Fewer and fewer companies are installing siloed software development and operations, instead opting for DevOps — but what is it?
In its simplest form, DevOps is the union of people, processes, and tools to deliver software in a faster, more reliable way. But it’s so much more than that.
Adopting DevOps within an organization means breaking down walls between developers and operations teams. It encourages collaboration at all stages of the software development life cycle from planning to delivery and feedback.
It can be difficult to know how this strategy can be implemented in practice. In this article, we will:
- Discuss the key DevOps principles
- Examine how it differs from agile, and how it complements it
- Introduce the main tools in the DevOps toolchain
- Offer some advice on how to get started with DevOps
- List a few of the most common mistakes to avoid
Ready? Let’s go!
What is DevOps?
At its core, DevOps is all about collaboration.
It’s a set of practices that encourages communication and integration between software developers and information technology (IT) professionals. The aim is to shorten the systems development life cycle and provide continuous delivery with high software quality.
The basic principles that give DevOps meaning are:
- Continuous delivery. This is the process of automating software deployments so that new code can be delivered to users frequently and in a reliable way. It means that software can be released at any time with little or no manual intervention.
- Continuous feedback. This principle encourages organizations to seek feedback from customers and other stakeholders continuously so that they can rapidly improve their products and services.
- Infrastructure as code. With this approach, system administrators treat infrastructure configuration as they would any other code. That is, they store it in version control repositories, track changes over time, and use automation to deploy and manage it.
- Security. From the start of the software development process through to delivery and feedback, security must be considered at every stage. DevOps aims to make security an integral part of the culture rather than an afterthought.
- Collaboration. As we’ve mentioned, collaboration is key to DevOps. It should be encouraged between all members of the team, from developers to operations staff, and everyone in between.
In total, these principles help to improve the speed, quality, and stability of software development. They also promote a culture of collaboration and communication within organizations.
DevOps vs Agile
One of the most popular methodologies for software development is agile. So, what’s the difference between DevOps and agile?
Agile focuses on delivering software in short cycles, with a focus on customer feedback. It emphasizes continuous improvement and collaboration between cross-functional teams.
DevOps, on the other hand, takes a more holistic view of the software development life cycle. It encompasses both Development and Operations, hence the name.
While agile is mainly concerned with improving the quality of software development, DevOps aims to improve the quality of the software delivery process. In other words, it’s about making sure that code is released in a reliable and repeatable way.
That said, DevOps is not a replacement – it’s quite complementary. Many organizations use an “agile DevOps” methodology to speed up their software development processes.
The DevOps automation toolchain is a set of tools that help the software development process. By automating tasks, developers can focus on more important work, such as code quality and bug fixes.
There are many tools available.
- Configuration management tools: Used to manage and provision infrastructure resources. They can also be used to automate application deployments. Examples include Puppet, Chef, and Ansible.
- Continuous integration tools: These tools help to automate the software build and testing process. They can also be used to detect and fix errors early in the development cycle. Examples include Jenkins, Travis CI, and CircleCI.
- Containerization tools: Packaging applications into isolated containers make it easy to deploy and run them in different environments. Examples include Docker, Kubernetes, and Mesos.
- Monitoring tools: These can help to monitor the performance of applications and infrastructure. They can also be used to identify and diagnose problems. Examples include Nagios, New Relic, and AppDynamics.
The choice of tool will depend on the specific needs of the organization. But there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing.
- Ease of use: The tools should be easy to use and set up. Otherwise, they will add unnecessary complexity to the process.
- Integration: Integrating well with each other and the existing software development process avoids unnecessary friction.
- Support: The vendor should provide good support in case of problems and help resolve them quickly.
Still, it can be a daunting task to choose the right tools. Fortunately, we’re here to help!
Selecting a DevOps tool
Now that we’ve looked at some of the key DevOps principles, it’s time to start thinking about how to implement them in your organization.
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is which tool or tools to use. As we mentioned before, there are many options available, so it’s important to choose wisely. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your decision.
- The size of your team: With a large team, you’ll need a tool that can scale accordingly. Otherwise, you’ll likely run into problems further down the line.
- The type of project: If you’re working on a complex project, you’ll need a tool that can handle the complexity or risk creating more work for yourself.
- The budget: A limited budget will force you to be careful about which tools you choose. Some tools are very expensive, so you’ll need to weigh up the cost against the benefits.
Once you’ve considered these factors, you should have a good idea of which tool or tools will be best for your needs. But don’t worry if you’re still not sure – there’s plenty of help available online from people who have been through the process before.
Getting started with DevOps
Assuming you’ve never used them before, you might need a little bit of guidance to get started with DevOps.
Here are a few tips.
- Read up on the basics: If you’re new to DevOps, it’s important to have a good understanding of the basics. There are many excellent resources available online, such as The DevOps Handbook and The Phoenix Project.
- Find a mentor: Find someone who is experienced with DevOps and ask for advice. They can help you to avoid common pitfalls and make the transition smoother.
- Join a community: There are many online communities, such as the DevOps subreddit, where you can ask questions and get help from other members.
- Attend a conference: There are many conferences dedicated to DevOps, such as O’Reilly’s Velocity Conference and PuppetConf. Attending one of these events is a great way to learn more about DevOps and meet people who are using it in practice.
Of course, there is no substitute for experience. The best way to learn DevOps is to try it out for yourself. Start with a simple project and gradually increase the complexity as you become more familiar with the tools and process.
Common mistakes to avoid
For those new to DevOps automation, there are a few common mistakes that organizations make. Here are some of the most common.
- Not enough planning: Organizations often try to do too much too soon. This can lead to problems further down the line, so it’s important to plan carefully and start small.
- Lack of communication: There should be clear communication between developers and operations teams. Otherwise, it will be difficult to coordinate efforts and avoid conflict.
- Trying to do everything at once: Adopting DevOps is a journey, not a destination. It’s important to take things one step at a time and gradually introduce change, or you risk early failure.
- Not measuring results: Measuring the success of your DevOps implementation is essential. Otherwise, you won’t be able to tell if it’s working or identify areas that need improvement.
- Not involving everyone: DevOps is not just for developers and operations teams. It should be adopted by the whole organization, from marketing to sales.
- Forgetting about security: Security is often an afterthought in DevOps, but it’s essential. You need to consider it at every stage of the software development life cycle.
There are others, like not having a clear roadmap or not automating enough, but these are some of the most common. Avoiding them will put you on a quick path to success.
If there is anything you should take away from this article, it is the idea of collaboration. DevOps is all about breaking down barriers between teams and working together to deliver software faster.
Combining it with an agile methodology or other software development processes can help you further speed up delivery and increase efficiency.
For those just starting, the most important thing is to take things one step at a time. Automate gradually and measure your results so that you can continue to improve.
Finally, don’t forget about security. It’s essential for DevOps and should be considered at every stage of the software development process.