In the traditional software development model, the development team and operations teams worked as separate departments. The development team would design projects, write the code, and forward it to the operations team. The operations team would test and implement the code and later send feedback to the development team. Often, this resulted in delays in launching projects, fixing bugs, and the release of new versions of software. DevOps is an approach to software projects where the two departments work together to continuously improve software delivery.
At its core, DevOps is a philosophy as opposed to technology. Instead of having siloed departments, the lifecycle of software takes centre stage. Different tech skills and technology are deployed across an application’s entire lifecycle to create an infinite loop of planning, coding, building, testing, deploying, monitoring, and providing feedback. The software goes through many iterations of itself as small incremental changes are made.
How DevOps Works
Certain best practices underpin the DevOps approach to software development. The first is build automation. The development team relies on automated code preparation for deployment to a live environment. This automated build is more reliable than a manual build and also faster. Continuous integration is another best practice that helps the team identify bugs such as compilation errors early.
Continuous development is also a major part of the DevOps approach. This refers to the deployment of small code changes to production in a routine and frequent process. The major benefit here is a faster time to market new features and be able to roll back to previous versions.
Microservices architecture is critical to the success of a DevOps model. In this approach, each feature of an application is seen as an independent service and built as such. It communicates with other services via an interface such as an API. The advantage here is that each microservice can be built using different frameworks and programming languages. It can be maintained and deployed independently.
DevOps teams need to constantly monitor and log data on how customers are experiencing their products. This also needs to be automated. The team needs to understand how changes and updates affect the customer experience. Data constitutes feedback that informs what the team wants to do in the future. As indicated, an infinite loop exists with a view to always improve the product.
The Benefits of a DevOps Approach to Software Delivery
The first major benefit is a collaboration between team members. Breaking down the wall between the development and operations teams creates common goals for everyone to pursue. Everyone works towards creating the best possible features for the customers. In traditional software delivery, there was often friction owing to having different KPIs for both teams.
The second benefit is the fluidity due to the infinite loop created. The automation of the build process means that once the code is ready, it’s tested using the selected tools and automatically deployed if it’s passed as ready. If not, developers get feedback, and the result is faster improvements. There is less guesswork in the development process.
Having infrastructure as a code to help you integrate, test and deploy what you are building is crucial for scaling. Once you have the infrastructure ready, you can test and deploy repeatedly, thus helping you maintain complex systems with very low risk. You can have multiple engineers working on different features of the product with no risk of deploying something that causes the entire product to fail.
The DevOps philosophy of heavily automating the building, testing, and deployment phases means that you can still enforce compliance with also prioritizing speed. It’s possible to write compliance tests and other controls so that you subject all code to them. Policy-as-code refers to a dynamic approach to enforcing and tracking compliance to laws such as HIPAA. You can quickly flag non-compliant resources for investigation.
Picking the Right DevOps Tools
Once companies understand the value of adopting a DevOps approach to software delivery, it’s easy to delay in choosing the right technology stack. The DevOps team needs to settle on a strategy that will inform the tools they’ll need. The tools fall into categories:
- Version Control- These are tools that track software versions with each release. They number the versions and also track the configuration and environmental dependencies present. Git is arguably the most popular version control solution.
- Build and Deploy Tools- These tools automate the building and deployment of software, allowing for continuous development and continuous integration. They include Jenkins, GitLab, Bamboo, and AWS CodeDeploy.
- Functional and Non-Functional Testing tools- These tools automate the testing process on parameters such as performance, security, and integration. Selenium is a popular framework for writing tests in multiple programming languages like Java, PHP, Python and Ruby.
- Provisioning Tools- These tools help with the allocation of the platforms necessary for deployment. Docker is a prime example.
When picking the tools to use, the DevOps team should aim to automate most if not all of the building and deployment process. They should also be quick to sort out any inefficiencies they notice in the entire process.
DevOps is a complex undertaking owing to the need to rely heavily on multiple technology stacks and continuously improve the product. The first challenge is to ensure that the team has the right technical knowledge to make full use of the tools at their disposal. However, there is also the risk of focusing too much on the tools and losing sight of what’s more important- your product. There needs to be a clear vision of what the tools and processes need to deliver.
At Transcendent Software, we help our clients implement a DevOps approach to their software delivery. We help our clients evolve their products quicker, integrate user feedback into newer software versions and highly automate their software development workflow. Their software engineers spend less time performing tests and documentation and instead focus more hours on more critical work. Schedule a consultation call with us today.