What Every Technical Founder Should Know About DevOps

DevOps is one of the most talked-about software development methodologies in today's tech industry. Several leading companies such as Amazon, Netflix, Etsy, and Facebook have applied DevOps in their organizations. In fact, it's taken for granted that every technology company, startup or multinational, should adopt DevOps in some capacity. It has become essential for the growth of every business due to reliably increasing demand for software and applications.

As a CTO, you don't want your team wasting time by handling development and operations separately. The legacy approach where developers write code and administrators perform deployment and integration has now changed. As a technical founder, the following are the key aspects of DevOps that you should be aware of.

What is DevOps?

You likely already know that DevOps stands for development and operations. More conceptually, DevOps can be defined as a cross-disciplinary community of practice committed to the study of building, evolving, and operating rapidly changing, flexible systems at scale.

In other words, it is a practice where development and operation engineers work together through the entire life cycle of service, from design to development, to complete production. Thus, teamwork is a crucial part of DevOps culture because the project’s success is contingent on it.

Why should every software company adopt DevOps?

When you properly implement DevOps, all of the members of your team combine their varied skillsets and strengths to build a product. Companies can gain various benefits from DevOps.

Advanced resource management

While working on software development, developers and testers are eagerly waiting for designs and codes, respectively, to continue doing their job. This methodology of incremental progress is called agile, and DevOps can guarantee that development will be carried at a much faster pace.

Human error reduction

DevOps reduces the chances of human error during development and iterations deployment. If DevOps practices such as automated testing and continuous integration are used at their full potential, it helps mitigate the risk of human errors.

Quick bug fixing

Deployment of DevOps in software companies can lead to improved communication and cooperation processes between departments. It enables your team to quickly identify and fix bugs at any stage of the development cycle.

Stable working environment

Stability is the key to successful business operations, and and DevOps is a well-known driver of stability. Using DevOps practices effectively, organizations can reliably move to the deployment phase with very few chances to fail or encounter errors.

Comparing DevOps configurations

Let's talk about three different approaches to DevOps and the broad lessons that companies can learn from each.

A company with no DevOps practices

Some companies prefer not to observe best DevOps practices. This can be due to security concerns, staffing constraints, or a lack of interest. These organizations will lose a lot of productivity with their traditional workflow.

A company with no DevOps is generally using manpower to compensate for a lack of well-planned automation. Thus, everything is done manually in such companies. For example, let’s consider a team developing a software using Git.

For such a team, every time a developer pushes the code, it has to be reviewed by a senior developer, which consumes a good amount of time and delays the development process. Moreover, the senior employee who is reviewing the code can make mistakes when merging the code to the master branch, leading to additional wasted time in resolving the bugs.

Companies with no DevOps are generally at a big risk of either losing their data or losing their employees, as the employee has to do everything manually.

Here are a few key risks that arise when a company has no DevOps:

  • Build might fail right before a release
  • QA tests are manual, which can take too long to execute
  • Several time-consuming manual steps are required to push applications to production
  • Security risks are higher
  • It’s difficult to reduce the defective and unused code when merged manually, which can occupy memory

Manual communication is the only tool for companies with no DevOps practices. Developers need to communicate with other departments to perform tasks. However, communication can have gaps, which can lead to errors in production. Non-DevOps teams are also likely to use the waterfall model, which is a step-by-step, pre-defined approach for developing the software.

A company using some DevOps practices

Some CTOs decide to adopt a few DevOps practices and ignore a few. They stick with the traditional method for some of the processes – for instance, employing CI/CD but opting for traditional manual testing methodologies. While better than a total lack of DevOps, this approach still requires increased effort and results in more time to complete a project.

CI/CD stands for continuous integration and continuous delivery, respectively. CI/CD is the only DevOps practice to solve all the issues that arise where there is no DevOps approach. CI is a development approach where the code integration occurs more frequently and software builds are automated. One example of an automated testing tool is Jenkins. It is an open-source DevOps tool that also provides a CI/CD environment.

You can follow the steps below for a better CI practice:

  • Check code in the Git repo daily, focusing on small incremental changes that can be pushed to production
  • Automate the testing process such that a build is successful only if the tests pass.
  • Fully automate the builds to include all software components and trigger builds when new code is merged in the development branch in Git

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For faster code releases, it is a good idea to also invest in CD.

CD is the automated process to push the code to either the development, testing, or production environment. It executes all the steps required to run the application with the newly committed code.

To implement CD, you have to change some of your setups to make them automated. You can follow the steps below for a better CD configuration:

  • All the database connections, users, passwords, API endpoints, and other parameters should be set as environment variables with encrypted assigned values for the target environments
  • Package the application and its dependencies using container technology such as Docker or Kubernetes
  • Implement automated testing, including performance and security tests, which can run during the delivery process
  • For each automated deployment step, implement an equivalent rollback step in case the delivery ever fails

The result of this whole process is known as the CI/CD pipeline.

If your company does not have a separate operations team, the above steps to integrate CI/CD is the best solution. Moreover, it also helps the company in reducing the cost for a DevOps team.

A company using all major DevOps practices

Many software companies have already adopted DevOps practices. This saves a lot of time, effort, and money for the organization. But if you are a new startup that is looking to adopt DevOps, then you must have a good culture within your organization, and the employees should be willing to work with each other.

The companies opting for full DevOps use CI/CD practices and monitor the whole process to ensure that the product or software can be made faster and more efficiently. Generally, companies opting for a full DevOps approach have a separate team dedicated to this function.

Once the CI/CD pipeline is defined, the team has to ensure that it is performing as intended. This is done by monitoring the code quality metrics such as defect rates and reopen rates. With much of the infrastructure and deployment automated, your team can focus on customer satisfaction, security risk, or application performance.

There must be KPI Metrics such as customer satisfaction, development and deployment time, load time, and failure rate defined to monitor the performance of your platform or application. This is essential to ensure that your DevOps processes evolve to account for changing technology.

Advantages and Disadvantages of DevOps

Let's look at some of the key advantages:

  1. Quicker delivery of the product resulting is faster market launch
  2. Applications built by DevOps are generally easy to maintain and scalable
  3. Faster deployment process via CI/CD
  4. Better communication between the staff, which makes them productive and their jobs easier
  5. Clear vision of the development roadmap and cross-team alignment on product progress

Now, let's review some disadvantages:

  1. Time taken to transition from no DevOps to a full DevOps setup might be significant
  2. Finding skilled employees who are able to operate and deliver according to industry standards
  3. It can be difficult to choose the correct toolset given the variety of tools available in the market.
  4. DevOps usually focuses on speed rather than security when developing software. Moreover, the use of cloud services can cause some security risks.

Best DevOps Practices

Now let's take a look at the 7 key practices of DevOps that can help an organization grow at a faster pace:

  1. Configuration Management: This is the practice of managing and controlling changes to software using version control in a repeatable and standard way. This practice consists of two main components: a standard code repository management strategy and the use of version control software.
  2. Continuous Integration: This is a practice that requires software or application developers to integrate code into a shared repository regularly and obtain feedback on its success during the active development of the project. CI is the base foundation for both continuous delivery and continuous deployment in DevOps.
  3. Automated Testing: This practice is used to reduce the burden of running tests manually and helps in increasing the speed of the execution process of difficult tasks with ease. It makes use of specialized software to control the execution of tests and also compares the results.
  4. Infrastructure as Code: This practice helps to define code and its execution, and can work on both physical and virtual environments, including networking infrastructure and computing. It gives users the ability to version control their infrastructure and become more agile when recovering from infrastructure outages.
  5. Continuous Delivery: This is the practice of making every change to source code ready for a production release after automated testing approves it. This practice also includes automatically building, testing, and deploying the code.
  6. Continuous Deployment: This is an effective practice that helps to automate end-to-end software or application development. For this practice to be implemented, a team needs to have high confidence in their automated tests, because the ultimate goal is for the new code to pass the automated tests.
  7. Continuous Monitoring: This practice helps in proactively monitoring, alerting, and even taking actions in key areas to give teams visibility into the health of the application in the software or application production environment.

With so many benefits and practices of DevOps, there are some issues with using DevOps as well. Let me explain a few hurdles that have been faced by software companies when adopting DevOps.

Lack of skills

Before starting anything new, the team has to be taught and accustomed so they become familiar with the functionality and usage. Similarly, with DevOps, the team needs to be trained, and the company has to standardize all processes and common operational procedures.

Lack of culture

DevOps integration is not as simple as it sounds. The company needs to focus on building a culture of interaction with common goals between different departments within the organization.

Test Automation

Many companies do not choose to work with test automation and only focus on the continuous delivery and continuous integration processes. Continuous testing using test automation is one of the keys to success in DevOps. Everyone in the company needs to work together as one and should use the best practices of DevOps effectively.

Application complexity

It is recommended to use SaaS or cloud infrastructure for projects because many team members can apply changes.

Should you adopt DevOps?

Before you implement automation steps in your company, you need to understand their feasibility. DevOps technologies and methods are only worth it if they solve real-life problems and not just because they are popular.

Correctly configured automation for a project speeds up the development process, as it allows developers to focus only on writing code. Everything else is the responsibility of a DevOps engineer.

Founders like to add a DevOps specialist to their team for the following reasons:

  • Improved Internal Culture: DevOps practices lead to better communications and interaction between team members and help increase productivity. Members of DevOps teams act together, both those who develop and those who operate.
  • Enhanced Speed and Quality: DevOps technologies speed up development by introducing continuous delivery, receiving faster feedbacks, and allowing developers to fix bugs in the early stages of development.
  • Additional Business Benefits: Using DevOps, the team can quickly respond to customer requests, which helps to add new and updated features to the existing application. This results in increased value-delivery rates and improved customer satisfaction.

DevOps usually adds value

DevOps is not just about using tools but also various principles, practices, and methods for creating a collaborative environment within the organization that improves software delivery and increases business value rapidly.

Crowdbotics relies heavily on its DevOps practices for automated deployment, testing, and go-live. Several advanced DevOps tools are integrated into the Crowdbotics App Builder to help speed up the process.

If you are looking to develop a new application or apply DevOps to your organization, feel free to leverage Crowdbotics’ platform or get in touch with our team of software development professionals.

Originally published:

October 12, 2020

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