DevOps Methodology: Understanding the Approach and Philosophy
We all recognize by now that technology must constantly become faster and more secure. The market demand to build software of higher and higher quality has resulted in the widespread adoption of software processes (such as agile methodology) designed to deliver a safe, working product as fast as possible.
DevOps, an extension of agile, has been around for quite some time. It's now gaining popularity in large enterprises because they have begun to see and understand its ability to speed up software development and deployment.
It's worth noting that DevOps is often viewed as a tool, although this is an oversimplification. In this article, we'll look at DevOps as a cultural approach. We'll also discuss how DevOps promotes developer productivity, software delivery optimization, and collaboration across the enterprise.
What Is DevOps?
While there is no universally agreed-upon definition, DevOps can be described as a loosely held set of best practices that merge development and IT operations to deliver faster and better software. Jez Humble, the co-author of several influential books on DevOps, describes it as “a cross-disciplinary community of practice dedicated to the study of building, evolving, and operating rapidly changing resilient systems at scale.”
DevOps is also known for emphasizing automation. Although DevOps is commonly associated with automation technologies, discussing DevOps solely in terms of automation falls short of conveying the concept of DevOps.
Instead, DevOps should be viewed as a holistic shift in an organization's thinking. Let's take a closer look at how development and IT operations teams use DevOps as a philosophy to deliver quality software.
DevOps as a Philosophy
DevOps is a culture that must be adopted at the corporate level to be most effective.
It's critical to recognize that DevOps is not a person or a job title. Rather, it's an organizational philosophy that leads to efficient software deployments, quality software, and better use of resources.
As a philosophy, DevOps focuses on how people and processes interact. "People," in this sense, refers to developers as well as other departments that make up the organization. “Processes” refer to an organization’s workflows for planning, system metrics and evaluation, implementation, quality assurance, and deployment.
DevOps instills values that become ingrained in the culture of the organization. Let's explore the key ideologies underlying DevOps as a philosophy.
Involve the Team in Processes
Communication is at the heart of DevOps. So, DevOps is most effective when team members take part in the processes, including decision-making. Members of the team should be aware of the product's requirements and expected outcomes. They should be actively involved in the planning stages, as well as product testing. Every team member should feel like they are contributing to the software product's success.
Get Feedback Early and Often
A feedback system is necessary since members of different teams are expected to contribute to the same project. In an organization, sharing feedback between teams should be as seamless as possible. These responses could take the form of surveys, interviews, or other means.
Aside from team feedback, it's critical to provide a channel for obtaining external feedback, particularly from end users.
Implement Changes Continuously
Implementing changes is a vital part of software processes, as it is with all good things. These modifications could be the result of user feedback or a new feature release. It's important to evolve in response to changes in software requirements while making those changes as seamless as possible.
Accountability is key. Each member of the software development team has an assigned role. Team members are encouraged to take on new roles and provide feedback on their progress. This allows them to track their progress and make a significant contribution to the team. Everyone has a role to fulfill, and DevOps encourages team members to be accountable to one another.
Adopt the Right Tools
To successfully implement DevOps, you need the right tools. DevOps teams commonly rely on deployment and automation tools, for example.
How DevOps Impacts Software Development
When the ideals presented above are carved into an organization's processes, they promote better team engagement. This leads to a more dynamic atmosphere where repeated practices can lead to faster, higher-quality software.
Prior to the emergence of DevOps, software development was less flexible, and often adhered to the waterfall model. We'll go over how software was traditionally approached in the next section. Then, we'll discuss how DevOps has changed software development.
The Traditional Approach to Software Development
Traditionally, software development went step-by-step. The software development lifecycle (SDLC) could be iterative or sequential, depending on the method chosen. The deployment stage was typically viewed as a single, final step.
Despite having similar development processes, this is not the case in the DevOps approach to building software.
The DevOps Approach to Software Development
In an organization committed to DevOps, planning, coding, implementation, testing, and deployments occur in short bursts or sprints. When an application is deployed, teams get feedback quickly and update the product accordingly as soon as possible.
Deployments are an iterative process in this approach because one of the foundations of DevOps is early and frequent feedback. A quality-driven mindset is essential.
Updates from both user and system feedback channels are constantly shared among teams. System feedback could include information about the application, system performance, and so on. The application is thoroughly tested and monitored, and the appropriate metrics are measured. The deployment environment implements reporting and logging systems to enable a seamless feedback loop.
The following are some distinct concepts associated with implementing a DevOps approach to software development.
DevOps promotes smaller and more frequent code pushes to a shared version control system like Git. An integration server (e.g., Jenkins) fetches code committed to a central repository. The integration server runs jobs that compile code, run unit and integration tests, and create packages.
With more code changes per day, it’s easier to take action on feedback quickly. By merging smaller chunks of code more frequently, developers can avoid complex integration issues that often occur when large changes are merged all at once.
With continuous integration, automated tests run before the software is deployed into the deployment pipeline to help ensure that new commits will not break anything. (Later stages also include tests to confirm that the software is consistent in both the deployment and development environments.)
Compiled code is automatically deployed to the test server, and after further evaluation, the team receives feedback on the application status. In this stage, the deployed application undergoes user acceptance testing (UAT). This ensures that the application will perform as expected by the user. Continuous delivery deploys code to a testing environment (or with the right safeguards, directly to production) with the goal of detecting potential application flaws.
With continuous delivery, your code is always kept in a state that is ready to deploy. Deployment to the production environment should happen as quickly as possible to keep your releases small and easy to fix or roll back.
In continuous deployment, the built code is automatically tested and approved for use in the production environment. Automating this process requires an upfront investment in engineering resources as well as regular maintenance, but it pays off in increased developer productivity and increased agility in responding to customer feedback. Achieving continuous deployment is a significant milestone in an organization’s DevOps journey.
Infrastructure as Code
Akin to writing application code, infrastructures are provisioned using written scripts. These scripts specify system requirements including infrastructure configuration and management. These scripts are known as configuration files.
A version control system includes configuration files, much like application code. Versioning the infrastructure codebase makes it easier to track and manage changes throughout the entire infrastructure.
Logging and Monitoring
Organizations use tools to keep track of actions that occur in the app and to generate reports on incidents that the app has encountered. They also use tools to track metrics and logs. Teams use these metrics and logs to understand how application and infrastructure performance affect end-user experience.
With the help of monitoring and logging technologies, organizations learn how changes affect users. Analyzing logs generated by applications provides information about the root causes of issues or unexpected developments.
The Impact of DevOps as a Philosophy
DevOps is a philosophy that focuses on people and processes in an organization. Some visible effects of DevOps include:
A team's sense of accountability.
More productive developers.
A more effective method of sharing product feedback.
Higher-quality software that’s more secure.
Better team communication.
Improved use of software development best practices.
Faster application and operational resolution.
In order to reap these benefits, you need an organization-wide commitment to a cultural shift. Having the right tools, however, can help smooth the transition and improve processes.
The DevOps toolchain is a collection of technologies designed to address the technical aspects of development and IT operations in an organization. The goal is to automate the development and deployment processes so that software can be delivered quickly, reliably, and safely.
DevOps tools are often integrated into one or more activities of a software development process. To get an in-depth look at some toolchains for different DevOps practices, check out this blog post: DevOps Tools: 11 That Can Help You Ship Fast—and Predictably.
Quality Matters, and DevOps Is Here to Help
We highlighted the importance of a culture shift in organizations and looked at the key principles driving DevOps, such as early feedback. We also explored common DevOps development approaches. As we observed, a key difference from traditional practices is that the deployment stage is considered an iterative process. Finally, we highlighted some of the benefits of DevOps, and we pointed out some resources to learn more about a few of the most common technologies used.
DevOps has taken the software industry by storm, but it’s still an evolving practice. We can expect to see faster and more innovative software as enterprises fully embrace DevOps.
This post was written by Ifenna Okoye. Ifenna is a software developer with a particular interest in back-end technologies including Python and Node.js.
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