What is the DevOps model? Key principles and best practices
Is establishing a DevOps team logical next step for you?
If there’s one thing we can be certain of as software engineers, it’s that effective DevOps is increasingly essential. Why wouldn’t it be, in a highly competitive software market where both speed and quality are essential in keeping users loyal?
In 2021, 83% of IT decision-makers reported implementing DevOps practices to unlock higher business value. Perhaps that’s why the global DevOps market is set to reach $57.9bn by 2030, from a $6.8bn base in 2021 – increasing its value nearly tenfold in just nine years.
When implemented well, DevOps concepts allow you to deploy releases several times a day by removing internal silos and speeding up manual processes with automation. Below, we break down how the DevOps methodology achieves this, key DevOps principles to bear in mind and some DevOps practices to follow during implementation and beyond.
What is the DevOps model?
DevOps is often conceptualized as an extension of Agile methodology to your IT operations teams as well as your development teams.
It’s a good starting point (though, predictably, there’s a little more to it than that) – but to really get to grips with what this means, we need to understand what Agile is. Let’s break it down.
Agile is a development methodology that avoids the pitfalls of the traditional linear ‘requirements-design-build-test’ method of software development. In Agile, development cycles are shorter and sharper, allowing for continuous evaluation, testing and delivery.
For example, rather than completing an entire app in one, long six-month project, you break it down into smaller sprints, running requirements gathering, research and testing efforts separately from each sprint. This results in faster delivery times, a better understanding of user needs and products that fit key requirements better.
You might also have heard of Agile project management. If your non-technical team works in sprints rather than one long, continuous process with a single delivery deadline in date, you might be working in an Agile environment without even knowing it.
How does DevOps extend Agile for IT operations teams?
Your development team can do what they like, but if your IT operations team is bogged down with manual, inefficient processes, that’s going to limit how fast you deploy the releases you’ve worked so hard to create.
DevOps is a set of principles and best practices that aims to remove this gap (or ‘silo’) between IT operations teams and development teams so you can release your products as quickly as you can build them.
How does this work?
It’s partly in the team structure. Many DevOps-based businesses merge development and ops into a single team, with engineers working across the entire product lifecycle. Sometimes, QA and security (or DevSecOps) teams also become more involved throughout the process.
Secondly, it’s all about one key DevOps principle: automation, automation, automation.
Automating as much of the software development process as you can reduces scope for human error, speeds up release cycles and increases team productivity overall. Importantly, it also frees your teams from hours of unnecessary manual work. With workloads streamlined, your teams are free to focus on what they do best – writing great code and deploying great products.
- Testing: You test more, eliminate human oversight and are more likely to pick up bugs.
- Software monitoring: Real-time software monitoring tools allow you to pick up and fix issues and major pain points before they start to drive users away.
- Infrastructure management: Remove the burden of low-level infrastructure maintenance tasks from your ops team so they can refocus their time elsewhere.
- Delivery pipelines: Reach users faster with tools that automate delivery and remove manual errors from the process.
What does a DevOps pipeline look like?
It’s sometimes difficult to get a real-world understanding of how DevOps works from reading the theory. This rundown from software testing and QA resource EuroSTAR hopefully adds a little more context.
- Code creation: Software engineers write the code for the product, feature or update they are building.
- Code testing: Using automated testing tools (e.g. Jenkins), code can be tested significantly more quickly and accurately than running manual tests. This makes bugs easier to find and fix.
- Bug fixing: Software engineers fix the bugs identified by automated testing.
- Deployment: IT operations deploy the code using a range of automated processes and software, for example using containerization tools to remove errors caused by launching in different environments.
- Performance analysis: Using continuous monitoring tools like AppDynamics or RayGun, IT operations track software performance and identify pain points that need fixing.
- Repeat: Keep repeating the DevOps process to improve performance.
Our top 3 DevOps principles
There’s no universal set of rules for DevOps – you won’t find an official DevOps manifesto that lays out a specific number of core DevOps principles or pillars.
Equally, there are a few factors which are pretty much universally recognized as central to a good DevOps strategy. Exact descriptions vary from person to person and from organization to organization, but the emphasis remains the same. Here’s our take – we hope it’s helpful.
- Continuous integration, continuous deployment (CI/CD)
IT decision makers fall in love with DevOps for the speed of deployment it offers. CI/CD is central to unlocking DevOps’ potential here. ‘Integration’ involves incorporating code changes (due to testing, bug fixing etc.) into your software project. These can be from one or multiple contributors. ‘Deployment’ is the act of setting your new code live. Traditional ops sees these as two distinct phases, to be run one after the other. DevOps runs them both simultaneously, in a constant feedback loop. This means that DevOps deployment isn’t slowed by hurdles or silos elsewhere in the business and that time to release is faster.
- Infrastructure as code
DevOps is all about running the technical side of your business with optimum efficiency. Managing your infrastructure as code helps significantly here. When you manage your infrastructure using code, you can treat your infrastructure as you would treat your application code for major efficiency gains. Using a cloud API-driven model, you can deploy infrastructure and servers using standardized patterns, update them with the latest patches and duplicate where necessary.
- Short feedback loops and customer centricity
Ultimately, DevOps is all about creating a memorable customer experience. If you release enticing new features faster and resolve issues quicker than your competitors, your customers are more likely to stick around in the long-term. To make this a reality, you need short customer feedback loops with speedy resolution processes. Real-time monitoring tools allow teams immediate visibility into how users are interacting with your software so that you can fix issues quickly; CI/CD ensures you can release these as quickly as you build them. This isn’t strictly in the DevOps remit, but information from your customer support teams is invaluable here too! Take a look at how you can get information to flow better between customer support and ops, as this is a valuable source for pinpointing major issues.
DevOps best practices to follow
Looking to implement DevOps in your own organization? There’s a wealth of advice out there on the technical side of things – here are our best practices to help you get the most out of your investment.
- Get version control under control
You’re not going to realize the full potential of implementing DevOps if your devs are working from one version and your operations team are working from another! If you haven’t already, it’s worth spending some time setting up a repository that acts as a single source of truth for all projects. Getting the smaller processes right also helps here – naming conventions and file storage processes all help avoid embarrassing misunderstandings in the long term.
When implementing DevOps, there’s often the temptation to over-focus on the technical side of things. That’s understandable, given how much of DevOps success lies in automating the right things. Equally, DevOps is a hugely collaborative approach to software delivery. It won’t work if your teams don’t talk to each other. As you move to a DevOps model, make sure your teams have the tools to collaborate – Wikis, project management software and more informal messenger apps like Slack are all useful here. As you move forward with DevOps, it’s a good idea to explicitly look for strong communication and collaboration skills in new hires. These are vital skills for a DevOps team member – don’t overlook them, even if a candidate’s technical skills are second to none.
- Peer review your production changes
Typically, employees feel more accountable to others in their team and trust them more, which makes peer reviews a fast, effective way of reviewing any code changes needed. Sending major changes through an external approvals process is a good idea. Equally, consider giving your development and operations teams complete control over minor changes to speed up deployment and build trust within your organization.
- Analyze DevOps performance (and improve it)
Your DevOps team constantly analyzes app performance to implement new improvements. Do the same with your DevOps pipelines, processes and practices. When you implement a DevOps approach in your organization, it’s worth spending some time identifying some KPIs that reflect your long-term goals. This will allow you to check whether your practices are having the desired effect. You could include:
- Deployment frequency
- Change volume
- Change failure rate
- Mean time to recovery
- Defect escape rate
- Customer support tickets
- Don’t rush into software choices
There’s so much that you can automate in DevOps that the temptation to pick the first tool that sort of works is pretty strong. This risks poor-fit software that causes more issues than it solves. To avoid this, take the time to:
- Ask your DevOps team what they have worked with before
- Identify some ‘must have’ and ‘need to have’ features for key automation tools
- Try a couple before committing to full rollout (good news – a lot are open source!)
Finding the right DevOps solutions can take a little time. The time you spend here will pay off in the long-term success of your DevOps rollout.
Why work with a DevOps consultancy?
With DevOps skyrocketing in popularity, there’s somewhat of a rush on in-house DevOps professionals at the moment. If you’re new to DevOps and need a guiding hand as your team comes up to speed, an outsourced DevOps consultancy gets you that expertise without the wait.
At Tivix, we’ve been DevOps devotees from the beginning. With a global network of DevOps engineering and consulting talent, we scale the team that’s right for you as soon as we’re onboard to help you automate delivery pipelines, infrastructure monitoring and testing/post-deployment monitoring.
Want to see how we work? Check out our Kubernetes implementation for health tech giants DoveMed.
Got a project we could help with? Happy to talk – just drop us a message here for a quick introductory chat.