What Is DevOps? Skills, Tools, Practices Explained [2022 Update]
The right choice of software development practice can make or break the product. Each release should be quick and reliable but also meet real users’ expectations.
How can companies ensure their launches meet these requirements? Implementing DevOps methodologies can be a great way to do so.
In recent years, DevOps approach triumphs on the IT market. Companies that adopt this practice experience its significant benefits and many specialists consider it a great career path. So what exactly is DevOps?
In the past, developers and system administrators at most organizations worked in strict silos – had limited communication and did not work towards the same goals. In fact, more often than not, they had opposing motivations. These traditional software development practices were not as sustainable and profitable as expected, which is why more collaborative methodologies, like DevOps, became common.
Undoubtedly, implementing DevOps culture may require some extra effort and time – especially that it typically means changing the “usual way things are done.” However, once incorporated into a company's software delivery process, it brings a number of benefits.
The term “DevOps” itself is a combination of words “development” and “operations.'' It’s an idea of shared responsibility: DevOps assumes that a company’s software developers and operations experts (or sysadmins) work closely together, sharing the same goals and incentives.
The DevOps team is actually an Operations team, comprising System or Network Administration, Automation, Orchestration, and Cloud Architecture specialists.
DevOps engineers are operations experts who understand software development lifecycles and know how to use a wide set of tools. They should have a good understanding of the principles of programming, be excellent sysadmins, and have experience with testing and deployment. Furthermore, DevOps engineers should be familiar with agile project management methodologies and support the interconnection between IT operations and the business goals of their company.
The term “DevOps” itself is not necessarily a job description but, as mentioned, rather a methodology. However, in this article, the term “DevOps Engineer” will be used to describe a system operations engineer following the DevOps approach.
Introducing DevOps practices in software development
Fundamental DevOps practice is to release fast and often. DevOps teams can do so by combining automation and working on small increments. This especially aligns with agile software development, where the project is continuously examined and processed piece by piece.
Continuous integration and continuous delivery comprise a crucial part of DevOps. Thanks to these methods, the team can ensure that the code is coherent, none of the updates have negative influence on other parts, and the software is ready to launch in a quick manner. Another important process is continuous improvement. By implementing this method a company can save its resources, as the workflow is handled more efficiently.
Rapid delivery is also a frequently used practice where the product doesn’t go through a complex development phase before the launch. Instead, the team focuses on building it in a simplified form to release it as quickly as possible. As a result, feedback is gathered at the early stages of production, and thus, changes can be executed without unnecessary waste of resources.
DevOps teams manage complex environments: They are responsible for monitoring resources and assessing used tools, configurations of the projects, or inspecting potential issues related to projects. As a vast part of the DevOps practice is deployment configuration or automation, they also handle any failures or errors connected with it.
In addition, the department is responsible for the project's infrastructure, they check whether the production works properly, manage DNS or SSH servers, and update SSL certificates. DevOps also researches new tools, looks for product improvements, and provides suggestions regarding security (this concept is called ‘DevSecOps’).
DevOps lifecycle is an ongoing loop which consists of a few software methodologies deriving from both development and operations backgrounds. The primary goal of the loop is to build a product that exactly meets users’ needs with as little human involvement as possible, which can be achieved through automated tools and practices.
- Continuous development: It’s an initial stage of a process that includes planning and coding. The software is launched in small fractions instead of one big update. This way, the team can implement changes quickly and check their utility with users.
- Continuous testing: Code and updates are constantly checked by a series of automated tests and tools.
- Continuous deployment: This rule assumes that if an update passes all advanced automated tests, it can go directly to production with no human interference. Thanks to that, real-life users can test new features immediately and the team implements adjustments once they receive customer feedback.
- Continuous feedback: The team constantly analyzes users’ opinions and behaviors through various channels. Then, they can adapt the software accordingly.
- Continuous monitoring: By using tools such as Datadog or Sensu DevOps, the team can monitor the project and instantly detect any issues within the project.
What does DevOps do? Skills required in DevOps teams
This role is focused on minimizing repetitive work, and so, DevOps engineers have to know how to use solutions such as frameworks or libraries. Rapid development, fast iterations, and dynamic growth constitute a part of daily practices in DevOps teams. Their duties also include testing and deployment flows, as well as verifying an ever-evolving array of tools and software providers.
Furthermore, DevOps is all about providing assistance at every stage of product delivery. Hence, DevOps engineers are familiar with various tools used for app configuration, deployment, and maintenance. DevOps engineers know and use innovative practices as well as have an in-depth knowledge of Linux or AWS. Their other skills include automation, designing technology stacks, and scripting with Shell, Perl or Python.
On top of all that, DevOps engineers fulfill a support role. They need to have high communication skills to work closely with developers, establish common goals, and solve problems together. They rarely write a lot of code, but in order to give the best advice and offer the best solutions, they should have a basic understanding of the programming languages.
DevOps engineers should bring a strong feeling of project ownership and have high awareness of others’ work. Flexibility and the ability to multitask are crucial, as DevOps often have to handle multiple requests at once.
The DevOps team should also have an in-depth understanding of the company's business needs and put the customer first. Since they have to make choices between requests from the development team and customer success representatives, they should analyze the project in the grand scheme of things and make decisions accordingly.
When it comes to work experience or education, working in the DevOps department usually requires background in software development or sysadmin, among others.
The table above shows a selection of tools that DevOps engineers often use. DevOps aren’t usually expected to have an expert knowledge of all of them but rather a broad understanding of their purpose.
DevOps engineers have some familiarity with GitHub or Bitbucket for source control, as well as Bamboo or Jenkins for continuous integration. Docker or LXD can be used for containerisation, while Kubernetes, Swarm and Apache Mesos are server orchestration tools.
Popular infrastructure automation tools include Puppet, Chef, and Ansible. There’s also Terraform for configuration and various monitoring tools, such as Prometheus.
Finally, more and more companies choose to host their services in the cloud, using providers like AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure.
What are the benefits of DevOps?
Introducing DevOps culture comes with a number of advantages – not only for the business, but also for the users and the team. Here is what adopting this strategy can bring to organizations:
- Improved software quality: Projects are analyzed and improved consecutively.
- Quick delivery: Software is ready to be released fast.
- Business efficiency: DevOps offers multiple strategies to reduce capital expenditure and decrease operational costs.
- Increased data security: A set of particular security measures and policies result in greater stability and scaling possibilities.
- Immediate feedback: A product can be instantly checked against real-life customers and improved accordingly based on that.
- Customer satisfaction: Users receive a product adjusted to their needs.
- Increased collaboration within the team: This model is all about joining traditionally siloed teams and enhancing collaboration effectiveness.
DevOps: the bridge connecting development and operation teams
Introducing DevOps practice can undoubtedly bring many advantages – whether it’s introduced in a company’s everyday life or only in specific projects. Not only does it boost the team and users’ satisfaction, but it also benefits the business by improving efficiency and increasing profits.
Products developed accordingly to the DevOps workflows can be built in a quicker manner than in traditional software development models, while still meeting the highest standards. DevOps might require adapting remodeled practices and tools, but most importantly, it’s a change in the culture of teamwork.