Is DevOps the boost your business needs?
Drawing from the disciplines of Agile and Lean, DevOps is the new(ish) business technology trend that companies are clamouring to incorporate into their models and practices. As neither a tool nor a process however, the benefits of DevOps are not always immediately apparent. Definitions tend to be lengthy and opaque, leaving some wondering whether this really is the boost modern businesses have been waiting for, or just the latest piece of boardroom jargon. Here, we look at where DevOps is used, where it came from, and where it is likely to be going.
- 28 April 2022
What DevOps means
DevOps is a set of cultural, philosophical, and practical approaches that seek to amalgamate the often-siloed disciplines of software development and IT operations (as well as other contributors to the development lifecycle). Its focus is on people rather than processes, as all roles must adopt its practices to ensure its benefits are fully realised.
Many see DevOps as an evolution of the Agile development approach, and an attempt to rectify some of its shortcomings. Arguably, Agile's biggest success has been the rapid development and deployment it enables, which leads to the creation of software that is highly adaptable to evolving requirements. This is achieved by development and operations teams taking accountability for separate phases of the development lifecycle, with little-to-no overlap in those phases. The key difference with DevOps is that it addresses this disconnect by involving all teams in all phases of the development lifecycle, with the aim of even more rapid and reliable development and deployment.
While DevOps is primarily concerned with the development and operations of an organisation, it is not limited to these departments. Common examples of other parts of organisations that often successfully integrate with DevOps approaches include: QA, network admin, support, security, and business, with the latter two leading to the acronyms DevSecOps and BizDevOps respectively.
Why DevOps matters
DevOps facilitates better communication and collaboration between development, operations, and other teams, helping to build trust and knowledge-sharing so business requirements are tightly aligned to technical tasks. With DevOps, no single role or department assumes sole responsibility for any particular phase of the development lifecycle. All roles and departments are involved to varying degrees in every phase, creating a culture of holistic collaboration.
The goals of adopting DevOps differ from company to company, but will broadly ensure that updates are more frequent, more rapid, and more reliable than would be possible with other approaches, helping businesses to flourish. Businesses adopting DevOps approaches usually benefit from:
- Increased velocity from idea to market
- Faster and more effective adaptation to market changes and competition
- Improved resilience, reliability, and stability of systems
- Faster fixes and improved recovery times in the event of system outages
- Improved scalability
DevOps places the end user in the focus of every team, so operability becomes paramount from design through to deployment. Tasks and projects are not considered complete by any team until the end product or service meets user expectations regarding performance, availability, and scalability.
How DevOps works
Organisations using a DevOps approach will execute deployments much more frequently than those using more traditional approaches. Deployments will tend to be smaller and more incremental, to reduce risk. Risk is further reduced by the availability and visibility of information regarding the history of deployments, enabling teams to quickly identify and rectify errors.
To achieve this and other goals, DevOps emphasises automation and iteration. This means common DevOps environments will incorporate many of the approaches and practices detailed below.
Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD)
CI/CD pipelines are a common example of the automation techniques DevOps teams employ to move code through the development and deployment lifecycle swiftly. One of the key benefits of DevOps is the rapid and frequent deployments possible when adopting its approaches. However, this can introduce a significant amount of risk from an operations perspective. CI/CD pipelines help to mitigate this risk.
Stored code histories enable teams to share, disseminate, and collaborate on tasks, with the safety of full restoration from any history available. DevOps engineers will usually collaborate using Git, ADO Server, Mercurial, or other software tracking and collaboration tools.
Infrastructure as code
Version control and CI/CD approaches are software development techniques which, when applied to infrastructure, create an infrastructure as code approach. This enables engineers to work with code-based tools to maintain and enhance the infrastructure, which promotes quick and consistent deployments.
Minimising the risk of drift or deviation from the system's designed state is key to ensuring its reliability and resilience. Configuration management tools are used by DevOps engineers to ensure any changes to the system or its resources are deployed in a consistent and controlled way. This is another example of how collaboration and shared accountability improves systems, with servers, databases, VMs, and other system resources becoming highly adaptable and responsive to frequently occurring changes.
Logs will be continually gathered for all parts of the system, and alerts triggered if predefined thresholds are reached. This enables DevOps teams to act swiftly to maintain the health and performance of systems.
Cloud computing gives teams levels of agility and control that are just not possible with more traditional server setups. Intricate environments, independent of location, can be created in minutes, then deleted when they are no longer needed. Containerised solutions, or 'Containers-as-a-Service' (CaaS) like Kubernetes, Nomad, or Docker, along with serverless Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) like AWS Lambda, Google Cloud Functions, or Azure Functions enable rich feature development with rapid deployment and adaptable scalability.
Microservices architecture offers further options to businesses for rapid, low-risk deployments. By breaking down a system into its constituent components, teams can identify the scope of the services each component brings to the overall system, and work on these components in isolation. The development and deployment of these microservices can be done independently of work on the system as a whole, greatly reducing time on development and testing, mitigating against the risk of introducing any unexpected errors to the system, and making it quick and easy to locate and rectify any errors that do occur.
The future of DevOps and your business
DevOps is still evolving, with advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) likely to mean the next milestone will be AI for DevOps, or 'AIOps'. There is still a long way to go before this becomes a practise widely adopted by organisations, but when it is, we will see even shorter development and deployment cycles, with software that matches original business intentions and designs even more closely.
For all its benefits, DevOps isn't for every business. For some, the overheads involved in adopting its approaches will be too much. DevOps can't be partially implemented. It has to be fully and completely embraced for its benefits to be realised. Herein lies an element of risk for businesses though. As DevOps continues to grow and evolve, it will inevitably be adopted by more and more organisations. Those who are able to use its approaches effectively will be able to deliver improved products and services to customers much faster, giving them a considerable advantage over any competition continuing to use more traditional methods of development and deployment. As customers grow used to faster delivery of reliable products and services, this will become a standard expectation, leaving any business unable to meet this expectation on the side lines. Conversely, investing in DevOps if it is not a good match for your industry or business could be an expensive endeavour with little-to-no returns.
For these reasons, it is vital that organisations make the right choices when it comes to DevOps. Any decision should be backed up with thorough analysis and evidence. Companies who think they can't afford to adopt DevOps now may find later that they couldn't afford not to.
To talk to us about how our DevOps experts can help you make the right decisions and plan for your business's future, call +44 (0) 8456 808 805 or drop us a message today.
DevOps places the end user in the focus of every team, so operability becomes paramount from design through to deployment.