An Ultimate Guide to DevOps

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More and more companies, both web native organizations and large enterprises are considering DevOps to support their business operations. However, there is still some confusion prevailing as to what exactly DevOps means.

There is not enough clarity whether DevOps is a culture, an approach, a methodology or an amalgamation of all these aspects.

Well, this guide is here to your rescue and we will help you define what exactly DevOps is. So, let’s get started.

In this guide, we will have a look at a range of elements including:

  • What is DevOps?
  • Where did DevOps come from?
  • What problems led to the introduction of DevOps?
  • How does DevOps actually work?
  • How popular is DevOps today?
  • Why are more and more people adopting DevOps?
  • What are the benefits offered by DevOps?

Chapter 1: What is DevOps?

Talking factually, the term DevOps was coined by Patrick Debois in the year 2009 who then almost instantly became the DevOps guru.

DevOps is a play on two terms: Development and Operations. It what forms the standing point for understanding what exactly is meant by DevOps.

Put simply, contrary to a popular belief, DevOps is not a process or technology. Neither is it a standard.

Chapter 2: Where Did DevOps Come From?

Despite what people might say and suggest, DevOps was not born overnight. It took a lot of planning and foresightedness of IT experts who gifted us with DevOps.

The two primary reasons which led to the development of DevOps include:

Enterprise systems management

Well, yes, this is true that many IT experts who actually contributed to the development of DevOps, as we see it today, were system administrators. As a result, these experts introduced the best enterprise systems management (ESM) practices to DevOps including the likes of automated provisioning, configuration management, system monitoring and others.

Agile development

A lot of people believe that DevOps could be seen as a result of Agile. Agile has been always about walking hand in hand with close collaborators like developers, customers, product managers, and quality analysts.

DevOps ensures that the product is in line with the end results, and works on how the apps interact and add value to the client. From this point of view, it could be easily deduced that DevOps is nothing but an extension of Agile methodologies.

Chapter 3: What Problems Led to the Introduction Of DevOps?

Needless to say, system administrators and developers do not always agree on a lot of things. However, what most seem to agree on is the fact that customers often pull them into different directions.

While at the one hand, business users want the related changes like adding new services, new features, and new revenue streams to be implemented as fast as possible, on the other hand, they also want a system that is stable and free from any glitches and interruptions.

This is where the whole problem starts where the IT teams are not able to decide how they should deal between delivering the changes rapidly while also creating a stable production environment.

Apparently, there could be no tradeoff between the two situations, and this is what creates a gap between the two entities.

Developers want to roll out the software as fast as possible, which is why they are hired and this is the task that they are supposed to accomplish. On the other hand, operations know this fact very well that too many changes if pushed rapidly could destabilize the system and this would not go as expected.

All this led to the introduction of DevOps. It is basically an approach associated with carrying both the software development team and deployment team together.

DevOps brings about the entire core software development team and the deployment team consisting of system administrators, business users, test engineers, security engineers and the likes under one roof with a shared focus of delivering the high-quality deliverable while also making sure that the entire system remains stable and integral throughout the process.

So, how does this happen? DevOps is guided by certain underlying principles, some of them being:

  • Setting expectations and properties to guide the team when in doubt
  • Collaborating between both the teams and help in problem-solving
  • Automating common and repetitive processes to free up the manpower that could be utilized for higher level work
  • Integrating the workflow
  • Sharing the data with everyone faster so as to keep everyone on the same page

Chapter 4: How Does DevOps Actually Work?

It can be safely assumed that DevOps is a culture, and like every culture, there is a range of variations. Most DevOps experts would agree that the following set of capabilities listed below are almost common to all DevOps cultures:

Collaboration

Contrary to the common belief, DevOps is quite successful in bringing the development and IT operations team together and helps them to work in the same direction. The major gap between these two teams is one of the common reasons behind the birth of DevOps, however, DevOps is not just limited to IT organization but its impact is widespread.

Needless to say, collaboration is the need of the hour and is needed at every phase in the project whether it is between development and operations or test and product management and so on.

As Tony Bradley of DevOps.com has rightly said:

“The foundation of DevOps success is how well teams and individuals collaborate across the enterprise to get things done more rapidly, efficiently and effectively.”

Continuous integration

Over the years DevOps has become a name synonymous with integration. This can be attributed to the fact that Agile emerged as an extension of Agile culture, and continuous integration is one of the invincible approaches of the Agile methodology.

This is beneficial in a range of ways. It forces the process of development to work in line with other developers and helps in quick integration of work. This way, new glitches and conflicts are exposed almost daily, much earlier than what we see in the waterfall development.

However, to make this happen, communication is an essential key. Developers need to communicate among themselves much more frequently. This is what is promoted by DevOps.

Automation

DevOps is all about automation, and this naturally brings high-end tools into the picture. You might need to buy some tools, you might need to build a few of them, and accordingly, you might also need to look for open source tools.

This is perhaps because a large part of DevOps revolves around automatizing the tasks to make the entire software development and deployment process easier and swifter.

It is important to mention here that just because DevOps makes use of a range of tools, it would be wrong to conclude that DevOps is just about tools. Yes, tools form an important part of DevOps, but this doesn’t mean that DevOps is only about tools, there is a lot more to it.

Continuous testing

People often tend to overlook testing and see it as a scope beyond the boundaries of DevOps. But this is not true. Keeping in mind the ever-rising costs of software development and the loss that one has to handle while dealing with software failures, unveiling a release that could have adverse effects on the existing user experience is not only risky but could also expose the organization to a range of vulnerabilities and can keep their security and compliance at risk.

This is the reason testing is finding a silent place in DevOps, in addition to continuous integration and delivery.

It is important to mention here that continuous testing is not just a job of a quality analyst. In fact, testing should be an important part of a development environment. Gone are the days when developers used to solely work on the development and throw their developed code to the quality analysts and ask them to boggle their mind.

No! Quality is no more just a job of Quality Analysts now, instead, it is a collective responsibility of everyone in the team. It is important for the developers to build a quality code, and provide suitable data sets.

QA engineers would then configure the test cases and the testing environment and would take care of the rest. However, care should be taken that QA do their job speedily. If QA is taking weeks to revert and test the code, you are no longer working in an agile environment, but you are back to the waterfall methodology.

Thus, it is necessary that QA engineers speed up by making use of automated tools to accomplish the task faster.

This might come as a surprise for many of you, but operations play a vital role in QA and testing. Operations ensure that all the monitoring tools are working fine and are properly configured in the test environments. The Operations team can even help the QA team in conducting leak, functional, load and stress tests and can offer their analysis backed up by rich experience that they have in doing similar tasks with utmost precision in the production environment.

This continuous testing is important and provides appreciable end results. Testing helps the developers in balancing their speed and quality. Similarly, making use of automated tools also helps the test engineers in leveraging the time available to them more effectively while also reducing the cost of testing.

Importantly, continuous testing in a DevOps environment also speeds up the test cycles as a part of integration testing was already conducted earlier in the process.

Continuous delivery

Consider the phrase ‘continuous delivery’ as a DevOps development practice wherein code changes are built, tested and released in the production environment automatically.

This is a mere extension of the continuous integration process wherein all the tested code is deployed to the production environment after going through the build and testing stage.

Such a continuous delivery process facilitates the developers as they always have a deployment-ready piece of code that is ready to be deployed as it has already passed the standardized test process.

However, how frequent such releases are made is ultimately dependent on the goals and legacy of the company. The organizations with enough man-power make multiple deployments per day with the help of DevOps while the medium performers unleash a few such releases per week or per month.

Further, the releases that come subsequently also keeps on varying. A few organizations release directly to the users, while some are sent back to the deployment while others are not deployed at all.

It depends from company to company, however, the fact that each release is minor, chances of any sudden failure in the system is almost nil.

Continuous monitoring

Since we are releasing a large number of versions consistently, there cannot be a provision of conducting a rigorous pre-release testing phase, which is what often happens in a waterfall development.

When you are working in a DevOps environment, the failures must be recognized well in time. And how can this be done? Simply with the help of continuous monitoring.

Continuous monitoring enables the teams to measure their performance and availability of software in a timely manner so as to maintain the stability of the system. It helps the developers identify the root causes and prevents any subsequent outage and minimize the risks.

Similar to testing, even monitoring is triggered off in development phase. The tools that are used for monitoring purposes can be used in the development stage to monitor the performance and to prevent any probable issues from reaching the production.

DevOps mainly deals with two types of monitoring: application performance monitoring and server monitoring.

Chapter 5: How Popular is DevOps Today?

DevOps has been a huge success. This is the reason perhaps why it is being adopted by early-stage startups and mega fortune companies alike.

According to a survey, 74% of companies have implemented DevOps in one way or the other.

If you are wondering the type of companies that embrace DevOps – well we would say that unicorns like Facebook, Netflix, Etsy, and Amazon are a few examples which are making it big with the right implementation of DevOps. This is not it. Various mainstream media brands like Sony Pictures and even financial companies like Barclay Bank are making the headlines by using the DevOps right.

More and more enterprises are loving the idea of introducing DevOps in their work culture, this is the reason perhaps why 81% companies reported that they are involving DevOps within their organizations in one way or the other.

The trend is not just about the bigger enterprises but small and medium-sized businesses are also favoring DevOps. Around 70% of SMBs agree that they are using it.

Leave apart the private companies and brands, even government and quasi-government organizations have identified the goodness of DevOps and are embracing the change quickly.

Chapter 6: Why are More and More People Adopting DevOps?

DevOps has something for everyone involved in the software development cycle. From developers to operations team and the quality engineers.

The best part of DevOps is that it even involves the business side of the team including the business managers and the executives. Let’s have a closer look at the advantages offered by DevOps to different teams:

Developers

Automation has proved to be a big plus for developers. Simply because, they no more need to deal with hefty paperwork, and mind-boggling approval cycles and boring waiting time.

All this is taken care of by DevOps and this speeds up the whole process wonderfully. When developers are provided with the right working environment, right resources in terms of tools, storage, applications and network, and their quality reflects itself in their work.

This fosters their creativity and innovation levels and helps them in coding properly.

When developers start working in a DevOps world, they are made to work with the Operations team in a problem-solving mode. Both the teams work in harmony and this leads to lesser arguments and distractions.

Further, the scary phone call that a developer gets when the site goes down is a gone thing of the past. This definitely comforts the whole environment and improves the life of developers.

Operations

System administrators are always worried about the stability of their system. One thing that could be a nightmare to them is the sudden break down of the system due to an impromptu release. Developers may get rid of their responsibility stating that the code was delivered and it is the operations team’s property now. This leads to the outage at various levels and creates a lot of stress.

This all is wonderfully handled by DevOps wherein developers actually work towards improving the stability of the system. More frequent and smaller releases are pushed to the production which minimizes the risks of breaking down the system and stabilizes the system to a large extent.

Further, automation also helps in ruling out all the human errors that could creep in with manual operations. This boosts the quality of life of system administrators and helps them in trying new tools, boosting their skills and provides better career opportunities.

Test engineers

DevOps keeps the testing environment a way ahead than the development and production environment such that any possible breaks downs could be caught well in time. Thus, this requires the introduction of advanced tools which makes the test engineers to innovate.

With automated tools, test engineers can make use of an identical production environment as a test environment to be able to test accurately and predict the performance of new release.

This increases the productivity and boosts the performance of test engineers.

Product managers

DevOps offers immense benefits to the IT department of the organization. However, marketing and business team is able to reap certain benefits a well.

  • Faster feedback

With smaller and frequenter releases, product managers get faster feedbacks based on the recent developments.

  • Enhanced responsiveness

Since the delivery is continuous, DevOps helps in shortening the time that it takes to release new features based on the customer feedback.

  • Reduced waste and risk

The glitches and issues can be handled well in time without waiting for a big release to happen.

  • Executives

Patrick Debois and other farsighted IT experts might not have envisioned that DevOps could make it to boardrooms as well. But, yes, it has!

A lot of executives love DevOps. Probably because, it boosts the quality of the software and facilitates quicker releases, much faster than the companies who are still stuck at traditional methods of developing software.

Further, another benefit that DevOps has on offer is that with DevOps in place, organizations are able to attract high-quality developers, test engineers, and system administrators to work in the best environment.

Lastly, when the top developers, QA, and operators work together, there are fewer chances of any mistakes and they are seldom pulled down into inter-departmental disputes. This allows them to focus on more important aspects and helps them in taking the organization in the right direction.

Chapter 7: What Are The Benefits Offered By DevOps?

A lot of authentic sources has reported that DevOps can help the organizations around the world in achieving significant results. However, one needs to be cautious in order to make the most out of this opportunity.

It is important to understand that results may vary depending on the context. Let’s understand this with the help of an example. Supposedly, someone says that they were able to get an average of 40 miles per gallon. Does this mean that you will be able to achieve the same statistics with your vehicle too? Well, no! The vehicle might vary, the driving style might vary. We do not know if they went by car or a bike, or if he was on a highway or a street road.

What we are trying to convey here is that the context matters. Just because someone said that DevOps worked for them, it is important to understand the context and to accept the fact that depending on the context, results might vary.

With this in mind, a survey conducted by Puppet Labs found that some of the high performers of DevOps were able to release software 200 times faster and frequenter when compared to low performance. Additionally, the quality of the software produced is higher too. Further, the system developed by DevOps high performers is three times less likely to face failure than the one developed by low performers. What’s more? As it goes without saying, the net effect on the system stability is positive as well!

It is worth mentioning here that IT professionals who tried DevOps or adopted this new culture have surely grown up to become a big fan. This is clear because:

  • Security

High performing DevOps invest 50% less time in handling security issues than their counterparts.

  • Stability

Organizations with DevOps high performers spend as much as 22% less time on unplanned work and rework. This way they are able to spend 29% more time on developing and releasing new functionalities.

  • Deployment speed

Not only speed, DevOps experts are able to deploy releases multiple times per day depending on the demand as compared to the low performers who deploy just once per month, and so on.

Conclusion

It is almost a decade when the DevOps was first introduced, and the results are quite visible – DevOps is here to stay, all due to a range of good reasons.

While a lot many people were against DevOps, it succeeded despite all the lows and helped the businesses in integrating their developers, business users, security engineers, quality engineers and system administrators into a single workflow and made them work in the single direction of meeting the end-user goals.

This created a sense of harmony all over. Developers and system administrators were not anymore seen arguing, instead they started understanding each other’s viewpoints, and this definitely lowered the blood pressure in the IT industry.

DevOps even made the business managers happy as now they are able to get a product which is perfectly aligned with the requirements and this helps them in selling their products and services on the go.

And the best part is, that with DevOps in place, everyone was able to work to the best of their capabilities. However, it is worth acknowledging here that gains like these do not happen overnight. To be able to fetch all the benefits on the go, DevOps must be integrated and implemented properly.

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