What are some DevOps best practices?
Quality and speed — is it possible to have both? Many engineering and IT teams struggle to quickly deliver working features and functionality. This is especially true at organizations where development and operations teams work in silos. Developers focus on writing code and building applications, then the operations and quality assurance (QA) teams mine the code and monitor for bugs. Friction between these teams can often occur due to conflicting priorities: developers are aiming to push out new features quickly, while operations is typically more concerned with ensuring the code is accurate and stable.
But many organizations have realized that quality versus speed is a false dichotomy — you can in fact achieve both with the right mindset, tools, and practices. This is why many companies are adopting DevOps, an approach to agile software delivery that emphasizes collaboration and continuous delivery of value. Instead of separate engineering groups working independently, development and IT operations teams collaborate throughout the entire software development process. This means that both teams commit to automating tasks, testing early (and often), continuously deploying updates, and monitoring the health of the codebase.
If your team is thinking about adopting DevOps, it is important to have a solid understanding of what it actually looks like in practice. After all, a successful DevOps transformation requires more than just the right processes and tools. It also requires a shared culture of accountability, cooperation, and excellence. Successful product development takes shared ownership — everyone on the team must keep the entire software lifecycle in mind, from writing the initial code to monitoring how well the system is functioning.
What are the benefits of adopting DevOps?
The world of software development is constantly changing. There are always new philosophies, frameworks, and languages to learn. Yet DevOps is more than just another methodology originating from agile development. For more than a decade, teams have used DevOps to achieve their goals, streamline internal processes, enhance collaboration, and improve customer experiences. The overarching goal is to shorten the agile development lifecycle and deliver greater value by releasing more reliable code faster.
While DevOps describes a culture and shared set of values, it does not spell out an exact prescription for success. Broadly speaking, teams consisting of developers and IT operations work closely together to build and improve applications incrementally. Cross-functional alignment between developers and operations (including QA and security) means that each team shares the same goals, processes, and tools.
Here are some of the main benefits of adopting DevOps:
Automation, greater scalability, and trust in the system
More stable and dependable platforms
Increased visibility and transparency into system performance
Commitment to a shared culture of excellence and higher trust between teammates
Ability to deliver better experiences to customers more frequently
8 essential DevOps best practices
Ask a dozen developers to define DevOps, and you will likely get different answers. This is because each team implements DevOps slightly differently, depending on their needs and the type of organization they belong to. While the specifics will vary, here are some common practices you will likely see in companies that have adopted a DevOps mindset:
Automation is the heart of DevOps. Teams that practice DevOps are committed to writing comprehensive scripts to detect, log, and handle errors. Investing the time upfront to automate tasks makes it easier to minimize human error and achieve repeatability and predictable results. Automation also keeps technical debt down and ensures you can scale more easily.
A shared sense of purpose is essential for a productive relationship between developers and IT operations teams. The two groups should communicate often, and developers must make sure their code is accurate by writing unit tests. This allows QA to be a more active partner and ensures that the code will be better integrated in the final application. When both developers and operations collaborate in parallel (rather than working sequentially), the entire organization benefits from more cohesive code, smoother functioning apps, and shorter development cycles.
This refers to the practice of continually writing and pushing code up into a shared repository. Continuous integration is especially vital for large teams with multiple developers working on the same project. Instead of having a developer manually monitor the repo for inconsistencies or bugs in the code, automatic tests scan pull requests and check for errors, potential conflicts, and build issues. As a result, overall code hygiene improves and the team can be confident that code changes will not break existing functionality.
Continuous delivery is the automation of the build stage within an acceptance environment. The operations team is primarily responsible for writing automated testing and build scripts — which are essential for minimizing errors and maintaining a consistent build from version to version. This allows developers to then inspect the working code for potential bugs, demo the product, and gather feedback from customers before deploying into production.
Another facet of a "Continuous Everything" DevOps strategy, continuous deployment refers to automatically releasing code changes from the repo to production. This high degree of automation allows DevOps teams to release feature changes frequently and deliver more value to customers.
Detecting issues early and fixing them quickly is vital to preventing outages that hinder the customer experience. This is why DevOps teams closely monitor application performance and infrastructure stability. Continuous monitoring involves collecting, filtering, and analyzing data (such as alerts, logs, and events) to spot patterns and problems. Some IT teams rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to automate the continuous monitoring process.
Infrastructure as code (IaC)
DevOps practitioners use IaC tools to streamline and automate the setup (and adjustments) of underlying infrastructure — the servers where the applications run. This helps teams release code into production faster, scale more easily, and seamlessly support periods of higher traffic.
Security integration (DevSecOps)
This approach integrates security into the DevOps process. DevSecOps entails embedding and automating security processes and tools programmatically and continuously throughout the DevOps lifecycle. Since security issues (vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and malware) are automatically flagged, teams can address them quickly — before they turn into costly breaches that can hurt your customers and your company.
Getting started with DevOps
DevOps is complex. It will take time, patience, and a willingness from everyone on the team — leadership included — to adopt a new way of working. But you do not need to feel overwhelmed or worry about adhering to rigid rules. Instead, focus on incremental improvement to your current practices and workflows. Are there areas that you can automate? What can you do to build stronger relationships with your IT colleagues? Share your ideas in team meetings and encourage the team to experiment with automation.
Remember that your ultimate goal is to deliver more value to customers and the business. DevOps practices are a great way to achieve this.
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