A quick introduction to DevOps

DevOps is a software engineering philosophy that aims to unify software development (Dev) and software operation (Ops). DevOps strongly advocates automation and monitoring at all steps of software construction, from integration, testing, releasing to deployment, and infrastructure management.

DevOps focuses on shorter development cycles, increased deployment frequency, and more dependable releases in close alignment with business objectives. Adopting DevOps allows teams to deliver stable and scalable products at a higher speed.

In this article, we explore the concept of DevOps, the main benefits of adopting this philosophy, and give an overview of the DevOps Maturity Model.

The origin of DevOps

DevOps' concept came from the need to keep up with the increased software development velocity achieved through Agile methods.

The great progress in Agile Development practices over the last decade exposed the need for a more holistic approach to the end-to-end software delivery lifecycle.

Both DevOps and Agile come with inherently adaptable nature and incorporate iterations and continuous feedback to successfully deliver scalable software. They focus on empowering teams through strong collaboration and quick decision-making.

DevOps diagram and its iterative, agile nature

DevOps is based on two key concepts:

  • Cross-Functional Teams: There is no separation between development, operations, database, and testing teams. It's a single and coordinated IT department. 
  • Automation: Container-based technologies aligned with the microservice architecture have changed how software is built, allowing full automation of all the software development cycles, including development, testing, deployment, and monitoring.

At the core of DevOps are The Three Ways. The Three ways are the core guidelines and agile development best practices key for a business transformation.

  • The principle of Flow, which accelerates the delivery of work from Development, to Operations, to our customers.
  • The principle of Feedback: which enables teams to create safer systems of work.
  • The principle of Continual Learning and Experimentation, which fosters a high-trust culture and a scientific approach to organizational improvement as part of daily work.

If you want to learn more about The Three Ways, we recommend reading this article by Gene Kim, Wall Street Journal bestselling author and DevOps researcher.

The importance of embracing DevOps

In many organizations, the engineering and operations teams work apart, which can generate misalignments, a less efficient development process, a lot of back and forth, and communication problems.

Adopting a DevOps mindset helps companies achieve shorter development cycles and a better alignment with business objectives. DevOps also enables teams to improve collaboration with stakeholders and to implement automation throughout the delivery process.

As a software development practice, DevOps has some distinctive objectives:

  • Improve deployment frequency
  • Allow the software product to achieve a faster time to market
  • Decrease the failure rate of new releases
  • Shorten the lead time between fixes
  • Enable infrastructure to move as quickly as developers need it to
DevOps maturity model, showing how a company's roadmap of devops adoption looks like

Benefits of implementing DevOps

According to the 2018's State of DevOps report, DevOps top performers release software 46 times more frequently than low performers, achieving faster lead times. The net effect on system stability is also highly positive: when the platform does go down, high performers restore service 2,604 times faster than low performers.

In addition to this, a survey by Puppet Labs revealed that development teams show consistent improvements after implementing DevOps:

  • Stability: High-performing organizations spend 22% less time on unplanned work and rework and 29% more time on new work, such as new features or code.
  • Security: High performers spend 50% less time resolving security issues than low performers.
  • Deployment speed: High performers deploy multiple times per day, compared to low performers who deploy between once per month and every 6 months.
DevOps venn diagram, showing how devops is the combination of Development, QA and Operations

Advantages of DevOps in practice

DevOps helps teams build scalable software products better and faster. In practice, these are some of the main advantages that DevOps brings:

Continuous Integration

Continuous integration (CI) is the practice of frequently integrating new code with the existing code repository. Continuous Integration should occur frequently enough that no errors can arise without developers noticing them and correcting them immediately.

When it comes to releasing the code, CI helps to save a lot of time. Continuous integration is often the first down the road toward DevOps maturity. This practice includes 10 essential tasks:

  • Maintain a code repository
  • Automate the build
  • Make the build self-testing
  • Everyone commits to the baseline every day
  • Every commit (to baseline) should be built
  • Keep the build fast
  • Test in a clone of the production environment
  • Make it easy to get the latest deliverables
  • Everyone can see the results of the latest build
  • Automate deployment

Continuous Delivery

Continuous delivery (CD) is a software engineering approach that allows teams to produce software in short cycles, ensuring that the software can be reliably released at any time. CD is defined as the act of creating, testing, and releasing code frequently in small increments.

Continuous Delivery includes a series of practices designed to ensure that code can be rapidly and safely deployed to production by delivering new iterations to a production-like environment and ensuring applications and services function as expected through rigorous automated testing.

Since every change is delivered to a staging environment, you can have confidence the application can be deployed to production with a push of a button when the business is ready.

The benefits of continuous delivery are:

  • Reduced Deployment Risk: since you are deploying smaller changes, there's less to go wrong, and it's easier to fix possible issues.
  • Believable Progress: Continuous Delivery allows teams to track progress by tracking iterations deployed into a production (or production-like) environment.
  • User Feedback: the biggest risk to any software effort is to build something that isn't useful. The earlier and more frequently you get working software in front of real users, the quicker you get feedback to find out how valuable it really is.

Continuous Deployment

Continuous Deployment is the advanced evolution of Continuous Delivery. This practice allows teams to deploy software iterations into production without any human intervention.

Every change that passes the automated tests is deployed automatically, resulting in many production deployments every day.

A team that works with Continuous Development never deploys any code without testing. New code is usually deployed to a small number of users, and there's an automated feedback loop that monitors the quality and usages before the code gets to the next level.

Continuous Deployment should be the goal of most companies that are not constrained by regulatory or other requirements.

Understanding DevOps Maturity Model

The DevOps Maturity Model is the standard that determines an organization's position regarding DevOps' implementation.

This model determines the growth through continuous learning from a team and organizational perspective. DevOps Maturity can be gauged by the abilities in the following four areas:

  1. Culture and Strategy

DevOps is a culture-driven approach that brings together different teams, driving them towards a common objective. Implementing DevOps means transforming an organization's operating culture.

  1. Automation

Automation is key to Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment practices. By automating repetitive tasks, the automation process eases development, testing, and production in the DevOps cycle, saving time and achieving higher resource efficiency.

  1. Structure and Process

Development teams working with agile methodologies follow various processes across all stages of the Software Development Life Cycle. This has advanced in a DevOps environment, where every stage involves a set of procedures in line with business objectives.

  1. Collaboration and Sharing

This is the most critical aspect of DevOps culture. Collaboration is key to DevOps, and teams need to align tools and resources towards achieving common goals and objectives.

DevOps Maturity Areas

The DevOps Maturity Model considers an organization's progress state in building, deploying, and testing stages across application, data, and infrastructure levels:

  1. DevOps Maturity for Application: determines an organization's maturity in code movement from Development to the Production phase. Achieving this requires builds, tests, code coverage, security scans, and monitoring as automated components of the deployment pipeline.
  2. DevOps Maturity by Data: determines a company's ability to automate data changes and validate functionality regularly through DataOps.
  3. DevOps Maturity by Infrastructure: Determines an organization’s ability to ease infrastructure using capabilities around automation, streamlining, and enabling self-service to provision environments, among other tasks.

The different DevOps transformation stages

  1. Initial: The traditional environment with Development and Operations working separated.
  2. Managed: The beginning of a DevOps mindset focused on agility in Dev and initial automation in Ops, emphasizing collaboration.
  3. Defined: Organization-wide transformation with defined processes and established automation.
  4. Measured: A better understanding of process and automation, followed by continuous improvement.
  5. Optimized: Achievements are visible, team gaps disappear, and employees gain recognition.

While these five stages make a complete DevOps Maturity Model, enterprises must keep checking their maturity at every step and identifying new opportunities for improvement.

How we help startups create efficient products through DevOps

At Bixlabs, we help startups and leading brands build user-centered digital products through a DevOps culture and Agile methodologies.

We have a multidisciplinary team of software engineers trained in the latest technologies and eager to work on innovative projects.

If you want to know more about how we incorporate DevOps into our work processes and allow our clients to build scalable software products with a faster time-to-market, be sure to contact us.

February 15, 2021
9 min read