What is DevOps?
The term DevOps was coined by Patrick Debois in the year 2009. DevOps refers to a set of practices, tools, and a culture that focuses on improving the collaboration and communication between developers and operations teams. The main goal is to release apps faster in a reliable and secure manner. It is not specifically a job title per se but a mindsed of working that everyone involved in software development can adopt. e.g. QA Testers, System Administrators, Security Analysts, Project Managers, etc. Also, DevOps cannot be the solution for all use cases. It has to be implemented and tweaked depending on the requirements of an organisation or project, but the specific principles of DevOps remain the same, and we can work with it to ensure a well-managed DevOps practice in our organisation.
The Origins of DevOps
Before DevOps, a manual deployment style was employed for various projects. Developers would create builds for the applications in their own systems and provide it to the sysadmin who would then upload it into the server and try to run it. But sometimes, the app which worked on the developer's machine would not work on the server. This posed some unique challenges. Also, the time to feedback was very high; once the app was started on the server, it would take a considerable amount of time before feedback would be provided to the developers, and the cycle would continue again when fixes were applied and deployed to the server.
This archaic way of software development led to the birth of the DevOps Culture. A culture where both the developers and the operations team are in sync. With the technology we have now, software feedback can be gained in less than 5 minutes, and builds are now platform agnostic and can be run anywhere; the problem of it working on one machine while not working on another has also been solved with the use of Docker and other containerisation tools. Before, scaling traffic to meet demand was time-consuming and clunky, but now, with the help of container orchestrators like Kubernetes, applications can be scaled up and down easily to satisfy the demand.
With the advent of the cloud, getting servers has become much easier. Earlier, you had to lease servers from farms or set up your on-prem servers, but now you can easily set up servers in any region of the world within minutes. There are many resource options for cloud servers, and the headache of maintaining the availability of that infra has been taken up by cloud providers who try to ensure a respectable infra uptime.
What makes a DevOps Engineer?
As we have learned, DevOps is not actually a role but a culmination of development and operations culture. So, it can be seen as a role adapted from a System Administrator or a Developer; as you work towards a DevOps role, you will encounter challenges and must assume responsibilities towards both sides of the culture equally. Some places may emphasise the Ops side, and others may do it on the Dev side.
Practices followed in DevOps
Some of the practices followed in DevOps culture are as follows:
- Continuous integration (CI)
- The process of merging code changes from multiple developers into a shared repository frequently and automatically generates build files for said changes and ensures that the code is always working by running tests.
- Continuous delivery (CD)
- The process of deploying code changes to production or staging environments automatically with minimum user effort. This carries on the work done by the CI and ensures that the latest code changes are released to their respective environments instantaneously.
- Infrastructure as code (IaC)
- It is the practice of managing and provisioning cloud/on-prem infrastructure (such as servers, networks, storage, etc.) using code and configuration files.
- Configuration management (CM)
- The practice of maintaining and applying consistent settings and parameters across our different infrastructures and applications.
- Monitoring and logging
- The practice of collecting and analysing data from infrastructure and applications (such as metrics, logs, events, etc.) to detect and troubleshoot issues, optimise performance, learn user behaviour and improve user experience.
- Feedback and learning
- The practice of generating and incorporating feedback from users and peers into the software development process.
What sets DevOps apart from traditional software release approaches?
DevOps brings some exciting benefits to the table compared to the traditional ways. They are:
- Faster delivery:
- DevOps can reduce the time between an idea and a working product or feature. Once automation is implemented into the software release lifecycle, it can streamline build and deployment.
- Higher quality:
- DevOps can improve the quality and reliability of software products and services. Once testing is integrated into the release cycle, bugs can be caught early in staging environments, ensuring a stable and bug-free release for production environments.
- Lower costs:
- DevOps can reduce the costs associated with software development and maintenance. With cloud-based infrastructure and services, resources can be utilised only when required; thus, we will be paying a much lower rate than the traditional way of leasing servers, where we pay for the entire lease time, no matter the use.
- Better collaboration:
- DevOps fosters a culture of collaboration and trust among teams and individuals. By breaking down the barriers between development and operations teams, communication can be improved, and bugs, once caught during testing, can be immediately fixed and tested again, which ensures a bug-free software delivery.
Challenges in implementing DevOps methodologies
DevOps is a shift from the traditional mindset, so some challenges can occur during its implementation. Some of them are:
- Resistance to change:
- DevOps requires a significant shift in mindset and behaviour from traditional working methods. People used to the archaic ways may be reluctant to switch to newer tools and technologies and DevOps culture.
- Lack of skills:
- DevOps requires a broad range of technical and soft skills that people may not readily have. In this ever-changing landscape of DevOps tools and technologies, it is labouring to be on top of all the latest tools and technologies. New technologies cannot be ignored as well because they sometimes can be a big upgrade to the existing technologies we have in our infrastructure. Testing out the technologies for feasibility in our infra is time-consuming, and it takes a lot of dedication to succeed. So, it is important to invest in training and relevant education to be as skilled as possible so that the best decision for the infrastructure can be taken swiftly.
- Complexity and diversity:
- DevOps involves managing complex environments with different requirements, constraints, or dependencies. Some specific applications may run on completely different technologies and require separate integration and deployment practices. The resource requirements will also be different from application to application. We must adopt standardised frameworks and principles and implement automation wherever possible to manage complex environments efficiently and receive support when required.
In this article we learned about DevOps, why it was created and how it can be implemented, challenges faced, etc.
Further Reading and References
If you are interested in learning more about the nuances of DevOps and its best practices, the following are some of the best resources to follow:
- What is DevOps
- Best Practices of DevOps
- DevOps Engineers
- System Design 101
- DevOps Collective Inc.'s Book on DevOps
Thank You for reading, please comment below if you have any queries.