The goal of software organizations, no matter their size, is to create and deliver the best solutions to their customers as efficiently and reliably as possible. In a highly competitive market, this is often what separates success from failure.
DevOps promotes cooperation and better communication among everyone involved in the modern software development lifecycle, accelerating time to value.
Certainly, DevOps implementation isn't a walk in the park. It requires structural changes from software businesses, and all team members should adjust and embrace this cultural shift.
Fortunately, tools exist that can help reinforce DevOps practices and quickly make an impact. These tools work together—they form a chain, so to speak. When combined with efforts at the cultural level, they can help ensure every phase of software development becomes more efficient and predictable.
What Is a DevOps Toolchain?
DevOps can’t be reduced to tools alone, but using effective tools is an important piece of the journey to DevOps maturity.
A DevOps toolchain created for your company's specific needs can help you stay on track and ensure that your software development process is working efficiently. Additionally, it helps prioritize complicated tasks and assists team members in completing them with minimum effort.
Having a DevOps toolchain can bring several benefits to organizations. With the proper implementation, it ensures higher product quality and rapid deployment, and minimizes the time to find and fix problems. Product delivery gets faster, as automation allows more efficient management of human, time and financial resources. Also, an effective DevOps toolchain can optimize the development process by improving cross-team collaboration and eliminating silos.
For the purposes of this article, we’ve broken down the modern software development lifecycle into eight phases: plan, code, build, test, release, deploy, operate and monitor. We’ll outline popular and useful tools for each phase.
Best Tools for Each Phase
Before the developers begin coding, the planning phase takes place. Here, teams collect and filter general input and product requirements and create development guidelines.
Jira is a project management and agile-friendly planning tool. It helps you with your sprint planning and allows you to take large, complicated projects and break them into much smaller, more manageable components. Jira offers several features that are designed for DevOps planning and support team communication.
At this stage, the coding starts. The tools available facilitate the process by ensuring that all developers follow coding best practices consistently and that they cooperate smoothly.
GitHub is a popular version control system used widely by IT teams. It can manage projects of any size and is highly reliable. GitHub is easy to use and makes challenging tasks like saving versions of your code, checking them and restoring them if needed much more effortless and secure.
Bitbucket is a Git-based version control system used for source code hosting and software development projects. It's Atlassian-owned, just like Jira, making the integration between them seamless. It allows team members to collaborate effectively on the same codebase and offers guidelines for smooth development flow. Bitbucket acts as a single point of management even for large projects with significant numbers of repositories, making it a solid choice for IT teams.
The build stage automates repetitive and time-consuming steps like ensuring all code dependencies are in place, code compiling and so on. Build automation tools also validate whether the code is secure and follows industry standards.
Apache Maven is a project management and comprehension tool. It plays a vital role in DevOps, allowing you to quickly build your code, perform unit testing, check code dependencies and create reports. Maven uses XML to describe builds, is relatively easy to use and provides best practice guidelines to help you execute complex tasks more efficiently.
Gradle is a build automation tool that allows you to have multi-project builds with code written in various languages like Java and Python. Gradle compiles code fast because of its incremental builds and its build cache mechanism. Unlike Maven, it uses Groovy-based Domain Specific Language (DSL) to describe builds and is considered more advanced than XML. Overall, with Gradle, you have many project configuration capabilities that allow you to ship fast.
Before changes or new features go to production, builds go through a staging environment. There, manual testing techniques like User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and automated techniques like performance and regression testing verify code is working correctly before it goes live.
Release and Deploy Phases
After you test a build, it's time to go live. There are tools that can automate this process seamlessly while providing you with flexibility as to when you can release or who can release to production.
Jenkins is a widely used open-source automation server that can speed up software development. With Jenkins, you can automate your entire continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline, including the efficient deployment of your build to production. It integrates with hundreds of tools, including popular DevOps tools like GitHub, Maven and Gradle.
CloudBees helps enterprises streamline end-to-end workflows to make them faster, compliant, more predictable and more secure. CloudBees Continuous Delivery includes pipeline and environment management, deployment automation and pipeline analytics. CloudBees Release Orchestration offers higher-order visibility and management across multiple releases and environments, with release dependency views and real-time audit reporting. Both capabilities give you the opportunity to connect software delivery directly to business outcomes, and they help your developers innovate rather than wasting valuable time on managing tooling and infrastructure.
Puppet is a configuration management tool that makes sure your systems are properly configured and operating as expected. Additionally, Puppet is a popular automation deployment tool that allows you to deploy your software to all or a selection of your systems. Puppet guarantees that your software will be deployed accurately and securely, and it simplifies the process of implementing any kind of changes to your code.
Chef is a configuration management tool that allows you to automate builds and deployments on several servers and other assets of your business by using scripts referred to as "recipes." Chef is open source, has a good graphical user interface for simple management and offers great customization capabilities to teams with Ruby skills.
The last phase that leads you back to the beginning is the monitor phase. Here the goal is to collect data and feedback from previous phases about the overall performance of your code. Automated monitoring tools provide a real-time overview of your pipeline and instantly inform responsible team members if problems occur.
Nagios is one of the most popular monitoring tools. With Nagios, you can monitor the health of your networks, systems, and infrastructure. There are thousands of plugins available for Nagios that will help you customize the tool to serve your needs. With its features, you can proactively detect and solve potential issues before they escalate. Nagios is also open source and has a large community where you can go with questions or for general guidance.
Implementing DevOps successfully isn't a simple task you can achieve overnight. It requires a cultural shift and genuine commitment at all levels. Tools can’t guarantee the meaningful adoption of DevOps in your organization, but they can help you gain the most out of this set of practices as you continue to reinforce them over time. A toolchain that works for your needs will allow you to automate complicated and time-consuming tasks, streamline your delivery pipeline and simplify administration. With the help of DevOps tools and practices, you'll be able to ship high-quality, secure products lightning-fast—with predictability.
This post was written by Alex Doukas. Alex’s main area of expertise is web development and everything that comes along with it.