Let’s face it, if you’re in IT, then you know that DevOps is one the hottest buzzwords in the IT space – and it’s quickly emerging as the new standard for how IT organizations can produce excellent outcomes in a faster, easier way. But like any emerging concept, confusion surrounds how to run DevOps for peak performance – and many business leaders are unclear about what DevOps even entails. So let’s get to it.
Previously, IT organizations operated as independent silos: specialists worked within their departments and communicated with other divisions as needed. Developers and quality assurance (QA) engineers washed their hands of new applications or feature codes as soon as testing was successfully completed, and operations stepped up to push them through production and maintain performance.
But software and technology no longer simply support businesses, they’re integral to their current and future success. Gartner asserts that market demand for mobile application development services alone is growing five times faster than internal IT organizations can deliver them.
Enterprise development teams face mounting pressure to develop more applications faster – and it’s exposing the inefficiency of the old IT model. IT teams of all sizes are racing to embrace DevOps to increase productivity and speed time to market for new applications, while minimizing costs and building better-quality software that scales easily and delivers positive user experiences.
DevOps isn’t a tangible thing. You can’t hold it. You can’t eat it or drink it. You can’t take it for a walk. It’s an IT philosophy that tears down the walls between development, operations, and QA by combining their competencies into a continuous delivery system. It’s based on the theory that creating a culture where product development, testing, and implementation/support work closely together throughout the entire software development lifecycle – instead of in silos – makes it easier to spot and address human errors, bugs, and design flaws earlier in the process.
This continuous feedback loop/delivery system shortens response times and enables developers to continuously release software based on user feedback and usage behavior. In addition, DevOps also minimizes contention by giving all stakeholders clear insight into the challenges that arise at every stage; and trust us, there will always be challenges!
Let’s talk about slow, manual processes real quick. Slow manual processes are automated whenever possible to enhance the rate at which new applications are deployed. Increasingly though, DevOps automation is cloud-centric, thus empowering developers to respond to business needs in near real-time.
Generally, DevOps involves three core practices. Let's look at them:
- Infrastructure as Code (IaC). Server environments for applications are automatically provisioned and managed using code, instead of a manual process that involves configuring discrete hardware devices and operating systems. This keeps computing resources elastic and responsive to frequent changes, enabling them to be adjusted by any team member and reused multiple times to supply the necessary infrastructure for testing, building code, and maintaining apps in production.
- Continuous Integration (CI). Feedback from project stakeholders and end users is continuously integrated into products through small, frequent updates. Consider it a way to manage expectations.
- Continuous Delivery (CD). Automatic code delivery pipelines ensure that code changes are automatically built, tested, and prepared for release to production. Rolling updates enable new code to be added without interrupting end user experience.
By now, if you think that DevOps is more than just streamlining workflows, you’re right. It’s about making IT more successful; giving it the tools to develop, deliver, and manage software faster and the agility to easily respond to business needs, customer issues, and regulatory changes. This in in turn, allows the organization to serve its customers better and compete more effectively in the market. Think about this… By 2025, the global DevOps market is expected to reach $12.85 billion. That’s a big number right?
Let’s take a look at seven best practices companies can use to generate peak performance from DevOps:
- Start small. The existing processes and ingrained culture of an entire IT organization can't – and shouldn’t - be transformed overnight. Instead, focus on a project or team that could benefit from DevOps practices. Be sure to select a project that’s meaningful so it isn’t discounted, but has a high chance of success. An early win builds confidence and lays the groundwork for future DevOps efforts.
- Foster collaboration. There’s no room for the blame game here. The ultimate goal of DevOps is to unite development, operations, and QA into a cross-functional team focused on delivering common objectives. A digital transformation, let alone any transformation won’t work if team members don’t build trust and view each other as important stakeholders. Encouraging these departments to regularly communicate, share ideas, and problem-solve as a team is critical to breaking down established silos.
- Embrace the DevOps culture. Above everything else, DevOps is a cultural change – and changing an organization’s culture is one of the most difficult challenges business leaders can face. New policies and procedures will fail without constant commitment from the stakeholders involved. Investing in automation and buying the right tools are important, but they are intended to support DevOps, not create it.
While fostering a DevOps culture should start with top-level management, grooming likable grassroots leaders from each team can help achieve employee buy-in. Educate developers and operations staff about the value each brings to the organization, and shift your incentive model to reward DevOps initiatives.
Fully embracing DevOps also means changing attitudes about failure. Empowering teams to radically transform their work is bound to cause some missteps. An important part of DevOps culture is embracing a “climate for learning,” transforming failures into opportunities to learn and ultimately, to improve.
- Carefully select proper tools. Effective tooling is essential to DevOps success. Tools that provide real-time insight into how work on projects is progressing are the key to effective collaboration. Source code repositories, build servers, configuration management tools, and more can help optimize DevOps processes, manage complex environments at scale, and keep engineers in control of high development velocities. But read this carefully as it’s important: Failing to make sure the components of the delivery toolchain can integrate together can threaten DevOps success.
- Consider cloud computing. The centralized nature of cloud computing offers DevOps automation a standard and centralized platform for testing, deployment, and production. It’s why they are so compatible. Using a cloud platform also solves many issues with distributed complexity that can plague centralized software deployments.
Most public and private cloud computing providers support DevOps systemically on their platform, including continuous integration and continuous development tools. This not only lowers the cost associated with DevOps automation technology, but it also enables centralized governance and control. Many developers find that governance helps them sidestep trouble like flawed releases. In those cases, the cloud makes it’s easier to manage the process centrally instead of scrambling to control other departments.
- Establish end-to-end responsibility. Separating development and operations can lead to all sorts of inefficiencies, from performance problems to unpredictable environments. In DevOps, both groups work as a team that’s fully accountable for an application from beginning to end. This collaboration reduces misunderstandings and mistakes between departments that aren’t aligned. It also makes it easier to adapt to changing circumstances, from the emergence of new technology to customer needs.
- Invest in automation technology. Automation tools can improve the efficiency of IT, reduce errors, and help deploy applications faster. That includes simplifying the process of configuring, monitoring, and maintaining network infrastructure, and eliminating the tediousness of manually testing code and structure. Data gathered from automated processes can also track performance targets and help ensure applications are consistently meeting ever-changing customer demands. Important metrics include the error rate when deploying new software to production, or the time between an initial software commit and its production run.
Before we go, know this. Adopting DevOps is a journey – and achieving peak performance means constantly experimenting with new tools and processes that help achieve greater communication, collaboration, and integration. An exceptional IT consulting service provider can help brands implement DevOps best practices that not only improve IT performance, but boost customer satisfaction and market share for the business.