A Comprehensive Guide To DevOps
DevOps, in a nutshell, brings new software applications to the market more quickly than ever before and hastens upgrades to existing software. It gets the right people talking to each other, automates various development tasks and makes business leaders happy. What’s not to love?
So, hop on and explore DevOps, its history, benefits, importance and future!
The HBO show Silicon Valley follows the endless struggles of software engineer Richard Hendricks as he attempts to speed up the internet using a proprietary compression algorithm he created. Much of the show’s (hilarious) tension revolves around Richard’s company, Pied Piper, bringing the technology to market before his much larger competitors. Throughout the series, there are many scenes featuring software engineers squinting at computers as they attempt to fix bugs or streamline the product.
Pied Piper’s problem is that there’s no communication between development and operations and no efficiency model focused on iterative software development, automation or programmable infrastructure deployment and maintenance.
In short, things keep breaking down constantly.
The software Pied Piper creates to showcase the algorithm is perpetually failing (or being hacked) or the infrastructure it’s built on fails. In one case, the server literally catches fire!
Adding to the fray is the lack of communication between developers and operations teams (we’re using the term “teams” loosely here since the show starts out with a skeleton crew of employees). Each team member has his or her own agenda and this disparity slows the entire development process to a crawl. What Richard and his Pied Piper team need is a good DevOps model that prioritizes the rapid development of software through its entire lifecycle.
What Is DevOps?
DevOps, a mashup of “development” and “operations,” is a business model focused on accelerating the process of creating and delivering software (traditionally, a very slow and cumbersome process). DevOps is not one single technology or platform. Rather, it’s a methodology that’s focused on improving work throughout the entire software development process.
DevOps takes the typically siloed development and operations teams and smushes them together (in a good way), empowering them to communicate and leverage processes and technologies that streamline the end result (namely, creating software that users like and that works!).
In an environment where being first-to-market is often a game changer for the lucky company that crosses the finish line before everyone else, a successful DevOps model is essential. Survival is at stake, folks! Just ask Richard Hendricks.
Before we go into the details of how DevOps works including specific features and benefits, let’s travel back into history and learn where it all started.
DevOps — A Brief History
Traditional software development involved a hierarchy of developers, systems administrators, project managers and QA professionals. Each player in this complex game washyper focused on their own priorities. When problems arose (and they always did!), the entire delicate cycle of coding, testing and releasing apps came to a halt until the issue was fixed. The issue could be a server going down or a bug in the code or a critical problem with the usability of the software. Each team then scrambled to address the problem and/or offload it to the appropriate team.
The above scenario is called the “Waterfall approach” and it was popularized in the 1970s because it was thought to be effective at solving problems (it wasn’t and isn’t, so please stop using it!).
Thirty years later, the “agile software development” approach was created. Agile frameworks addressed the chaos and inflexibility of the waterfall approach by focusing on team collaboration and practices that helped people better their work output.
Agile development sped up the production cycle but it failed to eliminate the demanding and chaotic environments inherent in software development. Even with better collaboration, development and operations teams remained siloed.
DevOps emerged in 2008 from a conversation between a project manager and agile practitioner, Patrick Dubois and software developer Andrew Shafer. Both men were concerned about the agile framework’s shortcomings. DevOps — as a philosophy and software development model — gained traction quickly after that initial conversation.
DevOps’s focus on cross-department integration between developers (the programmers) and operations (the people who build and maintain the infrastructure that the programs run on), took agile development to the next level. Read on to learn how!
How Does DevOps Work?
DevOps is not one single technology but a combination of methodologies, approaches and technologies that work together to facilitate the rapid deployment of new applications. The practice of DevOps involves different types of tools and methodologies.
Here are the key ones to keep in mind:
Continuous Integration (CI)
focuses on immediate testing and reporting common, isolated changes right when they’re added to the larger code base. This rapid feedback helps identify and address defects in the code so they can be fixed quickly.
Continuous Delivery (CD)
approach ensures that software development teams create and test code in short, continuous cycles. Automation is often incorporated into this process, speeding up development and reducing problems that might “break” the product because the focus is on incremental changes rather than big, sweeping upgrades.
(are you sensing a pattern here?) refers to the process of automatically releasing software updates to end users once the new version passes the (automated) testing phase. This is a slippery slope and is ill advised unless your CI/CD approaches are buttoned up.
Now, let’s understand why this loop is critical for software development.
Why Do We Need DevOps?
DevOps speeds up software development, enabling companies to go live quickly. It solves the problem of poor communication between the IT and development team, which leads to chaos. DevOps’ benefits are many, including:
Eliminating siloes between IT groups, leading to happiness (and better communication) throughout the development process.
Blisteringly fast software releases. Okay, maybe “blisteringly” is a bit much but you get the picture.
Less downtime when problems do arise (and they always arise, don’t they?). Communication is good!
Happier programmers due to increased automation of boring and menial tasks.
An overall sense of oneness with the universe or, at least, improved teamwork, responsibility and code ownership across all team members. Let’s face it, all team members are in it together.
DevOps is about collaboration, proactive thinking and a more deliberate method of creating software products. It focuses on improved communication and strives for order over chaos. However, that’s not all...
The Future Of DevOps
As companies embrace digital transformation, the DevOps approach will become even more valuable to business leaders. The trend fueling increased DevOps adoption is, inevitably, improving the customer experience.
Launching new products and rolling out features for existing products quickly (and effectively) requires a buttoned-up DevOps process with clear communications across IT, operations, security and customer teams. Speaking of security, it will play an increasingly critical role in the DevOps process thanks to the rise of serverless and cloud-native technologies. This even has its own (weird) term — DevSecOps (e.g., “development + security + operations”).
Finally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be married with DevOps to create a Frankenstein-ish acronym AIOps. Basically, DevOps will employ AI technologies with predictive capabilities that aim to make the entire DevOps cycle more efficient. This will allow developers and operations teams to focus on creating even better products and release them ridiculously fast and fast is the end game here, remember?
Just ask Richard Hendricks. He knows the drill!
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