DevOps: what, how and why it has the future

Maarten Draijer

DevOps hasn't been a buzzword for a long time. In fact, the modern world of software development couldn't do without. In this article you can read all about the what it is and how it works. We will conclude with five reasons why it is the go-to choice of many companies.

What is DevOps?

In short DevOps is a way to merge developers and operational teams. More elaborate it is about the integration of software development and software control. In DevOps the days have gone where developers would just hand in a piece of software and no longer take any action towards it. The team that builds the software is the same team that makes sure the software goes live. This seems a logical approach but it wasn't always like this.

The origin of DevOps

Since we use more and more software and keep expecting it to be better and better, the production speed of software development had to increase. This was achieved, among other things, by agile software development.

Even though there are many other different methods of agile software development, in essence they all work the same: iteration and continuous feedback. With these two ingredients software can be tested, used and improved while still building it. The biggest benefits are the high amount of flexibility and improved quality of the delivered software. They also allow people to work together faster and more effective.

The first agile-teams consisted of mostly developers. The more effective the these teams became the more obvious it was to them that this process wasn't ideal. Out of that realization DevOps was born.

In DevOps the agile-method was further expanded. Building, testing, implementing and delivering the software all are the responsibility of the same team. Within these so-called DevOps-teams there is a lot of attention to working together among themselves. This promotes the cooperation of people with different roles to work together.

Responsibility for the entire software

DevOps-teams have the goal to standardize the development environment and to automate of various processes. The predictability, efficiency and security and controllability has to be increased. These ideals give developers more control of the production environment and also more insight in the corresponding infrastructure.

It all comes down to the fact that developers have interest in the software and that it works as intended. Because they are responsible for the entirety of the software they will no longer dump a certain of it and leave it to someone else.

A day in the life of a DevOp-professional

What does a day in the life of a DevOps-professional look like? Generally it consists of the same tasks every day: writing code, testing it, setting it live and testing it again. Software development in DevOps is an iteration process. Therefore you often switch between code configuration and implementation. You work out the bugs and describe what you are going to do in the next iteration.

But DevOps also requires a different mindset. DevOps can only be successful if there is a cooperation culture which is targeting continuous improvement. So you can take the values out of an agile-method and combine that with a couple of tools that automatize manual processes. That mindset can also ben seen in the way of cooperation. Everyone has to be actively participating towards the entire project and be open to feedback of the other team members.

At the same time a DevOps-team is entirely autonomous. They are under a lot of pressure to finish the project within time. Therefore you can't wait until decisions have been made higher-up. Developers and operational staff have to take strategic decisions.

Generally it is more comfortable for developers and operational staff to work in DevOps. Communication and cooperation is improved, they have a higher sense of responsibility and have more faith in their capabilities. This creates a space to experiment met new ideas and methods which may give better results.

Parts of DevOps

Anyone who reads about DevOps, comes across a few other terms that have to do with it. These concepts are all part of DevOps.

Continuous integration

In continuous integration code is tested and integrated in new code once a day into the codebase. This way it is instantly known what code works and what doesn't.

Continuous testing

By using tools that test the software automatically it is no longer necessary to check them manually or to forget checking them at all. With continuous testing this happens constantly which prevents making mistakes which could jeopardize progress.

Continuous provisioning

Through the rise of the cloud it is now very easy to create new environments. There are virtual servers accessible which you can configure in just a few minutes and you only have to pay for the parts you use. Because of this it is now easier to make different environments for tests, development and production.

Configuration management

Configuration management means the saving of configurations of the code. Instead of ad-hoc changes everything is adjusted through configuration-files. With configuration management you can make sure that the software works consistently in all environments. When a change needs to be made, the configuration is adjusted first and checked again. Next the environment will be automatically furnished building upon this new configuration.

Continuous delivery

Continuous delivery is an extension of continuous integration and testing. It focusses on taking all changes into account so the software can go into production consistently. This is not required however. The important part is that there is the possibility to hand new functionalities directly to the end user.

More about continuous delivery

5 reasons why DevOps is the future

It is quite obvious why DevOps is rapidly gaining in popularity. Working with DevOps has quite a few advantages.

1. It is more efficient

There are various different ways to automate tasks in DevOps. The testing of code for example. When it is no longer necessary to do this manually the developers can focus on different tasks.

Furthermore there are tools accessible to make the process go faster. With cloud hosting development teams have all the required computing power within their grasp. Testing and bringing the software into production therefore goes a lot faster. By working with continuous delivery parallel workflows can be made through which no one has to wait for someone else to finish their work so they can continue their own.

2. Better communication and cooperation

Combined teams, like in DevOps, are more content and productive. This is due to the fact that there is a lot more emphasis on the joint final product and less on the individual goals. A development team works together with an operational team to make sure they make the best product they can while combining the best of both worlds.

3. Faster development, quicker innovation

When development and operational teams are in their own private bubbles, it is harder to know when an application is ready. They will just hand over their work to the other team without considering what the effects may be. Operational teams lose a lot of valuable time when trying to put software in production. An estimate of Red Hat states that applications go 60% faster into production when DevOps is used. This leaves more room for innovation which gives a company an advantage on its competitors.

4. Fewer mistakes

A lot of problems in software development arise through coding errors. Through the shorter development cycles in DevOps mistakes in code are noticed quicker which gives more opportunity to fix them.

5. Lower costs, less staff

In the end all the advantages DevOps has, make sure that the costs of IT are lower and you need less employees. It is estimated that DevOps can save up to 30% of the IT costs and around 35% less staff is needed.

In conclusion

DevOps is not only important to speed up software development, but also improves the quality of the software. DevOps bring a new mindset, agile practices and smart tools which together accomplish that goal. Besides that DevOps can help with spotting of coding errors, improving communication between team members and is overall cheaper for developing software. With so many benefits it is not hard to see why DevOps is the go-to choice of many IT companies.

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