DevOps has been a movement and practice since the early 2000s. Developer, IT, and security teams realized that the traditional development model, which siloed developers from the operations teams that deployed and supported the software, was hindering innovation and introducing opportunities for error. It was especially necessary as cloud infrastructure and cloud-first applications quickly became the norm. Only with a comprehensive approach could teams ensure that the apps and services they were building were reliable and performant.
What is DevOps?
Combining development and operations, DevOps shifts the focus to continuous development and delivery without compromising on quality or reliability. Everything from development cycles (waterfall to agile practices) to how teams collaborate and keep each other accountable is affected. In a DevOps environment, teams work together through the development lifecycle, from planning through development, testing, deployment, and maintenance. This requires practices like continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD), automation, and agile. When done right, DevOps improves quality, reduces time to market, and improves user experiences. This is the only way to keep up with modern infrastructure and application requirements.
What is the DevOps lifecycle?
The DevOps lifecycle is continuous. It consists of several stages, each with its set of activities and goals that help spur on the next step in the cycle.
- Plan: Plan and prioritize features, requirements, and timelines for releases — including dependencies and risks — in an agile and iterative approach.
- Develop: Write and test code whole to ensure quality and completeness with the help of testers. Version control and collaboration tools are key.
- Test: Automated testing ensures code works and meets quality standards. This includes unit, integration, and system testing. Also, security and performance testing. It’s important when continuous integration (CI) means multiple developers and contributions in a single repository.
- Deploy: Code is continuously deployed in DevOps, whether automated or manual, via feature flags or all at once. Configuration management tools are key here to manage infrastructure like containers and ensure consistency.
- Operate: Once code starts going out the door, operations teams need to monitor and manage the production environment, incidents, and perform maintenance. This can only be done with continuous monitoring and feedback.
- Monitor: Performance metrics and errors need to be tracked to avoid and reduce incidents with uptime, performance, and efficiency. This step also allows for continuous feedback to improve processes, keep things secure, and bolster the user experience.
What makes up DevOps?
There are several concepts that comprise DevOps, and tackling them all is important to having a successful DevOps practice.
- Collaboration: DevOps is nothing without cross team communication and collaboration. It ensures that everyone is aligned and working toward the same goals.
- Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD): CI/CD are practices that automate development pipelines, from code integration to testing to deployment. It’s CI/CD that ensures code changes are tested and developed to production at the speed of business without compromising reliability.
- Automation: DevOps is dependent on automation that removes the need for manual effort and reduces the number of errors. Automation helps in code builds, testing, deployment, and infrastructure management.
- Infrastructure as Code (IaC): IaC means managing infrastructure through code. With IaC, teams can use automation to provision and configure infrastructure resources, reducing manual effort and maintaining consistency.
- Monitoring and Feedback: DevOps is built on feedback loops, from application performance monitoring (APM) to collecting user feedback for future code changes.
- Agile Development: Scrum and Kanban are often used in DevOps so teams can work iteratively, adapt according to requirements, and deliver value.
What are common DevOps challenges?
- Tool Integration: DevOps relies on automation and tooling. Integrating these tools can be challenging and lead to complexity, unforeseen silos, and issues with interoperability.
- Skill Gaps: DevOps requires a diverse skill set ranging from development to operations to automation and more. It can be hard to find people that can hit the ground running.
- Older Systems: Some organizations may still require or use legacy systems that may be difficult to automate and integrate into the DevOps pipeline.
- Security and Compliance: Due to the rapid nature of DevOps, with constant development and deployments, there’s a good chance for there to be security and regulatory issues.
- Organizational Restructuring: Although DevOps has been a thing for a while, it hasn’t permeated all aspects of development across organizations. Accommodating for this change in culture and workflow can be challenging.
What can you expect as a DevOps engineer?
The day-to-day activities of an DevOps engineer may vary, but usually fall under one of the below areas.
Development: Engineers often develop code for automation scripts, infrastructure as code (IaC), and integrations.
Infrastructure management: DevOps engineers are responsible for managing infrastructure that supports software development and deployment, including provisioning and configuring servers, network devices, and cloud services
CI/CD: DevOps is in charge of maintaining the CI/CD pipeline, making sure it’s reliable, efficient, and scalable. This includes building test code, deploying software, and monitoring pipeline issues.
Monitoring and alerting: DevOps is responsible for monitoring the performance of apps and infrastructure in production, collecting the right data, and setting up alerts to automatically detect and respond to issues.
Security and Compliance: DevOps engineers must make sure apps and infrastructures are secure and compliant, including penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, and audits.
Collaboration: DevOps doesn’t work with communication and collaboration. DevOps engineers must work closely with other teams from IT to business teams.
What is the future of DevOps?
DevOps, like the systems it helps monitor and maintain, is constantly evolving in size and complexity. Its future is highly dependent on how it’s working today in organizations along with new practices being adopted.
To start, cloud-native architectures continue to expand across organizations as they build new or modernize their infrastructure and applications. DevOps, in turn, will continue to adapt to the new cloud-native norm and teams will need to focus on automation, scalability and resilience.
AI, machine learning, and automation will continue its exponential trajectory. As such, their inclusion and importance in DevOps will continue to expand as organizations look to streamline and reduce costs. Generative AI and ML will play a key role in the further automation of routine tasks, accuracy, and efficiency within DevOps practices.
Platform engineering will likely continue to grow its reach in the development and management of new applications. More and more, organizations will continue to build self-service platforms so developers can quickly iterate on their applications. We can expect to standardize and become inseparable from DevOps.
Finally, security and compliance is always important. It will continue to be intrinsic in DevOps in the form of DevSecOps and potentially the use of AI to better detect and respond to threats.