What is DevOps, and does your team need it?
DevOps is a software engineering practice bringing together software development and operations. It is usually looked at both from the technological and philosophical perspectives.
Technologically, DevOps is all about boosting application development quality and speed, and minimizing errors through the automation of crucial routine processes. As a way of thinking, DevOps focuses on unifying traditionally isolated engineering, operations, and testing teams through continuous learning, expertise sharing, and communication.
Automation of the application development processes, such as building, testing, deployment, maintenance, and monitoring, is at the core of the DevOps philosophy. Another mission of DevOps is to build a bridge between support specialists who monitor the system for issues and certain engineers who can solve these issues.
Now, let’s go into more detail and see how exactly DevOps can make the life of the team easier at each stage of project development.
#1 Your code is ready to be delivered to the end- user at any point in time
Adopting DevOps implies shifting to continuous integration, delivery, and deployment. What does it mean?
It means that every line of code your engineers commit to a repository will be automatically built and tested to make sure the code is always ready to be delivered to an end- user. The actual deployment takes place in the background, without a single interruption in the work of the application, right when it’s needed.
On the other hand, if the build hasn’t been completed successfully, all concerned engineers will be immediately notified via email, in a messenger app, or in any other way and will be able to quickly handle the problem.
What’s good about it:
- No need for “manual labor” — engineers don’t have to manually build and test every update anymore, so updates are delivered much faster
- Early detection of errors in the code, allowing to promptly make the necessary adjustments until the code reaches the end- user
#2 Your code is properly covered by tests
We’ve talked about testing in the previous point a bit, but it deserves a little more of our attention.
Constant and continuous testing and QA are a cornerstone of smooth, continuous deployment. To comply with the needs of continuous deployment, they have to be dynamic and take place early and often. Apparently, manual testing cannot live up to these characteristics as it’s too slow, and here automated testing comes into play.
Most types of tests, from UI tests focusing on usability issues to load testing identifying bottlenecks in the application’s performance during peak traffic, can be automated. The major benefit of automated tests is that they can be run whenever necessary and on a regular basis, thus minimizing the possibility that bugs will slip into newer code versions. Moreover, when the tests are properly architectured, they can be easily maintained and safely reused further in the project, with the necessary adjustments made to them, corresponding to the changes in the project’s functionality or UI.
What’s good about it:
- Speed — every batch of codelines can be tested immediately after it’s committed
- Early detection of errors, as there’s no need to wait for the results of manual testing
- Transparency — bug reports are generated automatically and always available to the entire team
#3 Your code is tested live in a production-like environment
Testing code early in various environments, such as development, staging, and production, helps avoid further deployment issues, let’s say poor scalability or server capacity, and makes sure the app will run as smoothly on 100 users’ devices as it does on one engineer’s computer.
The infrastructure-as-code approach allows packing all processes connected with deploying environments into a code. Thus, the needed infrastructure exists in the form of software that can be quickly deployed whenever necessary, rather than a physical machine that has to be manually configured upon every setup, running through the entire cycle of the operating system launch. Besides, the infrastructure code, just like the application code, is constantly tested, version-controlled, and monitored for safety issues, making sure the application is tested in a completely secure environment.
What’s good about it:
- No need for manual configuration of each environment
- The infrastructure for testing is safe and reliable due to constant testing and version control
#4 Your code is continuously monitored for performance issues
Application performance monitoring is another key DevOps practice. Application performance tools can answer a lot of crucial questions. How much memory and processor capacity the app consumes? How quickly does a system respond to user actions? How much time does the app need to be built and deployed? In case these metrics are properly recorded and processed, they can be used to make key business decisions.
What is good about it:
- Calculated decision-making based on real-time app metrics
- Early issue detection
- Tracking of progress (or the lack of it) in adjusting further app development strategy
Though DevOps really makes lives easier, especially when it comes to big, constantly evolving projects, one should remember it’s not a magic pill that can be taken once and then put away until it’s needed again. It’s a strategy that bears fruit only in the long run.
DevOps can’t be introduced by simply hiring a “DevOps engineer” or reducing manual testing. It requires changing the mindset of every team member towards understanding and adopting all DevOps values and putting them into practice.
Every detail — from how team members communicate with each other, how willingly they share project information, to how they approach tasks and challenges — contributes to adopting the DevOps culture within the company. It’s a good idea to take a strategy of small steps to make sure you don’t miss a thing. The DevOps Checklist is a nice thing to help on the road.
Transitioning to DevOps is a long and dusty trail, but it’s definitely worth hitting.
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