What Is DevOps? DevOps Definition, Principles and Tools
DevOps is a methodology that encourages collaboration between software development and IT operations teams to streamline the development process. The result is a workflow that encourages transparency between the two departments and allows teams to make quicker adjustments on the fly.
What Is DevOps?
DevOps, a combination of “development” and “operations,” is a philosophy or framework that prioritizes cross-team collaboration between software development and operations teams. The idea is that communication helps teams more quickly automate tasks, incorporate customer feedback and make improvements throughout the product lifecycle. This allows teams to be more adaptable and deliver and fine-tune products at a rapid pace.
DevOps isn’t a single tool or process, but a cultural shift or series of approaches that un-silos the engineering department that writes the code and the operations and IT department that implements it.
Benefits of DevOps
DevOps arose in the late 2000s as a way to fix sluggish and flawed development processes, and companies have been reaping the rewards of it ever since.
Benefits of DevOps
- Cross-team communication
- Shared set of team goals
- Faster time to market
- Heightened transparency
- Increased flexibility
- Improved quality assurance
- Higher user satisfaction
By facilitating cross-team communication between engineering and operations teams, DevOps has addressed the flaws of inefficient and mistake-prone workflows. Now teams work together with plenty of overlap, allowing different departments to better coordinate efforts when it comes to developing, testing, fixing and deploying products.
Shared Set of Team Goals
Prior to the DevOps movement, engineering and operations teams often had separate and competing goals. With a DevOps culture, teams are better able to align themselves behind a common set of objectives. And if unexpected roadblocks occur, departments can adjust course while notifying each other to keep teams on the same page.
Faster Time to Market
Gone are the days where engineers work strictly on developing code and operations teams focus solely on keeping applications running. The interdisciplinary nature of DevOps means each team is more involved in different parts of the product development process, allowing departments to cut out unnecessary work, automate basic tasks and release products in record time.
Breaking down the boundaries between operations and software development teams enables everyone to understand each team’s roles and alleviates confusion. Teams can then stay in the loop while developing products, even when departments need to pivot to fix bugs, accept user feedback and address other challenges.
The seamless collaboration and transparency of a DevOps culture leaves more space for teams to make minor adjustments that go a long way. In particular, faster communication and automations free up time for teams to incorporate customer feedback into the product development process and make continuous product improvements.
Improved Quality Insurance
In a pre-DevOps world, one erroneous line of code may go unnoticed throughout the product development process. However, a DevOps approach creates overlapping responsibilities, so different teams can double-check the work of others. And because of increased collaboration, teams can make constant product fixes and maintain high quality assurance (QA) standards.
Higher User Satisfaction
The ultimate goal of DevOps is to make the development cycle efficient, so companies can make continuous product releases and upgrades without sacrificing quality standards. Delivering top-notch products in a short amount of time is bound to result in more satisfied customers, especially as teams continue to implement user feedback.
DevOps is designed to help teams build and deliver high-quality products in the most efficient way possible. To achieve this vision, teams apply the agile and flexible methods of DevOps to every stage of the product development process. This approach is known as the DevOps lifecycle, covering a product from its early development to after its release.
1. Continuous Development
Developers, engineers and other stakeholders must plan out product details and craft a product roadmap to give their project a long-term direction. This stage also involves teams reviewing existing products and strategizing ways to maintain and improve the product. If the goal is to maintain a software product’s code, teams may employ tools like Jira and Git.
2. Continuous Integration (CI)
To avoid frequent or major issues later on, DevOps teams take this opportunity to review code and ensure a product is functioning accordingly. In addition, teams take user feedback and make adjustments to a product, such as adding new features or addressing any concerns related to the previous version of a product.
3. Continuous Testing
Developers, engineers, QA analysts and other personnel must conduct thorough testing to locate bugs, apply software patches and address any other product issues to prepare a product for deployment. DevOps automation also plays a major role in this stage, with many teams choosing to speed up the testing process with automation tools like Jenkins, Bamboo and Kobiton.
4. Continuous Deployment (CD)
Once software is prepped, teams must then distribute the code across production servers. Teams make sure code is deployed accurately on each server by wielding configuration management tools like Ansible, Terraform and Vagrant.
5. Continuous Monitoring
Software development and operations teams continue to study user behavior and gather performance data after a product is deployed and then released to the public. Functionality, network errors and how users interact with an app are a few areas teams review. To monitor a product, a DevOps team relies on tools like Splunk, Sensu and PagerDuty.
6. Continuous Feedback
Developers and IT specialists seek constant feedback from users and other stakeholders to inform any changes they make to later versions of a product. While teams may use automations for updates and smaller changes, departments adopt a more hands-on approach if they need to add new features or revise current ones to improve the UX design aspect of a product.
DevOps Principles: The CALMS Framework
DevOps can be summed up in five principles by using the acronym CALMS. The CALMS Framework was coined by DevOps Pioneer, Jez Humble, to determine how successful an organization would be at adopting DevOps. To achieve DevOps success, companies must demonstrate all five principles.
CALMS Framework Components
- Culture: company-wide adoption of DevOps principles
- Automation: performing repetitive, manual tasks with technology
- Lean: removing unnecessary work from the development process
- Measurement: gauging a product’s success based on metrics
- Sharing: overlapping team responsibilities to promote common goals
Companies that adopt DevOps cultivate a culture of collaboration. Engineers and IT operations professionals work in tandem, instead of competing against one another, to reach certain metrics or achieve certain goals. Each group’s goals are better aligned and both teams work side-by-side in quality assurance testing. Working together allows the teams to quickly identify bugs, focus on solutions and implement fixes, all in the span of a few days (rather than a few months or not at all).
Automation is an important part of the DevOps methodology. Putting repetitive and repeatable processes in place helps to speed up work and create reliable systems. Continuous delivery (CD) is an important part of the automation process. CD essentially means that engineering and operations teams are continuously testing code and deploying on a faster basis. Teams rely on a slew of CD softwares to help speed up the process. Instead of one huge deployment that takes months to deploy, continuous delivery relies on smaller, yet more efficient deployments. This reduces the risk involved and allows development teams to stay on top of any fixes that need attention.
In terms of DevOps, “lean” means trimming the auxiliary parts of software development away, so only the absolutely necessary processes remain. A true DevOps mindset involves constantly tinkering with processes to make them as efficient as possible. Teams must have an agile-first mentality when assembling a product, meaning that they put out a simple product first and make continuous improvements to it in order to craft a perfect product a few months or years down the road. Because plans, technologies and teams tend to change quite often, taking a lean approach to software development means teams can shift priorities quickly without having the enhanced risk or waste that is involved with traditional methods.
It’s hard to measure improvements without metrics. DevOps employs a slew of tools and technologies that help measure performance and map out realistic KPIs. Common measurements taken in a DevOps environment are: How many tickets were being pushed per release? How many bugs did we find (and how long did it take to fix them)? How many total users were affected by bugs? What is our application’s response time? These questions (and many others) help keep teams on track and up-to-date on how they are progressing in their software development process.
Instead of having totally separate jobs, engineers and operations teams now share responsibilities. This sense of sharing a goal (and the challenges that come with achieving it) bridges divides between teams and promotes a culture of collaboration. The Sharing aspect of DevOps believes that the same people who build the application should also be the same ones to ship and maintain it. Sharing fills in the gaps of the development process and ensures that all teams take a hands-on approach from start to finish.
How to Implement DevOps
Shifting to a DevOps mentality takes time and thoughtful planning, so be sure to create a plan that communicates company-wide expectations. A DevOps roadmap provides a clear set of procedures to guide teams as they embrace DevOps practices, tools and philosophies.
1. Plan a DevOps Initiative
A DevOps initiative should cover the main objectives you want to accomplish by implementing a DevOps mentality. Your initiative should also define what your DevOps culture will look like, so teams and employees know what to expect.
2. Create a DevOps Strategy
Lay out the specifics by designing a DevOps strategy. Communicate DevOps best practices that teams should follow at every stage of the product development process. In addition, explain new roles and responsibilities to team members and establish leaders who will be in charge of overseeing the adoption of DevOps processes.
3. Apply Containerization
Containerize your applications, so teams can manage them more easily. By packaging code and all the components needed to run an application together, you can ensure your software runs consistently across different environments. This method also allows teams to implement changes faster without having to rebuild the entire software.
4. Integrate CI and CD Tools Into Your Infrastructure
To manage containerized applications, equip your team with technology for configuration management, deployment and automation testing. Kubernetes, Jenkins, Docker and other DevOps tools simplify processes and raise teams’ productivity.
5. Establish Automated Tests and Align QA With Development
Speeding up the testing process is essential, but don’t sacrifice attention to detail along the way. Determine basic, repetitive tasks that automation can handle while assigning your QA team the role of catching and fixing bugs early in the post-release phase.
6. Execute More Thorough Application Performance Monitoring
Promote a culture of transparency by developing application performance monitoring procedures. By studying application servers, UX/UI interactions and other areas, teams can better detect issues and devise solutions for the next product release.
The DevOps process thrives on the integration of different technologies to help automate tasks and boost the quality of the final product. As a result, choosing DevOps tools that fit your company’s needs and goals is a major part of a DevOps strategy.
DevOps tools support initiatives by automating testing, managing containerized applications, facilitating continuous integration and deployment and fulfilling other roles. Teams can then move products through different development stages much faster while preserving the ability to catch errors and make changes on the fly.
Below are just a few of the popular tools that most companies employ in their DevOps tech stack to support efficient workflows.
Git and GitHub
One of the most popular tools in the DevOps world, Git is a source code management (SCM) tool that allows for full transparency and clarity into the development process. It lets you come up with different versions of source code, experimenting with and then easily merging new features when ready to ship. GitHub is a complementary technology that acts as both a data repository and a networking tool for engineers. GitHub holds the open source code that was created with Git, and makes it accessible to a wide network of engineers.
Docker has become one of the top DevOps tools because it makes containerization easier. In containerization, each “container” includes all of the elements to create a product from start to finish. The traditional method of software development involved transferring code from a specific computing environment to a virtual machine or operating system. This would result in a variety of bugs and various problems. Containerization eliminates these problems by combining the code, with the various files, libraries and other tools that require a product to run. Containers stand alone from the host and become secured work environments that foster experimentation and reduce risk in the development process.
Jenkins is a software development automation tool that speeds up various processes in the development pipeline. Jenkins allows teams to fully customize their continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD). Jenkins’ flexibility offers a variety of options that allow for development teams to tackle everything from building the product to smoke testing it, in a way that makes the team feel comfortable. Additionally, another desirable feature of Jenkins is that it maintains more than 1,000 plugins that integrate with almost every other mainstream DevOps tool.
Kubernetes is a containerization tool, like Docker, that helps with containerization at scale. Kubernetes is useful for massive DevOps systems because it automates the management of hundreds of different containers at one time. For instance, instead of manually deploying hundreds of containers onto the same machine, Kubernetes allows for automating the times in which containers are deployed to avoid bogging down systems with too many deploys at one time.