DevOps: who are they, and why do you need one

DevOps: Meaning and history

Software development is a complex process with lots of moving parts. This complexity requires good project management processes and skills in place. One of the first methodologies for managing projects was the Waterfall approach, popularized in the 1970s. It’s a straightforward approach based on a sequential order of processes. The waterfall approach works well in construction and manufacturing, where it originated, but it has serious shortcomings when applied to software development. It’s too rigid and doesn’t factor in the iterative nature of the development process.

To deal with these problems, a new approach was created–Agile software development. It’s better at accommodating the needs of the software development cycle. As the name implies, it’s much more agile, as it considers all the fluidity and turbulence of the process. Agile is iterative, flexible, and embraces uncertainty.

While being a superior approach, it has one trouble that had to be addressed at some point. Two major stakeholders in the process–development and operations teams–are often isolated and not interacting much with each other. These teams also tend to have slightly different goals, not aligned with each other perfectly. For developers, the focus is on change; their goal is to continuously improve the software and introduce new functions. As for operations teams, their focus is on stability–the app should work smoothly and without interruptions. These differences, paired with a lack of intercommunication, can lead to severe development disruptions.

What was needed is a bridge between both teams, so DevOps’ concept came to life. The word DevOps is a portmanteau of terms development and operations. It is a philosophy that encourages and promotes better collaboration and communication between these two teams. The concept was born in 2008 after the exchange between Andrew Shafer and Patrick Debois. In October 2009, Patrick assembled a conference in Ghent called DevOpsDays. It was the beginning of the movement as the idea began to spread. In the years to come, DevOpsDays grew in popularity. In 2021, there are 16 conferences planned in different cities across the globe.

DevOps: How it works

DevOps permeates all stages of the development cycle. Usually, it is visualized as an infinity loop that includes the following stages: plan, code, build, test, release, deploy, operate, monitor, and back to plan. Each phase comprises communication and close collaboration between the teams. The end goal is to have a software that meets all requirements, deploys without errors and runs smoothly from the beginning—all of this without any unnecessary waste of time.

To achieve this, DevOps uses both cultural elements and technical stacks to increase the speed and accuracy of the process. Cultural elements of DevOps include principles such as constant collaboration, communication, gradual changes, full responsibility of all stakeholders, and early problem identification and solving. For the technical side of things, DevOps practitioners rely on code repositories, CI/CD pipelines, cloud environments, and containers, among others.

DevOps: Benefits of implementing in your organization

While it takes time and resources to establish DevOps culture and tech in your organization, its benefits will pay off in the long run. Some of the most important benefits of DevOps include:

  • Speed and rapid delivery
    It allows to deploy faster and deliver new updates quicker than usually. This is especially valuable in dynamic industries where you have to stay ahead of your competition.
  • Higher product quality
    The rapid nature of the development under DevOps allows to catch and fix errors faster. Because of continuous feedback collection and better processing, teams can implement new features more frequently.
  • Collaboration and trust
    Teams that adhere to DevOps principles are more productive, take full responsibility for their actions, and can innovate better due to higher engagement in the process.
  • Cost reduction
    Properly implemented DevOps allows decreasing of the downtime and management complexity, which reduces production costs.
  • DevOps: How to implement in your organization
    If DevOps sounds like something that your company can benefit from, here are the steps you should take next.
  • Introduce a DevOps initiative
    A company’s CIO organizes DevOps initiative and allocates the financial and human resources in the most optimal way. After that, a program manager creates and implements the DevOps strategy.
  • Create the DevOps strategy
    A program manager aligns teams to improve collaboration between the teams and introduces the best development and testing practices.
  • Implement containerization
    Containerization quickly becomes an essential process in the modern software development cycle. It allows running the code in any environment without complex dependencies on external libraries. When properly implemented, containerization allows moving a program from one domain to another (e.g., from development to production) with no errors and delays.
  • Integrate infrastructure with CI/CD tools
    Containerized software needs to be appropriately managed. Integrating infrastructure automation apps such as Ansible or Kubernetes with CI/CD tools such as Jenkins or Bamboo ensures effective deployment.
  • Increase the test automation and align development with QA
    Introducing more test automation allows to shorten the development cycle and deliver software faster. However, you don’t have to automate all tests; some of them, such as functional testing, can remain manual. Closely aligning development and QA teams allows to detect and fix bugs faster.
  • Monitor application performance
    Application performance monitoring provides insights about application defects and helps to isolate them. It’s a critical step that allows to isolate and fix problems before they affect the end-users.Implementing DevOps principles in your company could be a costly and time-consuming process. But the increased speed and quality of the product are certainly going to offset all the costs. But even more importantly, the cultural transformation will encourage creativity and make the company a much better place.