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What is the Point of DevOps?

Traditionally, operations and development teams were distinct departmental silos within the enterprise, but the need for automation and more rapid code deployment has triggered the development of a combined DevOps culture. For businesses that don’t have a DevOps team, it’s tough to determine if a new team is necessary and the way the team should be created and managed. A DevOps team is mainly a group of developers with a good understanding of server and network management who work closely with operations to automate code testing and deployment across on-premise infrastructure and the cloud.

When Do You Know It’s Time to Build a DevOps Team?

Bringing the development side to operations is a cultural change for everyone involved. Most operations people are not familiar with Agile, which often becomes a huge part of the way DevOps works. The software development life cycle is unfamiliar to many operations teams as well.

In a typical operations and development environment, although both teams are separated, they still work closely together during code promotions and bug fixes. For instance, project managers for software development might work closely with operations to deploy updates to internal tools hosted on internal servers. With DevOps, this process can be automated using continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) tools so that testing and deployment does not need as much human oversight and interaction.

Some factors that indicate that you could benefit from DevOps:

  • Deployments require both operations and development personnel to come together, and schedules force the delay of code promotion to production.
  • Production deployments take months to complete between waiting for development, scheduling deployment days, and bug fixes that force updates to be rolled back.
  • Cloud deployments require changes in infrastructure configurations as well as updates to the production codebase, and they are usually done manually.
  • Resources — both on-premise and in the cloud — are mismanaged and improperly configured leaving errors after deployment that must be remediated.
  • Better version control is needed across deployments.
  • Human errors cause downtime and software bugs, which require rollbacks or immediate developer attention for remediation.
  • Operations and development work independently and their own procedures do not mesh well and cause interruptions and delays in a streamlined deployment process.

Benefits of Building a DevOps Team

Any major change in corporate culture requires staff effort and the money to set up the system. You can hire new staff or make changes in the current environment to combine the two departments. If you choose to combine operations and development, the change requires team building and education across the organization so that both teams understand the new way of working.

Agile is commonly used in development, but operations people are usually unfamiliar with Agile methodologies. Operations people must change the way they handle changes to infrastructure by adding Agile to the mix, which could cause some resistance from personnel who already have their own way to handle changes.

Even with the upfront investment both monetarily and with staff time, corporations benefit from the numerous advantages DevOps provides both technically and culturally. As more organizations adopt DevOps as a legitimate IT need, they continue to improve software lifecycle management and save money on failed promotions to production.

Research from Puppet found that DevOps had several tangible benefits:

  • Organizations were able to perform 200 times more deployments
  • Recovery from issues was 24 times faster.
  • Failure rates were 3 times lower.

A survey of 31,000 professionals from Accelerate indicated that:

  • Commit to deploy was 106 times faster with DevOps.
  • Development teams were able to deploy code 208 times more frequently.
  • Recovery from critical incidents was 2604 times faster.
  • Failure rate from code promotions was 7 times lower.

From the above research, the organizations that were able to leverage DevOps benefits the most effectively employed several factors. They already had a clear change control process and maintained their own codebase. Development and IT employed continuous integration and delivery automation, and they incorporated automated testing to speed up QA. Monitoring was heavily done to identify issues within the automation procedures and identify any errors from the codebase. Finally, they also included disaster recovery testing and incorporated cloud services in some of the automation and deployment procedures. Take these aspects into consideration as they could considerably help in your own migration to a DevOps environment.

What Type of Environment Does DevOps Have?

Whether the organization builds a DevOps team from new hires or builds a team from current operations personnel and developers, the new team will have their own environment, tools, and procedures. The type of environment and the tools added to it depend on the nature of the job. Some DevOps teams simply perform automation for operations, so only scripts deployed to internal servers are coded. Other DevOps teams work with public-facing software and servers that require versioning, change control, and other standard development procedures.

One aspect that cannot be avoided is the quality assurance (QA) and testing process. DevOps has many moving parts, but the process is cyclical. The main component added to development and operations is automation when a DevOps team is created, so the environment is mainly all automation concepts, procedures, tools, and solutions. Automation will save code, version it, measure it, and evolve from lessons learned.

An environment for effective DevOps will have the following components:

  • Processes: This component is dependent on the business, requirements, and personality preferences.
  • Communication: Both developers and operations people need a way to communicate other than email. Microsoft Teams and Slack are often used in the enterprise.
  • Development tools: Every developer has their preferred GUI for development, so check with your team to find out which one they want to install.
  • Continuous integration tools: These automation tools take checked in code, build it, and move it to a testing environment.
  • Continuous testing tools: Testing automation builds the code, tests it, uses benchmarks for performance analysis, and creates reports for review. You may still have human QA reviewers to identify issues with user experience and interface components.
  • Continuous deployment tools: Orchestration from testing to production speeds up code promotion especially in a large organization that has several developers contributing to the codebase.
  • Cloud tools: For organizations that work with cloud infrastructure, every provider has their own tools to help automate code promotions, configurations, and logging. Most provider tools do not work on other platforms, so the tools you use will depend on the provider that you choose.

Picking the Right Tools

With a general idea of the DevOps environment defined, you need to find the right tools for your developers and operations people. DevOps tools generally fall into one of four categories:

Version control:

Every deployment that updates the currently running application should increment the registered version number. By numbering versions, developers know what changes were made in case they need to roll back or fix bugs. Version control can be handled by change management software. Examples of these tools include:

Build and deploy:

Developers that check in buggy code introduce issues into the codebase. With build and deploy tools, the code is built to identify any syntax errors first and then deployed to a testing environment automatically provided the codebase builds with no errors. Examples of these tools include:

Functional and non-functional testing:

Software can be vulnerable to a variety of issues including logic and syntax errors, cybersecurity exploits, and performance problems. Testing tools will identify any issues and report them to developers and team leads. Examples of these tools include:

Provisioning and change management:

Occasionally, software deployments require infrastructure changes such as permissions, platform configurations, monitoring, and data. These tools provision changes during deployment to ensure a smooth transition. Examples of these tools include:

Conclusion

If your organization needs faster less buggy code promotions that involve operations, the point of DevOps is to remediate many of these issues. The change in culture and procedures takes upfront commitment, time to set up the new team, infrastructure changes, documentation, and Agile implementation. All of these steps lead to a much more streamlined rapid code-to-production process and a far more stable IT environment.

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