DevOps has quickly garnered the IT industry’s attention and for all the right reasons. With the ever-changing and fast-paced work environment, faster delivery and shorter turnaround time in the software development space have become imperative to an organization’s growth. Resultantly, production of high-quality output with limited post-production errors has given rise to DevOps. Let us understand, in-depth, more about DevOps, benefits of DevOps, drawbacks of traditional software development lifecycle, and steps to transform to the DevOps culture.
What is DevOps?
The term “DevOps” was introduced by combining software “development” (Dev) and “operations” (Ops.) The aforesaid term was coined by Patrick Debois in 2009 to make way for quick and effective delivery of software updates, bug fixes, and features.
Different people have different versions of the definition of DevOps. To some, it is a standard or a method. To many, it is an integrated “culture” in the IT world. No matter how you choose to define DevOps, it is imperative to understand how to go about the DevOps journey to reap its benefits.
Why DevOps? How Does DevOps Work?
DevOps, essentially as an approach or a work culture, is implemented by the right amalgamation of collaboration, automation, integration, continuous delivery, testing and supervising.
Before we get further into the nitty-gritty, let us first understand the reason behind introducing DevOps.
Prior to the introduction of DevOps, the traditional or classic waterfall model was followed for software delivery. This process model involved a sequential flow of a defined set of phases where the output of one phase becomes the input of the next phase. Therefore, all the phases are dependent on each other, and the completion of one phase marks the beginning of the other.
Despite the simplicity of the Software Delivery Life Cycle (SDLC) model, it has been found to have several defects. It has been observed that in the ever-changing contemporary world, a business is met with multifaceted problems which require quick fixes. Changes in the product like adding new features, fixing bugs, etc require it to go through at least 4-5 different silos in traditional SDLC, causing delays and increasing cost.
According to Gene Kim, an award-winning CTO and researcher, the conflict and friction that develops among different teams to provide a stable software solution while at the same time respond instantly to dynamic needs leads to “a horrible downward spiral that leads to horrendous outcomes.” He further explains that the delay in production in traditional model leads to “hopelessness and despair” in the organization.
In its essence, DevOps is a more inclusive approach to the software development process, where the development and operations teams work collaboratively on the project. Resultantly, the software development life cycle is shortened with the help of faster feedback loops for more frequent delivery of updates and features.
Challenges in Traditional SDLC
- Siloed structures and management bottlenecks
The classical SDLC method segregated the software developers, test engineers and maintenance team to three different groups where they performed the operational functions systematically one after another, without any empathetic communication. The developers who were in charge of coding are unable to cooperate with the test engineers or operation team that was assigned to maintain the stability of the software. The lack of communication, along with an isolated structure of departments not only resulted in uncoordinated and time-consuming approach but also led to faulty output.
- Insufficient tests and high probability of errors
In this process, the tests are conducted individually in unit forms. For higher functionality and proper detection of flaws, these tests are not enough to create a standard quality output. The test experts fail to maintain a continuation of testing in each stage of development due to fixed silos of departments. Owing to these loopholes, the teams end up with several issues like post-release bugs which could have been fixed if there was continuous testing at each stage before releasing the end product.
- Late feedback and lack of transparency
Due to fixed isolated work stages, the customer is intimated with the product at a very later stage. This brings in major gaps in the expected and the delivered product, which leads to rework. Also, the lack of integration and collaboration make the employees work overtime, and they fail to respond to the complaints of the users in the stipulated time.
- Late fixes and updates
With the absence of any direct relationship or transparency between the testing engineers and developers, fixing a bug and making new changes and implementing them can take weeks or even months. One fails to make progress in the market if they repeatedly fail to deliver the project on time.
Benefits of DevOps
How can a business organization move ahead in the competitive market and become more efficient in delivering the best features to the end-users in the set time? Well, here are some of the prime benefits a company can enjoy after adopting the DevOps way of working:
1. Ensure faster deployment
Faster and more frequent delivery of updates and features will not only satisfy the customers but will also help your company take a firm stand in a competitive market.
2. Stabilize work environment
Do you know that the tension involved in the release of new features and fixes or updates can topple the stability of your workspace and decreases the overall productivity? Improve your work environment with a steady and well-balanced approach of operation with DevOps practice.
3. Significant improvement in product quality
Collaboration between development and operation teams and frequent capturing of user feedback leads to a significant improvement in the quality of the product.
4. Automation in repetitive tasks leaves more room for innovation
DevOps has greater benefits when compared to the traditional model as it helps in detecting and correcting problems quickly and efficiently. As the flaws are repeatedly tested through automation, the team gets more time in framing new ideas.
5. Promotes agility in your business
It’s no secret that making your business agile can help you to stay ahead in the market. Thanks to DevOps, it is now possible to obtain the scalability required to transform the business.
6. Continuous delivery of software
In DevOps methodology, all of the departments are responsible for maintaining stability and offering new features. Therefore, the speed of software delivery is fast and undisturbed, unlike the traditional method.
7. Fast and reliable problem-solving techniques
Ensuring quick and stable solution to technical errors in software management is one of the primary benefits of DevOps.
8. Transparency leads to high productivity
With the elimination of silo(ing) and promotion of collaboration, this process allows for easy communication among the team members, making them more focused in their specialised field. Therefore, incorporating DevOps practises has also led to an upsurge in productivity and efficiency among the employees of a company.
9. Minimal cost of production
With proper collaboration, DevOps helps in cutting down the management and production costs of your departments, as both maintenance and new updates are brought under a broader single umbrella.
Different Benefits of DevOps for Different Stakeholders
However, in the greater picture, different stakeholders have different business goals. And different business goals require them to look at the benefits of DevOps differently. The standpoint of CIO is different from that of CEO, whose perspective is different from that of an IT Manager or any other stakeholder – this dissimilarity in looking at the benefits of DevOps was researched by David Linwood, a renowned IT Director who referred to the different perspectives as ‘lenses’.
For IT managers, it is important that the procedural and technological metrics are improved. As a result, output performance metrics govern the advantages of DevOps from an IT manager’s point of view. The benefits are:
- Lower volume of defects
- Lower cost of a release
- Improved software performance
- Lower cost of investment
- Frequent release of new features, fixes and updates
- Improved MTTR (Mean Time To Recovery)
The CTO / CIO of the organization focuses more on the strategic goals involving people-centric metrics for the successful implementation of DevOps. From the lens of a CIO, DevOps offers the following benefits:
- Individual improvement and cross-skilling
- Greater flexibility and adaptability
- Freedom to brainstorm and experiment
- Increased engagement by team members
- Cooperative and happier teams
- Appreciation from senior managerial teams
- Better process management
- Reliable and faster fixes, along with enhanced operational support.
For a CEO, the benefits of DevOps are governed by business-based outcome of decreased production costs and increased revenue. Listed below are the advantages of DevOps as per the corporate vision of a CEO:
- Improved product quality
- Satisfied customers
- Lower cost of production
- Increased revenue
- Reliable and stable IT infrastructure
- Lower downtime
- Improvement in productivity of the organization
Steps to Take Before the Transformation
More and more companies are switching to DevOps to overcome the challenges faced in traditional SDLC model. As DevOps has become a common transformative journey in the IT world, many software companies still struggle to take the onset steps to the DevOps takeoff. It is important to have a roadmap in place before the transformation to DevOps begins. Elucidated below are the steps to take before you embark on the DevOps upgradation:
1. Evaluate the need to switch to a different model
Shifting from a classic model to a modern one is not easy. Before incorporating DevOps in your business, make an assessment on the necessity to switch to a different process. Changing to a different practice solely because of its popularity in the market is unlikely to yield desired results. For some organizations, adopting DevOps has yielded good results while for some, switching to the new strategy did out turn out to be as successful. Your business goal should be the dominant factor when it comes to choosing the right model to run the organization.
2. Confirm if everyone is on the same page
Before you decide to transform your working environment, make sure everyone is willing to embrace the new model and say goodbye to the former technological and cultural setup. Start by educating teams on what is DevOps and why the organization has chosen to implement DevOps culture. Since DevOps is essentially about breaking down silos and working collaboratively, developing a unified perspective among teams with differing priorities and viewpoints is the most crucial step of the journey.
3. Measure each step
To gauge the success of DevOps, it is imperative to measure the current metrics of different stages of the software development life cycle (for e.g., time taken to develop, test etc.) The metrics should be measured again after the implementation of DevOps practices. Comparing and analysing the before and after scenarios help in effective assessment at each point of the journey.
4. Encourage collaboration
Collaboration among all the sectors is the key to make DevOps model successful. Break down the organizational silos and pave a path for communication and easy access to information. Pay equal attention to the differences among different teams as well as to the overlapping ideas of the teams. A healthy environment and cooperation among team members go a long way in ensuring DevOps success.
5. Plan the budget accordingly
Another significant factor that needs to be taken into consideration before the transition is the planning of the budget. It is important to create a rough estimate of the expenses the organisation will bear while transitioning and integrating as unplanned methodology leads to wastage of money and reduction in productivity.
6. Start small
Make small changes in your organization and scale up gradually over time instead of turning all the departments into the DevOps model at once. It is always safe to get started by incorporating the culture of collaboration to a small team and observe their achievements or improvement and make subsequent decisions on implementing the model on another team and therefore, adoption of DevOps best practices on a larger scale.
7. Do not attempt to automate everything at once
Understand that the transition from the traditional approach to DevOps does not happen overnight, and so rushing to make changes will not be a viable option. Do not get fooled by the term automation and expect the infrastructure to be managed by code at once. Before putting the responsibility of automation entirely on the IT team, it’s always safe to hire a professional who is experienced in the field of automation and can guide the team to perfection.
8. Choose tools that go hand-in-hand with the IT environment
If you are considering implementing DevOps, make sure the tools of automation chosen are compatible with each other and enhance the working environment. It is recommended that all tools be bought from the same seller as they are more integrated with each other than different tools from different vendors. Tools should be bought widely to ensure smooth operation and management of configuration.
9. Ensure continuous integration and delivery
Establishing continuity in integration and delivery should be one of the primary objectives of an organization before implementing DevOps without which the idea of smooth operation will go in vain. Continuous integration is a part of the agile process where software is developed in small and regular phases with immediate detection and correction of flaws.
10. Evaluate the performance of an individual as well as the team
The art of collaboration being a new concept, tracking the performance of the new team is necessary to check the progress. Observe and make an assessment of an individual’s assigned role and actual execution of a task.
11. Draw your attention to enhancing security
Strengthening the security is another fundamental step and negligence in this field can make the DevOps transformation ineffective. As the traditional model focused more on the development of software and unit testing, the companies failed to invest resources and time in strengthening security.
With DevOps, a number of business organizations have implemented an integrated security system. Along with the developers and operational personnel, it is recommended to hire skilled security teams for strict monitoring of the configuration, infrastructure and integrity.
12. Emphasize customer/end-user satisfaction
One of the prime drawbacks of the traditional model is that it takes days and months to receive feedback and make new changes and updates to the software. Additionally, in the traditional SDLC, the software is not made to go through tests at each small phase of development resulting in an unsatisfactory end product.
The delay in communication between the department and the customers makes the latter lose faith in the product. In DevOps practices, end-user satisfaction is a priority. Focus on the demand of the customers and make faster changes or improvements to the software based on their feedback.
Within the perimeters of the integrated system, the transparency among different sectors and the will to work unitedly keeps the customers happy with the result and helps the business flourish.
What Makes DevOps a Success?
DevOps, as a service, prioritizes the satisfaction of the customers by providing quick delivery of features and updates. This makes DevOps a more preferred method than the traditional model.
The key factors that ensure a successful implementation and working of DevOps of a company are:
1. Continuous integrated operation
It is the leading factor that involves gathering the changes of code and collectively making them go through systematic and automated test phases. This process, unlike the traditional method, helps in detecting flaws, correcting them early and ensuring the quality before releasing the product/feature.
2. Constant delivery
All the new changes in code are delivered to the production phase where general testing takes place. After that, the deployed output is further made to go through a standard testing process.
3. Consistent and constant communication among different teams
This process involves breaking down single and segregated services and connecting them to work in unity as multiple yet independent services.
4. Less manual management of infrastructure
Say goodbye to the flawed traditional infrastructure management method. The new process ensures proper management and use of infrastructure through code. There are several DevOps tools that help in managing the updates efficiently.
5. Code for policy management
As codification replaces the manual management of important configurations and infrastructure, tracking flaws and reconfiguration has become easier and automated. Therefore, it saves time and increases efficiency.
6. Configuration Management
The implementation of DevOps leads to the elimination of manual and toilsome management of host configuration. Both the operational work and configuration will systemically get managed through code.
Transforming to DevOps is no small undertaking. Changing the mentality of your teams from “I have done my job” to “the product/feature is now ready to be deployed” is what DevOps is all about. It is crucial to plan out the transformation to DevOps properly before implementing it.
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