These days, in order to stay competitive companies, have to follow continuously changing trends and adapt to rapidly transforming consumer behaviors, wants, and needs. On top of that, products and services are expected to be developed and delivered faster and with timely marketing campaigns preceding. All that is only possible with help of a strategy that brings an agile culture, welcomes constant innovation, and has tools and technologies tuned to the needs of the organization. DevOps happens to be that strategy by unifying development and operational teams across the entire application lifecycle, while also ensuring quality and security. It, therefore, makes it vitally important for companies to understand what are the correct steps and processes for a successful DevOps implementation.
Since its introduction in 2009, DevOps’ popularity has been increasing year on year. According to the survey conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services on behalf of Google in 2019, 69% of respondents rely on DevOps practices to at least some level. Furthermore, according to Statista, almost 80% of the respondents find the DevOps strategy at least somewhat valuable, among which almost 50% find it extremely important.
Middle-sized businesses and big enterprises are having to shift their strategies towards DevOps in order to gain its numerous advantages. Whereas for startups, they have the benefit of implementing DevOps from the very beginning and avoiding others’ mistakes. However, this strategy only works if implemented right, so, it is important to first understand what DevOps is and what are the correct processes and practices to get started with it.
So, What Is DevOps?
At its core, DevOps is a set of practices and philosophies focused on agility, collaboration, and automation. It breaks down the silo mentality by building closer cooperation between software development and IT operations teams (hence the name), solving the common issues of miscommunication and poor alignment between them and, hence, production latency. As a result, organizations are able to improve and deliver products at a much higher velocity, whilst maintaining a high level of quality, compared with when following traditional software development and infrastructure management processes. According to the survey conducted by GitLab, DevOps implementation is proved to cause sweeping changes in organizational culture, job functions, and tool choices.
Why DevOps Strategy?
As mentioned earlier, the DevOps strategy has various advantages over the traditional approach to software development and operations.
Thankfully, due to close collaboration between teams as well as application release automation (ARA), the DevOps strategy allows very quick and efficient development, deployment, and delivery of products. In fact, 82% of developers report that they are able to release the code faster, while most of them also claim that it is between a two to five times quicker rate. While speed is important for any organization in order to follow an agile model, stay competitive and ensure customer satisfaction; it is especially crucial for startups in order to not miss out on any opportunity.
DevOps implementation is only possible through a collaborative environment. As all teams engaged in the development process are working in alignment with each other, it means that there is higher transparency, clear feedback, stronger strategic alignment, and shared responsibility. All these factors, as a result, lead to higher trust, quicker issues resolution, much more effective processes, and higher quality products.
Greater Customer Satisfaction
While DevOps gives businesses an opportunity to adapt to the volatile market conditions and client preferences through faster processes, it also is a very customer-centric strategy that gets based on customer needs and behaviors. According to the study conducted by Broadcom (CA Technologies in the past), 74% of the respondents agreed that their customer experience has been improved with the adoption of DevOps.
Early Error Detection
Infrastructure as a code (IaC) applied in DevOps allows developers to create identical working environments for all teams – development, testing, and IT operations. As a result, if everything works properly in the testing environment, it should work properly in the production as well. This, combined with continuous automated testing and regular feedback, allows to detect and manage any system errors early in the process, whilst also speeding up the process.
Faster development and time-to-market, reduced amount of errors and frequent releases all mean higher work efficiency than the one provided with traditional processes. Automation is another technique that helps developers to be even more efficient by letting them focus on product improvement rather than its maintenance. According to the studies, there is a 43% increase in productivity after DevOps adoption.
The nature of DevOps to focus on end-user satisfaction while boosting the productivity of the teams and the quality of the final (almost error-free) product, leads to higher reliability/quality of the business. This, in turn, is an essential part of being successful and gaining a competitive edge.
Finally, with proper collaboration in place, increased efficiency, and quicker development and deployment, the production costs are minimized. Moreover, as the final product’s quality increases and there are higher customer satisfaction ratings, the revenue is boosted as well.
DevOps Implementation Steps: The Magic Number Is 6
All the above benefits are not achieved on their own, there are certain crucial steps that form a DevOps lifecycle and lead companies towards successful implementation of the strategy. Each step is focused on closing the loop between development and operations and, importantly, on the continuity of each process. Moreover, it is important to follow the concrete infrastructure in order to not risk having gaps in the process flow, while each phase of the development lifecycle should be as automated and agile as possible in order to create true DevOps conditions.
The very first thing that needs to be done is the establishment of clear goals and objectives in order to create alignment and shared understanding among DevOps teams. As it has been mentioned earlier, customer satisfaction must be a priority, and therefore, the goals of the project should be established on the basis of stakeholders’ and customer’s requirements.
Secondly, the DevOps strategy and monitoring plan need to be formulated and roles and responsibilities need to be assigned. In order to establish an effective strategy, it is important to create a shared working environment for all involved teams, set common goals, implement IaC mechanisms and run automation of software development, testing, deployment, and release processes.
Now we can get to work!
2. Continuous Development
Continuous development stands for the iterative process of developing software according to customer’s requirements and DevOps standards. It is followed by other continuous processes such as integration, testing, deployment, and delivery. The code that is developed with the help of the standard plugins and following consistent code-styling is then uploaded to a shared code repository. From there it gets reviewed, being subject then to both manual and automatic testing. If any of the tests fail, the developer gets notified and has to resolve the issue. Only when the testing process goes through smoothly, the code can be integrated into the repository. The continuity of this process allows to avoid any issues early in the cycle, minimize integration issues and achieve quicker delivery.
Automation is encouraged to be implemented in any process where it can generate more efficient results, such as in code writing, several kinds of testing, and others. This way, the process can become more seamless and agile. Meanwhile, containerization allows stability, flexibility, and easier maintenance of the software, as containerized parts run without any dependencies and don’t affect the rest of the structure.
3. Continuous Integration
Continuous Integration (CI) is a practice that allows to significantly improve software development quality and speed. It is a crucial step in the DevOps cycle. As previously mentioned, developers use a shared repository to upload their code changes, in which those codes are tested. While a shared code repository is a solution to managing the collaboration of many developers, it can be quite challenging to merge the changes made by several people on the same piece of code and a lot of issues and conflicts can arise from it. This is where continuous integration comes in place, as it ensures that the most up-to-date code is available to developers by aligning with coding and building phases of the DevOps lifecycle and continuously merging and testing new codes. The regular merging of smaller updates allows to quickly solve smaller defects and misalignments thus maintaining smaller risk, and consequently, improving overall efficiency.
4. Continuous Testing
Testing is a critical stage for any kind of project and while some types of testing should still be performed manually, sufficient automated testing must be implemented in order to ensure rapid and error-free delivery cycles. Quality assurance and development is highly important in order to prevent any sort of post-release issues and keep aligned with product requirements. Continuous automated testing allows obtaining immediate feedback on the possible business risks that need to be addressed before the deployment stage. Moreover, this kind of testing is possible without interrupting the flow of the developers, therefore, not delaying the development process as a whole and not affecting the production version due to the IaC process in place.
5. Continuous Deployment & Delivery
This step enables code changes to be automatically built, tested for stability, performance, and security compliance checked and subsequently prepared for the release into production which, as a result, delivers new features to the customers as soon as they are ready. This process eliminates the need for scheduled releases and enables businesses to get user feedback quicker, hence, allowing the developers to address issues with higher accuracy and speed.
However, continuous deployment is only possible when an automated testing environment is already reliable. Therefore, some companies keep this step manual, releasing new deployments as quickly as they choose, until they reach a more mature stage of DevOps implementation.
6. Continuous Monitoring & Feedback
Finally, the last two phases of the DevOps cycle are to monitor the environment for potential bottlenecks and whether recent deployment made things better or worse; and to collect and analyze customer feedback, behaviors, and performance. This, in turn, ties ends of the loop together, leading back to the previous stages of the development lifecycle and, as a result, the continuous improvement of the product.
Moreover, monitoring can not only detect application defects but also provide insight on the business matters and the progress, meaning that the company can find ways to improve strategy as a whole.
Customer feedback is the best way for the companies to observe the most recent changes in trends and, consequently, make the best possible decision for future developments, innovate and grow efficiently as a brand. Meanwhile, this improvement process usually ends only when the customer stops using the product.