A closer look into DevOps and the benefits it offers
What is DevOps anyway?
The concept of DevOps is not new. Breaking the siloes between development and operations is a good starting point, but DevOps is fundamentally a culture – a combination of philosophies, practices, and tools that increase an organisation’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity. DevOps is about evolving and improving products faster than organisations using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes can achieve.
Of course, as with most tech-orientated conversations, it’s more complicated than that. In addition to being a culture based on collaboration, DevOps is also a set of principles working in parallel with a shift in mindset to deliver value through the continuous provisioning of software.
Perhaps this all sounds more complicated than software development needs to be? The truth is that the benefits of adopting a DevOps team dynamic far outweigh the effort of purposefully changing a team’s mindsets.
What is this thing you call “The platform”?
The platform refers to the entire ecosystem that a development team uses to deliver valuable business features into the production system. It includes:
- the development repositories where source code is stored
- the CI (continuous integration) toolchains that automatically build the application to check code into the repository
- the quality assurance tools that run automated tests during the build
- automated security compliance tools executed as part of the build and QA tests
- the CD (continuous development) toolchains that apply quality gates and deploy software into QA or the production environment
- the microservice architecture deployed in containers orchestrated by Kubernetes
- the configuration of the Kubernetes orchestration that allows the application to elastically scale in response to demands on the system
- the monitoring and observability tools that provide in-depth analysis of how the platform performs under load and for investigating problems
- the IaC (Infrastructure as Code) code to spin up this entire ecosystem
Ensuring maximal uptime of the platform is the job of the Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) and Principal Platform Engineer (PPE). They strive to ensure continuous improvement of the platform, and provide a low-friction development and deployment process for feature teams. As such, they enable DevOps adoption across an organisation.
What makes DevOps so great?
1. Accelerated innovation
DevOps allows teams to rapidly innovate for customers, better adapt to changing markets, and become more efficient at driving business results.
2. Rapid delivery
Along with efficiency, DevOps allows teams to increase the pace and frequency of releases and updates, allowing businesses to improve their offering and services to end-users faster. The quicker you can release new features and fix bugs, the quicker you can respond to your customers’ needs and ensure your competitive advantage. CI/CD are practices that automate the software release process from build through to deploy within a DevOps environment.
3. Consistent reliability
Faster is better – but that speed needs to equate to quality. Ensuring the quality of application updates and infrastructure changes is crucial to reliably deliver at a more rapid pace while maintaining a positive experience for your customers. Using tools such as CI/CD pipelines facilitates testing of all changes to ensure they are functional and safe, while the implementation of monitoring and logging helps keep you informed about real-time performance, which leads to a more reliable system overall.
4. Baked in scalability
DevOps allows you to operate and manage your infrastructure and development processes at scale, while automation and consistency help you manage complex or changing systems effectively – with reduced risk. Handling these problems with no human input required is an all-around win.
5. Improved collaboration
Improved collaboration in a time when often geographically split teams work together to deliver is a powerful benefit not to overlook. DevOps aids in building more effective teams that value accountability and ownership. Sharing responsibilities and workflow between development and operations saves time and reduces handover periods.
6. Codified security
Adopting DevOps does not mean sacrificing security. On the contrary, you can codify your security requirements and improve your baseline security by developing automated compliance policies, fine-grained controls, and configuration management techniques using IaC.
DevOps has evolved into various implementations within different sectors and new technologies such as MLOps (Machine Learning Operations), FinOps (Financial Operations), and SRE. But DevOps and security are so finely interwoven that it has resulted in a practice known as DevSecOps. Here is what you need to know:
DevSecOps is a natural and necessary evolution in how development organisations approach security by creating highly aligned development, security, and operations teams. In the past, security was often “tacked on” to software at the end of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) by a separate security team and tested by a quality assurance team. This “tack on” was manageable when software updates were released once or twice a year. Adopting the DevOps culture and the shift to reducing the SDLC to weeks or even days resulted in the “tacked on” approach to security creating an unacceptable bottleneck. DevSecOps integrates application and infrastructure security seamlessly into DevOps processes and tools. It addresses security issues as they emerge before going into production – making it easier, faster and less expensive to fix. Learn more about DevSecOps and our approach to it here.
Our thoughts on DevOps
1. It’s all about Agile
Within the frame of collaboration, taking an iterative approach to project management and software development helps teams deliver value faster and with fewer reasons to err. The guiding principle behind Agile development is to produce work in smaller increments rather than a single large release. With requirements, plans and results continuously evaluated, teams can adjust to feedback quickly.
2. Shift left
“Shift left” means moving testing (and other processes such as the implementation of security) to earlier in the development lifecycle. It is the first half of the maxim coined by Larry Smith in 2001, followed by “test early and often”. Why? Shifting left follows the theme of collaboration and allows testers to be a part of the initial planning. It also fits into the Agile methodology because bugs and defects are found earlier in the process, and can thus be addressed at each release increment.
3. Reduce toil
Toil is the enemy of engineering value. Efficiency is a core tenet of DevOps since it allows engineering teams to focus almost exclusively on tasks that enhance the system somehow. Using proven automation techniques, repetitive and time-wasting tasks are avoided. CI/CD is one such technique that enables software engineers to regularly deploy their code with automated safety nets in place to catch problems before the code gets to the production environment. This automated process, alongside automated testing, is essential in successfully implementing DevOps.
4. Use CI/CD and tools to simplify development
CI/CD allows code changes to pass through various automated stages, from building and testing to deploying applications – from development to production environments with quality gates. With extensive experience assisting clients in adopting DevOps and developing software that meets business needs, click here to learn more about some of the most BBD’s reliable AWS tools for CI/CD in a DevOps environment.
5. Embrace IAC
Fitting into the theme of automating everything wherever possible, IaC utilises highly efficient automation to free up software engineers to focus the bulk of their energy and skills on innovation and progressive projects. IaC allows increased speed, agility, consistency, lower costs, and easier collaboration. Learn more about BBD’s approach to IaC here.
6. Monitor applications and pipelines
There’s no doubt that automation can increase the speed of delivery. But when there’s a broken build or a failed test that no one knows about, all you’re creating is unnecessary delays. The trick? Ensure monitoring of applications and pipelines so that you can identify failures before they become a real issue. In a cloud-based DevOps environment, there are many tools available to accurately monitor both cloud and network environments. Click here to find out more about these.
Managed Platform Services – A partnership approach to sustainable cloud operations
Building, maturing and running the platform requires a combination of ingenuity, deep technical skills and a methodical approach to repetitive tasks. SREs need to be unicorns! And unicorns, they’re hard to find!
While you require the reassurance of an expert engineer to ensure your production platform stability and uptime, most of the time spent is on repetitive tasks easily performed by a less experienced engineer. Businesses don’t want to incur the cost of a senior SRE to perform these tasks and the senior SRE would prefer to spend time on platform innovation.
BBD’s Managed Platform Service (MPS) offers the best of both worlds. Using a pool of junior and intermediate SREs to ensure platform optimisation and ongoing improvement, we maintain oversight with a pool of senior and principal engineers to ensure expert attention. Senior engineers prioritise the maintenance and improvement backlog of the platform, and design changes to the platform in conjunction with the junior SRE and then guides them in implementations. The senior engineers are also on hand to assist in incident remediation if necessary. Our service cost is thus less than it would be to employ the junior and senior SREs permanently while providing the reassurance that having a senior SRE and pool of resources who understand the domain context of your specific platform brings. The model ensures both redundancy and continuity.
Adopting DevOps means shifting your organisation’s mindset towards collaboration, agility and automation so that your teams can focus on meeting end-user needs through innovative and progressive work. Demonstrating their skill and experience in providing specialised DevOps-related services, we have achieved the AWS DevOps Services Competency showcasing their technical proficiency and proven track record. Having assisted clients in making the shift to DevOps and successfully delivering countless software solutions for clients across sectors and in the cloud, we are perfectly positioned to guide you through the process.
Reach out to us if you think DevOps or MPS may be your way forward (and why wouldn’t you?).