Before DevOps: Key Problems
In today’s competitive market, it’s imperative that businesses have resources to continuously (and rapidly) upgrade, improve, and scale. Can a traditional software development framework support and sustain these efforts? Let’s analyze this question and try to answer it.
First, to develop software applications faster, you must (by definition) reduce the duration of the development cycle. Unfortunately, a traditional monolithic architecture does not facilitate efficient and quick development cycles. That’s because such an architecture is based on two underlying concepts: interconnectedness and dependency.
Interconnectedness refers to the development of applications in a manner that evokes interconnectivity between different components of the application. For instance, when one developer writes a few lines of code, the next developer stacks their code on top and so on. This means that subsequent developers will write code that is dependent on the code of the previous developers. Thus, lines of code written for one component of the application are interconnected and dependent on other subsequent components. But this “interconnected” framework causes the entire application to crumble down if one component fails.
Traditional monolithic software architectures are not conducive to iterative development cycles and efficient design due to the unified, dependent, and sequential process of development that they necessitate.
The underlying software development process in a given organization must support scalability to ensure that applications are continuously upgraded and improved. This is where the concept of dependency fits in. Traditional monolithic architecture allows for dependencies to build up between the application and the underlying OS used by the developers. When the operations team receives the application, each member of the team can have a different underlying environment/OS. This may prevent the application from running. The end result is a culture of “us versus them,” which slows down the whole process and creates internal conflicts within the organization.
Moreover, this dependency issue does not support scalability because different versions of the applications must be built for different OS. The problem is that there is no proper way to address the dependency issues between the application and the required environment that enables the application to run.
In the following section, you will see how adopting DevOps can fix these problems.
Finding a Fix: DevOps Framework
DevOps is a culture, a philosophy, and a set of practices that are designed to enable rapid, efficient, and continuous software (application) development and deployment pipelines.
This definition loosely claims to address the problems associated with traditional software development paradigms. This is because DevOps evolved over the years (passing from the waterfall model to the Agile development model) as a solution to these major problems.
Recall the key issues we addressed earlier:
Interconnectedness: a unified, dependent, and sequential process of development
Dependency: no proper way to address the dependency issues between the application and the required environment that enables the application to run
Siloed culture: no communication and collaboration between the teams
DevOps often requires a microservice architecture to enable rapid development. Microservice architecture breaks down the unified (holistic) development of an application into smaller, independent services (components). Complex applications can be broken down into smaller, independent modules that can be deployed on the go.
Each component is built in a parallel and independent manner as a microservice, removing any interconnectivity between different components. Thus, if one microservice fails, the others remain unaffected.
Moreover, developers can quickly identify the failed component and resolve the issue. On the other hand, in a monolithic architecture, developers would spend hours scanning the entire stack of code just to identify the source of the issue while the whole application was shut down.
Containers to the Rescue
DevOps makes use of containers to enable rapid deployment. Container images are packages that encapsulate the microservices with the libraries and executables necessary to run the application on different OSes. This eliminates the issue of dependency between the OS and the application and enables scalability.
Thus, when the operations team receives the code, they don’t have to worry about configuring their OS. Instead, the container image is packaged along with all the configuration files, libraries, and other files necessary to execute the code. This enables error-free application deployment that is quick and consistent.
Gone are the days when the teams worked together for months to see the results of their hard work. DevOps evokes a cultural shift in the organization, centering around smaller successes and getting things done. It changes the mindset of the team members and orients them toward a dynamic environment that entails collaboration and shared responsibility.
The following section will provide further insight into the cultural aspects of DevOps.
What Is the DevOps Culture?
DevOps is as much a cultural shift as it is technological. Here are a few ways in which DevOps changes the culture of the organization:
As opposed to a siloed culture, DevOps softens the rigid divide between the developer and operations teams, allowing them to combine their workflows and goals. It enables continuous integration and communication to ensure rapid development and deployment. This collaboration evokes a culture of shared responsibility.
There is no longer a dependency between the team members when developing and/or deploying an application. Each member works independently, using their own technology stack without worrying about dependency issues. This allows for team autonomy and enables high-speed production.
The rapid deployment of applications gives organizations a competitive advantage, allowing them to quickly identify what their customers want. By doing so, they can rapidly incorporate new features and resolve any issues faced by the customers. This continuous feedback mechanism improves customer experience.
The communication between the different teams builds a culture of trust and transparency. The focus shifts to customer experience rather than the conflicts between the teams.
The dynamic culture of DevOps models necessitates automation. Automation is critical to driving productivity and ensuring rapid development and deployment.
Now that you know how DevOps can change the mindset and culture of an organization, let’s look at how to incorporate it into an organization.
How to Practice DevOps
The DevOps shift doesn’t mean that you have to redesign your entire business structure. Rather, instill DevOps as a habit by training teams to adapt to different aspects of DevOps.
For instance, you can encourage automation through the use of tools such as Selenium, Docker, and Ansible. The idea is to use tools and technology to introduce a shift in the organization.
Here are a few tips to help organizations practice DevOps.
Establish a Collaborative Environment
Team members are the key players in the DevOps model. Instead of strictly dividing the teams, devise a combined workflow that enables communication and collaboration. Combine the teams by formulating shared goals and responsibilities. This will facilitate the transition to a DevOps model and shift the focus of the teams to improved customer experience.
Introduce Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD)
Continuous integration allows team members to seamlessly combine code commits from different developers. Continuous delivery entails bringing together different teams (design, operations, marketing) to ensure rapid delivery of applications. You can establish these practices through automation tools and constant collaboration between the teams.
Automate as Much as You Can
Apart from setting up CI/CD pipelines, gradually set up continuous testing and continuous deployment pipelines. Continuous testing and deployment allows you to automate different types of tests to ensure rapid deployment. Automating unit tests, functional tests, and integration tests can speed up the process of application deployment.
Adopt Infrastructure as Code
Traditionally, companies managed IT infrastructures manually and on-site. This involves manually setting up and building servers, allocating resources, and configuring the whole system. Managing such an infrastructure is an expensive process because it requires a company to hire system administrators to manually configure any changes. Furthermore, scaling applications comes at the cost of speed. Adopting Infrastructure as Code (IaC) allows configurations through code, increasing the speed of configuring and deploying applications. It also instills the concept of automation within the culture of the organization.
Use the Right Tools
Adapting to the dynamic environment of DevOps requires choosing the right toolset. At each phase of the DevOps model, the right tools must be incorporated to ensure fast and efficient delivery of applications. The tools should cover a wide range of processes from both the developer end and the operations end. This includes continuous integration, testing, deployment, configuration management, and monitoring. Furthermore, the tools used at each step of the pipeline must be able to integrate and work alongside each other. Customizing your own toolchain from the start to the end of the DevOps pipeline is crucial.
Traditional software development frameworks did not facilitate or support a cohesive development and deployment process. DevOps improves this process through the principles of microservices, containerization, automation, and more. This eventually improves customer experience, enables organizational growth, and allows businesses to thrive in extremely competitive markets.
This post was written by Zulaikha Greer. Zulaikha is a tech enthusiast with expertise in various domains such as data science, ML, and statistics. She enjoys researching cognitive science, marketing, and design. She's a cat lover by nature who loves to read—you can often find her with a book, enjoying Beethoven's, Mozart's, or Vivaldi's legendary pieces.
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