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What is DevOps? The Ultimate Guide

If you are a company aiming to unlock your potential of producing better software faster, then DevOps is the key that you need. 

In this ultimate guide, we will explore everything that you need to know about this software development methodology and how you, as a company, can benefit from it. Let’s get started!

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a set of practices, tools, and cultural philosophies that integrates software development and IT operations into a common role, to improve a company’s ability to deliver software at a high velocity. With DevOps best practices in place, a company can produce software more efficiently, securely, and swiftly. 

How Does DevOps Work?

DevOps changes the way software development and IT operations teams work by promoting collaboration throughout the entire product lifecycle. It breaks down the traditional divide between development and operations, often merging them into one team. This unified team, consisting of engineers with diverse skills, handles everything from creating and testing the software to deploying and managing it.

At the heart of DevOps is the use of tools to automate and speed up processes, making everything more reliable and efficient. A DevOps toolchain bundles key DevOps principles like continuous integration, continuous delivery, and automation. This toolchain helps teams simplify their workflows, ensuring smooth transitions between different development stages.

DevOps vs DevSecOps

In certain DevOps setups, the collaboration stretches beyond development and operations to involve quality assurance and security teams. This expanded teamwork leads to a strategy called DevSecOps, where security is actively integrated into the development process. This ensures that security aspects are woven into the entire application lifecycle.

The DevOps Lifecycle

In DevOps, there are eight important phases represented by an infinity loop. On the left, you have development phases involving processes and tools, while operations are on the right. 

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These phases include planning, coding, building, testing, releasing, deploying, operating, and monitoring. Furthermore, teams collaborate and communicate in each phase to maintain continuous alignment, speed, and quality. 

The infinity loop signifies the ongoing nature of DevOps, highlighting the need for constant improvement and teamwork for successful development and operations.

Breaking Down the Eight DevOps Phases

Here is a breakdown of the eight phases in a DevOps lifecycle:

Plan: To enhance speed and quality, DevOps teams should embrace agile practices. Agile, an iterative project management and software development approach, aids teams in dividing work into smaller segments, enabling the delivery of incremental value.

  • Code: During development, the team writes top-notch, easy-to-test code using tools like Git for version control. They might use an integrated development environment like Visual Studio Code for efficient code creation and debugging.

  • Build: In the build phase, the code is compiled and packaged. Tools like Jenkins or GitLab automate this process, regularly integrating and testing code changes for an efficient build workflow.

  • Test: In testing, the application goes through various tests like unit, integration, and acceptance tests. Teams use tools like TestSigma, Selenium, Playwright, or Cypress to automate these tests, ensuring the quality of the web application.

  • Release: In this phase, the team ensures the application is ready for production by conducting final checks and resolving any issues. Tools like Jenkins or Bamboo automate the release process, ensuring the application meets all requirements before reaching end-users.

  • Deploy: In the deployment phase, the team sets up and deploys the application to the chosen environment. Tools like Ansible or Chef automate this process, and Kubernetes/Docker assist in continuous deployment for containerization.

  • Operate: Operation requires teams to keep a close eye on the application in the production environment using tools like Nagios, Prometheus, and ELK stack. This ensures continuous monitoring of performance and security, allowing for quick responses to any incidents or issues.

  • Monitor: In the monitoring phase, the team watches over the live application, using tools like Grafana and Datadog for visual insights and quick issue detection. This ensures smooth performance and allows swift resolution of any problems that may arise.

Additional DevSecOps Phases

To make DevSecOps work, you will need to ensure security is integrated throughout the software development lifecycle. Make the entire team, including developers and operations, responsible for the security of the software they’re developing. 

Integrate automated security checks at each step of software delivery within the DevOps lifecycle. This ensures swift identification and mitigation of vulnerabilities, aligning security measures with the rapid pace of DevOps workflows.

Benefits of Implementing DevOps

There are no explicitly defined models and universally agreed-upon goals that can help define DevOps. However, we can still focus on what you can get in return by implementing DevOps in your organization. These are the range of goals and objectives that help define DevOps.

Adoption of a Different Cultural Philosophy

‍DevOps extends beyond the tools and best practices needed to accomplish its implementation. The successful introduction of DevOps demands a change in culture and mindset. Organizations would have to eliminate the barriers separating development and operations teams. 

In place of these silos, organizations have to navigate them towards collaborating, communicating, and optimizing, to increase both the reliability of operations, along with the productivity of developers.

Boost Speed of Operations

‍Speed is one major objective of DevOps practices. The demand to meet and adapt to the changing needs of the market, customers, and business objectives means the organization’s development process and release capabilities need to be extremely smooth and fast.

Fail Smart, Fail Safe Conditions

DevOps processes remove the risk of failure, thereby creating an environment where developers feel safe to innovate due to the presence of automated testing, early warning systems of failure, and the ability to immediately restore the last known good system state.

Frequent and Small Updates of Software Applications

DevOps’ frequent but small updates have the effect of making deployment less risky. This is because bugs are discovered more easily by identifying the last deployment that caused the error, and subsequently patched more quickly.

Release on Demand

‍The benefit of DevOps practices such as Continuous Delivery is that they provide the capability of having software in an always releasable state. So, when an application or feature is ready to go live, it can go live.

Breaking Down the Barriers

Silos between departments and work groups for better synergy of efforts and collaboration. DevOps provides full visibility of the incoming software development pipeline for stakeholders so they are fully engaged with the innovation process.‍

The Capacity To Measure Feature Value

Since Agile methodologies enable stakeholders to both prioritize features and track them from inception through the delivery pipeline, it is possible to measure the expected value against the actual value received over time for the feature.

Constant Improvement

Constant improvement of an organization’s system of production and service due to constant feedback loop, QA, and testing. With this improved quality comes the attendant decrease in costs.

Why DevOps Matters?

In a world where software is integral to every aspect of business, it revolutionizes how companies build and deliver software. Like industrial automation transformed manufacturing in the 20th century, DevOps transforms the software development lifecycle. 

It ensures businesses can interact with customers seamlessly through online services and applications, enhancing operational efficiencies across the value chain. DevOps isn’t just a methodology; it’s a necessity for companies aiming to stay competitive. 

We all know that software plays a central role in industry transformation, from logistics and communications to overall operations. This is where DevOps plays a major role in creating a collaborative approach towards company operations. 

DevOps Best Practices

Using a DevOps model enables frequent software updates and feature deployments compared to traditional practices. To maximize benefits, follow these key DevOps best practices:

Continuous Integration (CI)

CI means that developers now have to regularly merge their code changes into the central repository. It demands developers to check in their code every day onto the main trunk of the shared repository.

Automated builds are created after this, with tests (regression, integration) subsequently run on the build. The result of this CI practice is that bugs are discovered more quickly in the development process, and fixed faster; thereby improving the overall software quality.

Continuous Delivery (CD)

After Continuous Integration comes Continuous Delivery, although they are different sides of the same coin. CD expands upon CI by requiring that the code changes made are automatically built, tested, and prepared for release to the production system.

Infrastructure-as-Code

Infrastructure as code enables software developers and system administrators to interact with the software’s infrastructure programmatically. This is achieved by using an API-driven model.

Consequently, the underlying infrastructure of an application is managed and provisioned by utilizing code and software development techniques such as continuous integration and version control.

A Shared Code Repository With Version Control Capabilities

Version control is the planetary force around which every other thing in the DevOps universe revolves, the glue that holds everything together. Because when Ops and Devs share and use the same version control system, then anyone can reproduce the production environment based on what exists in the version control.‍

Automated Testing With Continuous Integration

This involves automatically testing code changes as they are integrated into the main repository, ensuring early detection of errors and maintaining code quality throughout the development process.

Microservices

Microservices allow developers to build a single application as a small set of services. The advantage of microservices as a DevOps tool is that its architecture makes applications deployed on it more flexible and enhances faster innovation. Without DevOps, the blend of microservices and increased release frequency of deployment is bound to present operation challenges.

Most Common DevOps Tools

For a DevOps team to be able to perform their duties adequately, they require a DevOps toolset. Some of these tools help DevOps engineers to accomplish various tasks (provisioning infrastructure, deploying code changes) independently that would have previously required the help of other team members.

ToolDescription
DockerCentral to the containerization trend, Docker efficiently bundles applications, libraries, and dependencies for consistent deployment across diverse computing environments.
VagrantAiding DevOps in managing development environments, Vagrant ensures consistency across developers’ machines, facilitating faster application testing without configuration hassles.
GitHubA crucial version control system, GitHub tops the DevOps tools list for its role in enabling collaboration, quick code iterations, and seamless rollback capabilities.
BitbucketAtlassian’s Bitbucket, akin to GitHub, provides version control and private repositories at a reduced cost, with added integration for DevOps tools like Jira and Trello.
NagiosAn open-source network analyzer, Nagios monitors and alerts on network, server, and application issues, offering performance charts for system trend analysis.
JenkinsAn open-source automation server, Jenkins distributes project workloads across multiple platforms, serving as a continuous delivery hub for streamlined automation.
AnsibleAnsible, a lightweight configuration management tool, orchestrates IT assets efficiently without resource-intensive background processes.
SentryUtilized by companies like Uber and Microsoft, is a bug detection tool that scans code, highlighting problematic areas and sending notifications for code errors.

FAQs

How does DevSecOps relate to DevOps?

DevSecOps adds security measures to DevOps, embedding them in each step of the software development lifecycle. This integration enhances collaboration and reduces vulnerabilities, strengthening the overall security posture of the application.

How are DevOps and CI/CD related?

CI/CD is a necessary part of DevOps, streamlining the software development lifecycle. DevOps focuses on collaboration and communication, while CI/CD automates and accelerates the continuous integration, testing, and delivery of code changes, enhancing speed and quality.

How does DevOps support the cloud-native approach?

DevOps works hand-in-hand with the cloud-native approach, automating processes and building collaboration for efficient application management in dynamic cloud environments. This ensures a smooth transition to cloud-native architectures with continuous delivery and scalability.

Conclusion

Customers have grown to expect fast delivery of products; especially Millennials who grew up in the era of Amazon’s overnight delivery system. These expectations have grown even more astronomical with Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service models that can rapidly respond to changing market needs and add functionality on a whim.

DevOps practices are uniquely suited to meet the accelerating demands of the time in such a way that doesn’t overburden the delivery pipelines or downgrade the quality of the resultant software applications. To operate optimally, DevOps must fuse both technical techniques and cultural practices in a manner that elicits cooperation and collaboration among key stakeholders.

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Maria N. Schwenger
Maria N. Schwenger
Maria is a visionary leader with over 15 years of expertise in Cybersecurity, AI, and software engineering across sectors like finance, healthcare, and technology. She excels in driving hyper-growth strategies for startups to Fortune 100 companies, with a focus on innovation and people-centric leadership.
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