What is DevOps and Why You Should Care

esther carlson

esther carlson

October 3, 2019 · 10 min read

Companies have set the bar high when it comes to their expectations for speed and responsiveness, on-demand availability, easy access to data, and the continuous implementation of new features.

To meet these demands, which are associated with the digitalization of business, DevOps teams are core to how companies can succeed in such a dynamic and competitive business environment.

Miha Kralj, global lead for cloud strategy and architecture at the consulting firm, Accenture, had this to say: “Adoption of DevOps can accelerate a company’s digital transformation, enabling it to respond more quickly to changing market conditions and new business opportunities.”

Image of DevOps Workflow Process
Image by Dirk Wouters, Pixabay

What Exactly is DevOps?

While the term DevOps was officially coined in 2009 by Patrick Debois, it’s not always easy to find a common explanation of what exactly DevOps is or does. It’s somewhat obvious that the term DevOps was formed by combining and shortening the words “development” and “operations”. This provides a solid starting point for understanding this phrase. 

In 2015, three computer science researchers from the CSIRO and the Software Engineering Institute, Len Bass, Ingo Weber, and Liming Zhu, suggested defining DevOps as “a set of practices intended to reduce the time between committing a change to a system and the change being placed into normal production, while ensuring high quality”.

There are several core attributes of DevOps which lead to these proof points of success:

  • Collaboration: software dev teams and IT operations teams joining forces – and trusting each other
  • Speed: new applications and services get delivered faster – with high quality
  • Automation: fewer errors and breakdowns in processes occur – as automation plays a larger role
  • Scale: systems handle increases in traffic and transaction volume seamlessly – when scaling is anticipated and baked in before products launch
  • Continuous improvement: products continuously evolve and improve with frequent releases – as agile development methods are applied to enhance an existing product

More recently, security has been incorporated as a key attribute of the DevOps model which has resulted in DevOps being extended to be DevOps Sec. This logical and necessary addition implements the discipline and practice of safeguarding the entire DevOps environment through the development of strategies, policies, and processes, along with the use of technology.

The transformation of team structure and process that occurs with DevOps can make the difference in whether companies stall or thrive in a digital economy.

Need to be Convinced?

A recent 2019 State of DevOps Report shared findings on the results organizations have achieved from transitioning over to a DevOps model:

  • 74% reduced the time spent fixing and maintaining applications
  • 66% have improved the quality and performance of deployed applications
  • 61% increased the frequency of software/service deployments

Show Cover of Dora State of Devops Report 2019

According to the DORA 2018 State of DevOps report, companies that deploy a new change within an hour or less have a 7% chance that the change will have a production failure associated with it. On the flip side, companies that take months or longer to push out changes can have higher than a 50% failure rate. These stats indicate that smaller releases on a faster schedule are more reliable than more substantial changes that take a longer time to develop, test, and deploy.

Further to this point, in 2016, Netflix reported that thousands of meaningful software changes are pushed out almost daily. And, at Netflix, everyone does DevOps versus a single person or group.

Impressive stats. Next, we’ll take a deeper dive into what it takes to achieve similar results when an organization establishes a comprehensive DevOps approach that is inclusive of the core components mentioned earlier.

Proof Points of DevOps Success

Once companies adopt DevOps as their charter for accelerating and improving the quality of software development and operations, there will be key indicators to validate the achievement of those objectives.

  • Software dev teams and IT operations teams joining forces 

In the world of IT, development teams and operations teams have not traditionally worked together in harmony. There’s a history here – of teams placing blame elsewhere when issues arise – and they do. Be prepared for personality clashes to arise, especially in the beginning.

Once the two separate teams are unified as a single team and jointly focused on achieving specific goals such as improving efficiencies and saving time, then collaboration, which is a foundational aspect of DevOps, can begin. DevOps teams incorporate values such as ownership and accountability which drives them to thrive in an environment where they work closely, share responsibilities and combine workflows.

  • New applications and services are delivered faster

One way DevOps teams support a company’s goal to innovate faster is by adopting the practice of deploying more frequent, but small updates, which also reduces risk. Similar to the Agile development methodology, this approach incorporates DevOps practices such as microservices and continuous delivery which speed time-to-market.

  • Making fewer errors and experiencing less frequent breakdowns in processes

According to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime is $5,600 per minute – or $336,000 per hour. Downtime at the low end can cost $140,000 per hour while at the high end, enterprises have reported that one hour of downtime costs their firms $1-5 million.  

Automation is one of the keys to minimize human error and standardize processes across the entire software development lifecycle which includes development, testing, deployment, and production. A solid automation strategy pays off with improved code reliability and smoother deployments. 

Using practices such as continuous integration and continuous delivery to test individual changes validates whether they are functional and safe. Finally, DevOps teams use real-time monitoring and logging tools that provide immediate alerts about any performance issues which speeds resolution.

  • Systems handle increases in traffic and transaction volume seamlessly

Ensuring the reliability of operating infrastructure and development processes at scale during peak periods requires an enormous amount of preparation. As teams face increased pressure, they may find it necessary to rethink or even redesign processes and systems. 

To build a solid foundation for handling peak loads, DevOps teams use a data-driven methodology to ensure they are developing a comprehensive strategy. The use of automation can also help teams manage complex systems more efficiently.

Infrastructure as Code helps teams manage their development, testing, and production environments with a structured, repeatable process. Implementing monitoring and alert systems in production will keep DevOps informed of spikes in traffic and transaction volumes. 

  • Products continuously evolve and improve with frequent releases

To improve the customer experience and establish a competitive advantage, organizations must increase the frequency and pace of releases that introduce new features and fix bugs. DevOps teams use standard DevOps practices such as continuous integration and continuous delivery to automate the software release process, from build to deploy.

  • Security of the entire DevOps environment 

As mentioned earlier, Security has been recognized as key to a complete DevOps team. Security can and should be built into every part of the DevOps lifecycle, including inception, design, build, test, release, support, maintenance, and beyond. 

By using automated compliance policies, precision-tuned controls, along with configuration management techniques such as Infrastructure as code and policy as code, DevOps teams have the tools they need to track compliance at scale.

DevOps Practices

DevOps teams rely on specific practices and tools to automate and streamline the software development and infrastructure management processes that help their organizations increase the speed of innovation.

Continuous integration is linked to the build and testing phases of the software release process. Code changes are merged into a central repository where automated builds and tests are run. The main objectives of the continuous integration practice are to identify bugs and debug quickly, improve the software quality and minimize the time it takes to validate and release new software updates faster.

Continuous delivery takes continuous integration one step further by automating the entire software release process. All code changes are automatically deployed to a testing environment and/or a production environment following the build stage. The practice of testing in continuous delivery is more thorough and reveals issues before the release is staged for deployment to a live production environment by a developer. 

Microservices is a method used for development to separate components of a single application into a set of small services that are scoped and developed separately. Developers can choose different frameworks or programming languages to write specific microservices that can be deployed individually or as a group of services.

Monitoring and logging provide engineers with real-time visibility into application and infrastructure performance which helps them solve problems quickly. The data and logs produced by applications and infrastructure provide insights into the root causes of system issues.

Finally, there are a number of tools and software that DevOps teams rely on when using DevOps practices to accelerate the deployment of innovative products and manage their complex infrastructures. Here are five tools featured in the 2019 List of the 30 Best DevOps Tools & Technologies:

  1. Buddy is a smart CI/CD tool for web developers designed to lower the entry threshold to DevOps. It uses delivery pipelines to build, test and deploy software.
  2. Capistrano is a remote server automation tool for DevOps teams. The tool supports scripting and executing arbitrary tasks.
  3. Sumo Logic helps organizations to analyze and make sense of log data. It combines security analytics with integrated threat intelligence for advanced security analytics.
  4. OverOps is the DevOps tool that provides the root-cause of a bug and informs the team about server crashes. It quickly identifies when and why code breaks in production.
  5. Consul is a DevOps tool used for discovering and configuring services in any infrastructure. It is a perfect tool for modern, elastic infrastructures.

There are tools to support project management, group chat, issue tracking, course control, continuous integration, configuration management, and automated testing, and software for release automation and application development platforms.

Is DevOps Right for Your Company?

Several scenarios exist in companies that make DevOps the right choice and conversely, other realities might make adopting DevOps the wrong choice.  

First, the drivers that make DevOps the right choice:

  • Sense of urgency for improving the ability to innovate and compete
  • Forward-thinking executives who are committed to making the change 
  • Recognition that comprehensive communications and training are critical
  • Expectations for achieving incremental milestones before full implementation

Realities that may derail DevOps:

  • Steeped in existing culture and a belief that current business processes are sufficient
  • Lack of the necessary urgency to make improvements in the development process
  • Using monolithic architecture with complex interdependencies
  • Distributed teams working in isolation from each other

Investing in implementing DevOps has proven to be valuable for the companies motivated by achieving the many upsides and potential results. These companies have demonstrated they are committed to transforming from a siloed culture to a culture of collaboration – a key driver for success with DevOps.

To further complement the advantages of DevOps, explore Dis.co’s simple, secure serverless computing solution with its hassle-free provisioning and intelligent job routing.

esther carlson

esther carlson

October 3, 2019 · 10 min read