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DevOps - principles, practices and why should you care?

DevOps - principles, practices and core values
‘’An introduction to the principles and practices involved in implementing DevOps environments and ways to create a culture of collaboration.’’

DevOps describes modern IT practices that enable collaboration between software development teams with the operations staff. The goal of DevOps is to break down barriers between the two sides of the IT department and reduce the time invested and friction that permeates all phases of development, deployment and ongoing maintenance.

No matter the industry your business operates in, it’s almost certain that traditional business practices are stormed with big changes due to the move towards a software-defined economy.

Even if your business hasn’t been competing in the software market in the last decade or so, today it is. And the only way to stay ahead of the competition is to bring better solutions forward, faster.

Well-executed DevOps helps:

  • Businesses in getting higher ROI on product development
  • Software development teams to work more efficiently and deliver higher quality code
  • Product leads to plan product roadmaps more confidently

Before you start

Although DevOps holds the promise of on-time development, it’s not a silver bullet. It greatly relies on your organization culture and practices and it might not work for some organizations.

Evaluate the need for DevOps integration

Your business goals need to be aligned with your IT goals. Your decision of implementing DevOps should be business-driven, not because it’s a trendy buzzword.

Break the organization silos. Encourage collaboration

Bridging communication between development and operations teams and removing the unnecessary barriers between them is probably the biggest challenge you’ll face when implementing DevOps practices.

You need to watch over and thoroughly examine cross-team communication, coordination, and methodologies to identify weak spots and bottlenecks. Only then will you be able to get a clear picture and identify opportunities for improvement.

End-user satisfaction should be your main driver

Your goal is to meet user expectations regarding quality, time and performance. And this can only be done by embracing changes in your company culture that focuses on transparency, open communication, and commitment to the product’s end users.
Successful DevOps practices rely on this very much.

Don’t force it

Start small and scale up. Apply DevOps practices for a smaller project, test it, adapt it and then scale it throughout the organization.

Small successes build up quickly and this is a key factor for strengthening the belief of the stakeholders in the DevOps approach. In order to move the existing IT culture towards the new philosophy of breaking down silos, you need to develop trust and acceptance in this new approach.

Strive toward automation

Wherever and whenever you can. This greatly improves execution throughout the software development life cycle. It saves time and effort for the entire DevOps team and, in turn, lowers the entire operational and development costs.

Automation can be employed on:

  • code development
  • database changes
  • networking changes
  • middle-ware configurations
  • testing (both regression and load)

Setting up the code environments for DevOps processes

In order to ensure smooth workflow between the development and operations teams, and deliver on client’s and user’s expectations with your product, you’ll need to focus on implementing these key processes:

  • Testing, QA and staging environments
  • Version control implementation
  • Build, test and deployment processes automation

These practices, when implemented correctly, lead to increased efficiency and workflow across your development team and ensure deployment of a much higher-quality product.

Continuous delivery and continuous integration

You’ll need to set up multiple code environments in order to prevent conflicts between different parts or versions of the code. This enables your development team to work in tandem and prevent their code from being overridden by another team member.

Having multiple well-organized code environments enables more efficient testing, easier refactoring, conflict prevention, and faster iterations. Here are some standard code environments that undergo basic DevOps practices.

Dev environment

This environment is used to determine how untested code, developed in a local environment, performs. It’s used to test the code quality without impacting the final version or breaking the existing code. Merging your developers’ code into a working copy requires a special environment to test how the updated or new components work together. And dev environment represents a stable development version of the project.

QA environment

This is where you test the system functionality after the integration step. It serves to prevent negative impacts of the code on the current working version of the code.

Staging environment

Staging environment should be as identical to the production environment as possible. It serves to simulate the full system and can be used for training and demonstration purposes.

Production environment

This is the “live” version of the product developed, where the user interacts directly with your product. All of the aforementioned environments are there to ensure that the final product is launched with the highest quality standards.

Version control is the cornerstone of the delivery process

Development teams that accepted agile methods are coding quickly - the products are being developed much faster, in small increments and each change is validated immediately after the integration. This puts a lot of pressure on the operations and extended teams as their processes and release cycles were much longer.

Having a shared view of the system that’s being worked on is of huge importance for the DevOps process. Aside from the development team, all other key players such as project managers, testers and designers need to be integrated into the process to prevent friction and delays. This shared view of the system is called “a single source of truth”.

Version control benefits DevOps by:

  • Improving collaboration
  • Improving continuous integration of the system
  • Providing better support for distributed teams
  • Enabling faster commits
Version control and workflow

The concepts and principles of VCS are probably well familiar with your development team and testers. However, this isn’t often the case with the operations team so here are a few basic principles, concepts, and vocabulary to introduce to them:

  • A repository is a place where your project is.
  • A diff is a difference between the two states of your project. It helps you identify changes made between the two states and enables you to revert them at some point.
  • Commit represents a state snapshot of your project at some point in history. It records the difference between the two states with a diff.
  • Branch is where you keep changes to the project that are made in parallel with the main branch (trunk) but are not affecting it. You can use branching to experiment and test new ideas without compromising the whole system that's being worked on.
  • Merge is a process where two branches are merged together. introducing changes.
  • A clone is a copy of a project you’re downloading to your local environment.
  • Fork represents your own version of someone’s project with modifications such as bug fixes or feature upgrades.

There are two main types of version control systems:

  • Centralized - where all work is done on a designated workbench and the system requires a persistent connection with a centralized server.
  • Distributed - where each key player works on a cloned copy in their local environment, makes changes, updates, and fixes and commits them to their designated branch before merging.

There will always be temptation between different teams to opt for different repositories, VCSs, and tools to work with. Consequently, this can be a problem as the choice of tools can directly prevent other contributors to participate in the process.

For example, using Git as a storage repository can prevent designers from tracking design changes and building design artifacts. Other distributed control systems like Helix Core are great for working with extended teams and allow designers to stay on track with the development team but have a price tag.

What can you learn from all this?

  • DevOps is not a silver bullet - it relies on trust and acceptance of a new philosophy and company culture
  • By breaking the barriers between organizational silos and aiming towards a “single source of truth” your organization can benefit greatly from integrating the DevOps approach
  • Version control is about tracking global changes to the system and enables shared view for each key player involved in it - not just the development team
  • The focus should be on Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Start small and scale up. DevOps culture starts from the bottom up but requires and relies on top-down sponsorship from the stakeholders.

And here are some cool resources you should definitely check out for further reading:

At Ingsoftware, we understand the need for DevOps integration especially when working with distributed and extended teams. Over the years we’ve been working with clients across the globe and providing guidance and tech force with our dedicated development teams. You can learn more about it in our case studies.

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