A guide to help understand what DevOps is, how you can practice DevOps principles in your organization, and what aspects of IT operations could be outsourced.
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Jeff Bezos.
Before understanding what DevOps-as-a-Service is, a quick primer on the DevOps culture.
What is DevOps?
DevOps can be considered a culture in which the software development teams and the IT operations teams work together to ship better products and make them available to their customers faster.
Traditionally, software development was a linear and sequential process that included gathering requirements, designing and developing the application, integrating and testing the application, and finally, deploying the application and monitoring and maintaining it. This led to longer release cycles, and to overcome this issue, companies started following the agile development practices, which reduced the development time. However, the deployment time was still longer, as the IT operations teams could not keep pace with the development. This gave birth to an approach called DevOps, where the development and IT operations teams work together to improve their software delivery processes and ship products rapidly.
How DevOps works?
Starting with the planning and development process, as developers write code, the latest code is to be committed to source code repository tools, which are then tested by automation frameworks such as Selenium, JUnit. The latest code is then picked up by the Continuous Integration tools such as Jenkins, which builds the code to generate artifacts. The generated artifact is to be deployed in a target environment, which is taken care of by Continuous Deployment tools like Ansible or Docker. Once deployed, the application needs to be continuously monitored for performance, which can be done with tools like Splunk, Nagios, and others.
Benefits of Implementing DevOps:
Implementing a DevOps culture helps organizations quickly release their applications, new features, or bug fixes, ultimately improving user experience. The quality of the products developed through these processes also is better since the development team gets faster user feedback, resulting in the development of reliable products.
How to implement DevOps in your organization?
Some of the important DevOps practices that could be implemented by organizations to achieve the benefits as mentioned above are:
Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery: Continuous integration is a practice used by developers to frequently merge the changed code to the main code branch, automating the tests, and integrating the code with other modules such that the time taken to develop and test are reduced, making the build ready for deployment. Continuous delivery automates the deployment of the new builds into various environments. The goal of CI/CD is to eliminate the mundane and manual steps involved in the release of the software and to make the process seamless.
Microservices: Agile Development Architecture The software programming is moving away from monolithic architecture in which the entire application, the frontend, backend, and the database are developed as one module, to a microservices architecture, which allows breaking down a large application into small chunks of services, each running independently. This approach enables the application to be lightweight, and also allows following an agile development approach of building and integrating continually in short release cycles.
Infrastructure as Code: Infrastructure as code is the approach used by IT ops teams to treat the infrastructure, such as the virtual machines, as code so that they can be scaled or replicated automatically, without manual intervention. Configuration management tools are used to set up and make changes to infrastructure through scripts. The working configuration is stored in the version control system, and the scripts are used to automate the configurations of the operating system, database, and other server applications.
Continuous Monitoring: Continuous monitoring is the approach to capturing and analyzing the application and the server logs to understand its end-user experience. These logs and metrics help companies provide 24/7 service to its users, and also helps proactively monitor their services.
In some organizations, the development teams take care of some of the IT operations tasks. Although this leads to better control over continuous integration and continuous delivery, there could be issues with the infrastructure itself, or with providing reliable support.
I’d worked in a team where our(dev) team was responsible for the development, testing, and deployment of the application, whereas the infrastructure team was responsible for providing us with the required infrastructure(VMs) to deploy the applications, and monitoring them. Often times, issues arise with this development model, as the dev team automated most of its activities, where as the IT ops team was still manually configuring and setting up the infrastructure, which sometimes led to performance issues, and made it difficult to scale the application. The options were either to automate the infrastructure setup, or continue with the existing process and increase the strength of the infrastructure team. The second option increases the operational costs in the long run, and hence we had to develop and acquire skills to automate the infrastructure setup and monitoring. As a large company, we were able to do that.
However, for most small and medium businesses, developing that skillset and workforce is challenging. A report by Cloud Guru mentions that 81% of IT leaders surveyed mention that a knowledge gap exists, which prevents cloud success in their respective organizations.
This is the problem that the DevOps-as-a-Service model tries to solve. Organizations would be able to maximize the benefits of DevOps implementation by outsourcing the infrastructure automation part, focusing on establishing better CI/CD processes internally, and by collaborating with the managed services provider to improve the product quality and release time.