A Comprehensive Guide to DevOps

The development of the DevOps model seeks to combine practices from software development and IT operation. The main advantage the DevOps process has over traditional systems development is speed.

When implemented correctly, DevOps can reduce the life cycle of systems development while enabling continuous delivery. Companies using the development operations model can increase efficiency while maintaining a high level of software quality.

For a detailed look at DevOps, we’ve created this comprehensive guide explaining everything you need to know about this model including the benefits of integrating it within your organization.

DevOps Definition

The term “DevOps” is a combination of software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops). Academically, researchers from the Software Engineering Institute and CSIRO have described the DevOps definition as “a set of practices intended to reduce the time between committing a change to a system and the change being placed into normal production, while ensuring high quality.”

Teams implementing DevOps may be at different levels of maturity. This will lead to the practice of Devops varying from company to company, or even team to team, within an organization.

What is DevOps?

So, what is DevOps? As seen from its definition, what it is can vary depending on the organization.

At its heart, this is a combination of tools, practices, and cultural philosophies. It focuses on the ability of a business to deliver software and services at speed and also scale. Furthermore, the model concentrates on the evolution of both new and existing products, thus enabling constant movement within the market.

Successful organizations using the model will be able to outpace their competitors and better serve the needs of the market.

It’s a fair assessment to say dev ops revolutionized the traditional software development model.

DevOps: A Brief History

What is the origin of this concept?

Most of the original concepts are a direct result of the Lean and Deming Plan-Do-Check-Act-Cycle. Two other significant sources of inspiration arise from the Agile approach and The Toyota Way.

Some say the earliest version of the DevOps model comes from the Telecommunications Information Networking Architecture Consortium (TINA-C) in 1993.

TINA-C created a lifecycle service model which combined software development with their telecommunications operations. The invention of TINA-C demonstrated the “stayability,” and the constant evolution of this model has endured because it was designed with software engineers in mind by other software engineers.

The flexibility of this model runs contrary to the rigid models of traditional software development.

The DevOps process would formally come into being in 2009 at the DevOpsDays conference in Ghent, Belgium. This conference continues to be held in countries all around the world to this day.

Finally, the first State of DevOps report was launched by Alanna Brown in 2012. For industry professionals, the annual release of this report remains a highly important date in the calendar. It’s important to note Dr. Nicole Foresgren is the lead investigator for the State of DevOps report in its current form. Gene Kim, a noted DevOps enthusiast, has also been key to the discovery and understanding of DevOps processes, publishing books such as “The Phoenix Project” and “The DevOps Handbook.”

Benefits of DevOps

When implementing any model within an organization, it must demonstrate real benefits for business.

So, why DevOps?

This model is fast becoming the gold standard for software development due to the impact it is making on businesses. Let’s take a look at why businesses would be wise to adopt the DevOps infrastructure.

Faster Delivery Times on Projects

Rigid models are no longer ideal for businesses. The main principles of the development operations model are continuous development and testing, automation, and quick development cycles.

The primary benefit is a faster, more efficient development organization. Due to its connections to the Agile methodology, the implementation of this infrastructure integrates automation techniques into the development process.

Continuous feedback loops provide developers with information while the change is still fresh in their minds, allowing them to avoid context switching. In addition, faster feedback enables users to find errors sooner rather than later (i.e., shift-left testing) and makes them easier to discover and less expensive to fix.

Fostering Collaboration Between Teams

A significant problem highlighted within development teams is practitioners becoming “siloed.” Silos between departments stifle collaboration, lead to misunderstandings, and reduce overall business agility.

In a world where customers and businesses must always be “on,” creating a dynamic environment must be prioritized.

Breaking down boundaries is a massive aspect of this model. Successful implementation encourages mutual collaboration and integrates separate departments within the software development process.

It also makes it easy to designate responsibility for each department, as well as each member of that department. Planning becomes easy, and meeting both deadlines and standards becomes much simpler.

Improving the Customer Experience

There was once a time when customers expected new software to have problems. Many customers adopted the idea of not upgrading to the latest software release until a few months had passed so that any issues regarding the new software could be worked out.

Today, the market has changed. Study after study has demonstrated that the customer experience is the key to any successful business. The average customer is much less tolerant of missed deadlines, glitches, and a lack of functionality than ever before.

It is estimated that organizations utilizing the DevOps infrastructure can improve their recovery times by 24x, frequency of development by 200x, and reduce change failure rates by 3x.

These numbers alone prove reason enough to make the switch from traditional software development systems.

Organizations that have utilized this model can automate the delivery pipeline. Once this becomes possible, teams can make processes consistent and repeatable which results in fewer problems overall.

Through quick fixes and limiting problems before release, customers have a better experience, and in turn, are more likely to demonstrate brand loyalty in the long term.

Early Error Detection

Anyone who works in the software development industry understands a flawless build is nearly unobtainable. Professionals previously expected to have to patch errors discovered by customers after release.

Not only is this frustrating for customers, it is frustrating for developers too. Early detection of errors creates a superior product and improves the customer experience. With DevOps, early detection is made possible because it increases visibility between teams and processes. This facilitates the faster detection and resolution of errors and crashes that negatively affect user experience.

A common DevOps meaning is collaboration. The environment fosters a culture of sharing and mutual collaboration across multiple teams, across several departments.

Continuous monitoring and testing, much of it automated, enables teams to share feedback and detect problems early.

With most problems detected before release, overall application quality improves.

Reducing the Release Cycle

Software development is a constant arms race to embrace new features and remain on the cutting edge of what’s possible.

Organizational practices within the industry have changed. There’s an understanding that teams must not only release a quality application but also reduce their release cycles. Customers are unwilling to wait for the latest updates out of loyalty.

Dev and Ops teams are encouraged to collaborate and implement automation to reduce the average timespan of each release cycle drastically.

Through the automated CI/CD pipeline, teams can both develop and integrate new code in a matter of minutes. Later in the development cycle, additional automation features check the quality of this code and point out any errors.

Overall, the dev ops environment empowers businesses to create a shorter release cycle while maintaining product quality.

More Focus on Innovation

The stereotype of the overworked developer is not an incorrect one, and these hours spent writing and reviewing code are a barrier to innovation.

The automation of much of the software development process enables teams to focus more on innovation. Ultimately, an organization can never have too much innovation. Making those breakthroughs now could elevate an organization to the next level.

Scale Alongside Increasing Complexity

Any system must have the ability to easily scale when necessary. Dev and Ops teams find it easy to scale through automation. As systems change and grow more complex, this model engages and makes the management of these complex systems easier.

All this happens without sacrificing efficiency and security.

Attract Better Talent

The most talented teams will demand a dev ops work environment. The model is not solely about benefiting the business or the customer. It makes the lives of every developer easier because of how efficient the model is.

No experienced software developer will work under a traditional, rigid model any longer. An organization still using these development models will struggle to attract the brightest and the best.

Attract better talent by upgrading to this infrastructure. Doing so will allow developers to focus more on efficiency and will create a more productive work environment.

DevOps Process: How Does it Work?

The whole point of moving towards a lean, agile DevOps model is to enable rapid releases without sacrificing quality.

The agility of a DevOps system is predicated on what an organization wants to accomplish. Achievable goals include improving:

  • Deployment frequency

  • Lead time for changes

  • Mean time to recovery (MTTR)

There’s no simple answer to how it works. As well as changes to the working process, it requires a complete internal culture change. Key culture changes needed for the successful implementation of DevOps include a reimagining of trust, a top-down approach that emphasises execution in both large and small capacities, and a desire to improve processes through testing.

Organizations looking to implement it must look to the six steps in the system’s life cycle, otherwise known as the six C’s, which are at the heart of the working process.

1. Continuous Business Planning

Continuous business planning begins with identifying the skills within an organization, desired outcomes, and the resources required to realize those outcomes.

Identify the right individuals within the organization who can take a commanding role in implementing the system. The ability of this team to collaborate is the cornerstone of any successful DevOps team.

2. Collaborative Development

Collaborative development begins with implementing Agile methodologies and breaking down siloed departments. This does not abolish the idea of centralized planning; it simply makes it easier for separate teams to collaborate according to that centralized plan.

3. Continuous Testing

Increasing efficiency and speed within a project is all about testing. Unit and functional testing form a key part of this step in the life cycle. Some organizations have traditionally avoided this to keep costs down, but it is fast becoming a necessity.

All businesses have different testing processes, and there’s no right or wrong answer,  as long as it meets the standards of genuine continuous testing.

4. Continuous Release and Deployment

A continuous CD pipeline enables organizations to deploy code changes and releases when needed, as dictated by the user’s business objectives.

Mutual collaboration in this area allows patches to be released and organizations to quickly meet the ever-expanding needs of their customers.

5. Continuous Monitoring

Errors and mistakes grow in likelihood as projects become more complex. Continuous monitoring is necessary to monitor changes and address errors whenever and wherever they happen.

This has the advantage over rigid systems, where organizations often relied on arduous manual checks or customers to tell them when something was wrong post-release.

6. Customer Feedback and Optimization

The final step in the DevOps process is the facilitation of immediate tester feedback. Clunky feedback systems mean relatively small problems take much longer to resolve.

Allowing for immediate customer feedback on a product and its features enable organizations to pivot quickly.

As a system, the DevOps model comes with many moving parts. The core of the structure is the automation of build and deployment, testing, and provisioning. Such environments must ensure the constant flow of feedback, with everything being logged accordingly.

Although tools and processes are unique to the business, there are certain best practices everyone must follow.

Here are nine best practices all businesses must adhere to to make the most of this model.

1. Commit to the Culture Change

One of the biggest mistakes decision-makers make is assuming this is a trend. They make the mistake of treating DevOps like a new software framework. It is not. It is a positive culture change.

It breaks down the old ways of IT professionals working in silos. If an organization is unwilling to adapt to this culture change, the benefits will never be realized. Ultimately, committing to the culture change requires a top-down sponsorship as every member of the organization needs to play a role in the successful implementation of DevOps.

2. Have a Centralized Unit

Although a core principle is mutual collaboration, this does not eliminate the need for centralized control. There must be a centralized unit for creating and integrating new tools and techniques.

The team in charge of the centralized unit will have the responsibility of sharing and deploying the best tools and techniques across the organization.

3. Shift CI/CD Left

To achieve faster releases while maintaining quality, testing should be shifted to the left in the CI/CD pipeline. In other words, these processes should ideally be shifted to an earlier point in the software development lifecycle.

The key difference is by shifting left, teams are moving from a philosophy of solving problems to preventing them in the first place.

It’s the single most significant change that can lead to high-quality releases consistently.

4. Implement Automation for Testing

Creating quality code requires regular software testing. Through automated testing, development teams can pinpoint and resolve coding issues during the development phase rather than immediately before release.

Test automation is simply faster than manual testing. Plus, it eliminates most of the mundane tasks testers are required to complete.

Not only that, but automated testing is also a higher standard of testing, and its speed means teams can increase testing frequency.

5. Launch a Continuous Deployment Environment

Under traditional software development models, code is created and then deployed at a much later time. A continuous deployment environment takes individual pieces of code, tests them, deploys them, and undergoes the post-deployment subprocesses all at once.

Much of this process can be automated, thus reducing product creation time.

6. Keep Everyone in the Loop

The major flaw of rigid development models is teams are traditionally kept in separate silos. One of the major driving forces behind DevOps is everyone being updated through mutual collaboration.

The only way to make this environment work is to communicate. To avoid any miscommunications or confusion, everyone involved should have the same goals, tools, and processes. Companies can also use tools like Slack to facilitate seamless communication between DevOps team members. In addition, tools like ZenDesk and Intercom can be used to document interactions with customers once applications are live.

7. Develop a Strong Learning Base

A key best practice is to develop a strong learning base through patience. Leadership teams must commit to a constant learning process.

Training developers and perfecting the system will take time. Be patient and do not expect the transformation to occur overnight.

8. Focus on Automation Within Dashboards

Part of the reason why so many businesses are adopting this model is it embraces the best that automation technology has to offer. Automated dashboards provide detailed reports and insights into various operations and projects.

There are so many options for automated dashboards that everyone can access. The right product depends on the needs of the organization.

Real-time updates allow teams to choose the right tool for the right job. Plus, many products offer reports presented graphically, which can make it easier for everyone to understand.

9. Implement Active Application Monitoring

Any piece of software lives or dies based on its performance. Customers will rarely give a buggy application a second chance.

Whether deploying an application on the cloud, or through a local data center, teams must be able to monitor the application’s performance in real-time.

Proactive monitoring can uncover problems before they begin to affect customers. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that enable proactive monitoring including AppDynamics, Dynatrace, and Retrace.

Implementation of a DevOps Model

The flexibility of the DevOps model means that there is no single path to developing a development operations environment within an organization. Everyone’s approach to implementation will differ.

Unlike integrating a brand-new piece of software into a company, there are no step-by-step guides for implementing dev ops.

Organizations all develop it in a variety of different ways. Some models originate from the top down, whereas others appear from the bottom up. Certain organizations invest in skunkworks and develop it from there.

So, where do you start when it comes to developing and implementing this model?

Conduct a Full Company Review

Start by examining the company and the way it operates.

  • What are its values?

  • What are its principles?

  • How does it operate?

  • What is the company trying to achieve?

These are all aspects that any leadership team must examine when implementing this system.

Unlike other initiatives, the DevOps definition is wide-ranging. It isn’t necessary to complete a full overhaul in a short period.

Many organizations find it easier to implement aspects of it and to focus on integration according to the business’s greatest needs.

Choosing the Right Tools for Your DevOps Infrastructure

There is an increasing range of tools, but the proper approach isn’t based on tools. This is the number one assumption novices have when asking, “Why DevOps?”

To rely entirely on new tools represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of DevOps. It’s a culture change based around eliminating IT silos and encouraging collaboration, continuous development, deployment, and testing.

Any tool used by an organization must be introduced to facilitate the core concepts of the model.

Here are some tips for selecting the right tools:

Facilitating Collaboration

Opt for tools that enable collaboration among different departments. Think about feature-rich platforms that can be understood by both developers and non-developers, such as Bubble, Zapier, and VoiceFlow.

Tools with API

The best tools not only focus on customization and automation but they play well with other tools. Stick with products that easily integrate with other commonly used tools. With modern software development moving at such a fast pace, this is more essential than ever.

Encourage Learning

Many tools are complicated and designed for the expert. Everyone learns at a different pace, which is why it’s advisable to work with tools that can be used in more than one way. Doing so will encourage learning throughout an organization.

Do More with DevOps

According to Forrester Research, more than 50% of businesses have made the switch to DevOps. It is clear this set of practices is the new gold standard in modern development.

Begin implementing this new development environment and reap the benefits the DevOps process has to offer. While it seems daunting to alter a familiar  software development process, the right guidance can smooth the path to full implementation.

Learn how Delphix enables DevOps teams to manage data with the same speed and agility as code with programmable data infrastructure.