind this approach is that multiple DevOps teams can build, test, and deploy microservices in parallel.

DevOps practices support the idea of dividing large snugs into smaller batches and working on them on an individual basis as a team. Microservices allow organizations to utilize a small team and formulate actionable solutions to current problems one after the other.

To eliminate manual errors and speed up processes, DevOps teams building microservices leverage automated continuous delivery pipelines that allow them to experiment with new features in a safe and secure environment while allowing them to recover as quickly as possible from failures. Ideally, the independent nature of microservices allows DevOps teams to accomplish more in less time.

DevOps Tools and Technologies

To successfully implement DevOps best practices, certain tools have to come into play. These tools should be able to automate and facilitate different DevOps processes, help teams manage complex environments, and maintain control among cloud DevOps engineers.

Here are the most popular DevOps tools and technologies.

Server Configuration Management

Puppet

Available as a free open-source and paid-versions, this configuration management tool allows you to configure, deploy, and manage several servers. It automates critical manual tasks associated with software inspection, delivery, and operation. It has numerous modules to help manage multiple teams and is easily integrated with many other platforms. 

Chef

This powerful and ruby-based configuration management tool allows teams to turn infrastructure into code to manage data, roles, attributes, environments, and more. It supports numerous multiple platforms and easily integrates with other cloud-based platforms.

Ansible

Described as the most effective IT orchestration and configuration management tool in the market, Ansible is a simple but powerful tool that automates simple and complex multi-tier IT applications. The tool is primarily used to push new changes within the existing system, as well as configure newly deployed machines.

CI/CD

Jenkins

Jenkins is an open-source CI/CD automation tool that automates the complete build cycle of a software project. It allows continuous integration and continuous delivery of projects through DevOps. The key highlight of this tool is the Pipeline features which can be used by developers to automatically write code into the repository, perform different tests, and gather reports from these tests. It offers several built-in plugins, that help to integrate all the DevOps stage efficiently.

GitLab CI

GitLab CI/CD is a free and self-hosted tool built into GitLab for software development through continuous methodologies such as Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Deployment. This tool can automatically detect, build, test, deploy, and manage your application by utilizing Auto DevOps. GitLab also provides repositories, hence the integration of Gitlab CI/CD is simple and straightforward.

Containerization

Docker

Docker is a Linux-based open-source platform that is used to create, deploy, and run applications using containers. It allows secure packaging, deploying, and running of applications regardless of the running environment. Each application container contains the source code, run time, supporting files, system config files, and more which are responsible for application execution.

OpenShift

Developed by Red Hat, OpenShift is among the containerization software that helps improve developer’s experience and allows them to be more productive. The OpenShift Console provides an optimized experience in the web console with new features and workflows that they’re most likely to need to be productive.

Administrators can also present their views on this tool to allow teams to monitor container resources and health, manage users, and work with other operators. OpenShift also provides a command-line interface (CLI), to create applications and manage OpenShift Container platform projects from a terminal.

Kubernetes

A relatively new open-source container orchestration platform by Google, Kubernetes is a solution that manages containers at a large scale and propels containerization to the next level. You can deploy a set of containerized apps to a group of computers, and Kubernetes will automate their distribution and scheduling.

Monitoring

Nagios

Nagios is an open-source monitoring tool that allows DevOps to monitor applications, systems, services, as well as the overall business infrastructure. The tool comes in handy for large companies that have countless circuitries including servers, routers, switches, and more. It alerts users when there is an outage or failure of any device. It also keeps a performance record of these outages and failures.

Prometheus

Originally built at SoundCloud, Prometheus is an open-source monitoring system often used by DevOps to generate alerts based on time-series data. It collects data and metrics from configured targets and stores them based on a unique identifier – the metric name and a time stamp. By monitoring data in Prometheus, you can quickly generate more precise alerts and visualizations which can be used in creating more meaningful business insights and engineering outcomes.

How to Select Your DevOps Partner?

Embracing a DevOps culture comes with numerous benefits, and choosing the right DevOps partner can make or break the transition. The right deployment of DevOps requires extensive knowledge and expertise in both development and IT operations.

Many businesses may not have that sort of expertise in-house, which is why a partnership with a DevOps partner could make sense. Here are several factors to consider when choosing the right DevOps partner.

Does the Partner Match Your Business Needs?

Before you start searching for the right DevOps partner, the first step is to define the scope of your project. Do you need a simple lift on some tasks on your project, or do you need an entire team to run, manage, and support your infrastructure?

The answer to that question will give an idea of the type of partner you want. The right DevOps partner should have enough experience to handle projects of that nature.

Review the Experience and Competence of Your Potential Partner

Partners have to consistently invest in training and development to gain the relevant certifications. Similarly, they should be constantly adding competencies and experience in your business vertical. They should have the right expertise in the system’s functional area of your project as well as enough experience using Agile and DevOps techniques.

Partner’s Understanding of Your Tools and Industry

Yes! Scope matters, but so do the technical capabilities and tools used. Automation especially when dealing with DevOps makes it possible to eliminate bottlenecks in the software development cycle and ensure a smooth transition.

Closely related to the right tools of work is matching industry expertise. The right partner should be familiar with your ideal industry including the compliance policies associated with your field.

Does the DevOps Partner Team and Culture Match What You Need?

There is so much information about DevOps and its methodology out there and it’s easy to get lost. Working with any DevOps partner means that they’ll be working hand-in-hand with your internal team. This can only be possible if the partner’s company culture aligns with yours. So, before settling on a working relationship with a DevOps partner, ensure the teams understand each other’s problems and are eager to help one another. Furthermore, DevOps is all about breaking down silos, and your partnership with a DevOps partner should represent this philosophy.

The Key to Successful Adoption of DevOps

Moving to DevOps is a journey that requires philosophical and cultural change plus a more practical implementation of tools, principles, and best practices. The starting point to achieving a successful DevOps adoption within your organization should ensure your development and operation teams are fully committed to the cause. After which DevOps tools and best practices should come into the picture.

Given all the benefits that are associated with DevOps, it’s safe to say that organizations that fail to implement DevOps are missing out on the deployment speed that is thirty times more than the traditional method with 200 times shorter lead times. Taazaa, a reputed customer software and development company incorporates both Agile and DevOps to promote collaboration between the Development and Operations Team, and facilitates continuous migration of new software to increase overall productivity and revenue.