DevOps is a modern software development approach that combines and automates the work of a company’s software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) teams. DevOps promotes the idea that these traditionally separate teams are more effective in collaboration than in silos.
Ideally, a DevOps team works together to improve and automate the entire software development lifecycle, from planning and coding to testing, deployment, and monitoring in production. It does this by creating a continuous feedback loop between software engineers, IT, and any other departments relevant to the project (such as QA or security teams).
How DevOps works
DevOps works by fostering an integrated approach between teams to deliver better software at a faster pace. On a practical level, DevOps works by tailoring these principles to suit the needs, resources, and constraints of the organization. While every organization has its own quirks and nuances, DevOps teams generally follow the agile methodology process using these steps:
- Teams define the scope, requirements, and goals of the project.
- They agree on priorities and organize tasks into a development pipeline.
- Developers write code in time-boxed periods of one week to one month (sprints) to implement new features or improvements.
- The code is stored in version control to track changes and allow for collaboration.
- Developers review each other's code to make sure it is up to standard and free from any security vulnerabilities.
- These code reviews help catch issues before they are merged into the main codebase.
Continuous Integration (CI)
- Code changes from multiple developers are integrated into a shared repository on a regular basis.
- The team runs a variety of automated tests to proactively identify issues such as bugs or integration problems.
- Testing tools check for regressions to make sure that new changes do not break any existing functionality.
Continuous Delivery (CD)
- Once the code passes automated tests and developer reviews, it is packaged for deployment.
- Automated deployment scripts get the code and configurations ready for their target environment.
Staging and testing
- The DevOps team deploys the code to a staging or testing environment that mimics the production environment.
- More comprehensive testing is performed in this environment to make sure everything is working correctly.
User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
- A QA team, stakeholders, and/or test users conduct testing in the staging environment.
- They do this to verify that the software meets customer requirements as well as look for any problems that were not caught in the previous steps.
- Automated monitoring tools track how the application is doing, measuring everything from application performance, to system events, to user activity.
Feedback and iteration
- Based on monitoring and user feedback, improvements and bug fixes are identified.
- Developers make any necessary changes and restart the process.
Release to production
- Once the software is thoroughly tested and meets everyone’s requirements, it is released to the production environment.
- Automated deployment scripts keep things consistent and minimize manual errors.
After deployment, monitoring continues to gather performance data and user feedback. The DevOps team and any pertinent stakeholders conduct regular retrospectives and reviews to improve their process for future iterations.
Why is DevOps important?
DevOps is important because this integrated approach increases productivity and production while also reducing time to market. A DevOps mindset results in overall happier teams that produce better software more quickly and efficiently. DevOps offers a fundamental shift from rigid, sequential development to a collaborative approach that can swiftly adapt to market changes as well as encourage a team culture focused on improving and learning.
In contrast, traditional software development models (such as the Waterfall method) emphasize sequential phases with clear handoffs between teams. While these kinds of models do work, they often result in slower development cycles and limited collaboration.
DevOps best practices and principles
DevOps teams follow a variety of practices and principles to implement their method of software development. Here are some of the main practices and principles that DevOps emphasizes: Automation
is at the heart of DevOps. By automating manual tasks such as testing, deployment, and provisioning, a DevOps team can speed up the software delivery process with more consistency and fewer errors.
Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD)
As mentioned earlier, these processes make sure that new code integrates smoothly with existing code and automates the process of deploying code to various environments, like testing, staging, and production.
Infrastructure as Code (IaC)
IaC is an automation process that uses code to define and manage infrastructure. It allows the DevOps team to create consistent environments that can be reproduced if needed. This automation reduces manual configuration errors; it also speeds up provisioning.
Monitoring and feedback
The continuous monitoring of your applications and infrastructure gives you real-time insights into performance, both good and bad, as well as any other issues. These feedback loops help teams respond quickly to problems and drive improvements.
Microservices and containerization
These architectural approaches break down applications into smaller, modular components (microservices) and package them with their dependencies (containers). Deployments are more consistent and flexible and can be scaled more easily.
All code, configuration, and infrastructure changes are stored in version control systems such as Git. Your whole DevOps team can refer back to this history of changes. This makes it easier to collaborate and enables easy rollbacks if a problem occurs.
Benefits of DevOps
DevOps benefits organizations in numerous ways. Here are some of the biggest benefits you will notice once your business implements it:
- DevOps streamlines development, testing, and deployment processes, enabling organizations to release software more frequently and respond rapidly to user needs and market demands.
- Automated testing and continuous integration help DevOps teams catch bugs early. This reduces the number of problems that might reach real users at the production stage.
- Because DevOps practices allow teams to iterate so quickly, it helps organizations respond rapidly to any changes that users might need or errors that slip through to production.
- As mentioned earlier, infrastructure as code (IaC) and automated deployment practices mean that infrastructure setups are more consistent and have less downtime and errors.
- DevOps is all about breaking down barriers. It encourages a cultural shift where everyone involved in the software lifecycle takes ownership of its success. There is no finger-pointing when a problem occurs because everyone is working as a team.
Challenges of DevOps
While DevOps offers many benefits, your organization may also come across some challenges as you implement it. Overcoming them will require careful planning and a team-wide commitment to a DevOps mindset. Here are a few you might encounter:
- Implementing DevOps requires a major culture and mindset shift. Breaking down traditional silos between development and operations teams and overcoming resistance to change can be difficult.
- Part of this resistance may be because our organization’s existing legacy systems do not easily align with DevOps practices. Legacy constraints can often cause problems during the transitional phase.
- While automation drives efficiency, setting up and maintaining automated processes can be intricate. Writing, testing, and managing scripts and workflows requires your DevOps team to have a certain level of expertise depending on what tools they are using.
- Can DevOps be scaled to fit your organization’s needs? It could potentially be difficult to maintain consistent, efficient software releases if you are in a period of rapid growth or change and trying to transition at the same time.
- Your team will need to make sure that security practices are integrated throughout the DevOps pipeline just in case there are any vulnerabilities and compliance requirements they need to address. (See DevSecOps, below.)
What's the difference between DevOps and DevSecOps?
DevOps and DevSecOps are both focused on improving the software development and delivery process, but DevSecOps has a distinct area of emphasis. DevSecOps extends the principles of DevOps to emphasize security practices throughout the software development lifecycle. (The "Sec" in DevSecOps stands for security.) DevSecOps integrates security as a key part of every phase of the development process instead of treating security as just one feature among many others (or, worse, as an afterthought). This proactive approach helps identify and address security vulnerabilities early; it also reduces the risk of compliance violations.
Measuring DevOps success
Measuring DevOps success involves assessing various quantitative and qualitative metrics. Here are some key indicators to consider:
- Measure how often new code is deployed to production. Higher deployment frequency indicates that DevOps practices are enabling faster releases.
- Assess the percentage of changes that lead to incidents or failures. A lower change failure rate means more reliable releases.
- Measure the time it takes from code commit to deployment. Shorter lead times suggest efficient development and deployment processes.
- Calculate the average time it takes to recover from failures (also known as Mean Time to Recovery or MTTR). A lower MTTR indicates better incident response and system resilience.
- Measure the percentage of successful deployments. Consistently high deployment success rates mean your team’s DevOps practices are strong.
- Evaluate the percentage of tests that are automated. Higher automated testing coverage leads to faster and more reliable testing.
- Monitor security testing practices and compliance adherence throughout the pipeline. This is particularly important if your team is prioritizing DevSecOps in their process.
- Evaluate cost reductions. You can do this by reviewing some of the other metrics mentioned above and comparing them to your pre-DevOps metrics. Are your customers happier?
- Are your employees happier? These are soft metrics, but they are important ones for your organization. Consumer research and anonymous employee surveys can help you evaluate their satisfaction.
Future trends in DevOps
DevOps is constantly evolving to meet the changing demands of organizations. The advent of software as a service (SaaS) and cloud-native technologies paved the way for more efficient and effective development approaches. Here are a few of the many DevOps trends that you will be seeing in the future:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
Several elements of AI and ML are already shaping the future of DevOps. Predictive analytics enables DevOps teams to get a handle on potential bottlenecks and failures quickly. Machine learning-powered anomaly detection can spot unusual patterns and set off alerts that the DevOps team can respond to in real time. Even natural language processing will be helping DevOps teams: For example, ChatOps involves integrating tools and processes into chat applications like Slack. ChatOps enables DevOps teams to execute commands, monitor systems, and receive notifications by communicating with a chatbot within the chat interface.
Low-code and no-code applications and platforms
Low-code and no-code applications and platforms are development tools that require a nominal amount of coding (and in the latter case, no coding at all). This allows non-technical team members, such as visual designers and business analysts, to get involved in application development.
Increased adoption of Kubernetes
Kubernetes is a central force shaping the future of DevOps. The open source platform developed by Google helps DevOps teams take on the challenge of coordinating, scheduling, and scaling containerized applications. Kubernetes provides a standardized platform for both development and operations team members to use, and its wide array of tools, plugins, and extensions enriches the DevOps toolchain.
Chaos engineering is a practice where a DevOps team introduces controlled disruptions to a system that simulate real-world scenarios; they then monitor how the system reacts. It demonstrates how the system behaves under stress and helps the DevOps team come up with prevention and recovery strategies.
Accelerate your DevOps transformation with Elastic
Break down silos with Elastic Observability on the Elasticsearch platform, a tool that allows your DevOps team to collaborate on a single solution for the entire software lifecycle. Elastic Observability allows you to:
- Gain complete visibility of your entire environment
- Compare performance over progressive deployments
- Centralize log monitoring across your application ecosystem
- Accelerate troubleshooting with all data in context
- Create curated infrastructure views for faster context
- And get better visibility into your CI/CD pipelines, all in one place
Your DevOps team can reduce complexity, accelerate troubleshooting, and optimize customer experiences with Elastic Observability—get started today.
What does DevOps stand for?
DevOps is a portmanteau of "development" and "operations". The name represents the combining of software development and IT operations teams into one collaborative unit.
What is an example of DevOps?
An example of DevOps could be implementing new code for a web app. Developers write code that is automatically built, tested, and deployed, instead of having to go through traditional sequential software development models.
What tools and methodologies are commonly used in DevOps?
Common DevOps tools include Git, Docker, and Kubernetes. A few common methodologies are Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Delivery (CD), Infrastructure as Code (IaC), and agile practices.