DevOps is becoming an increasingly important part of IT, but what is it? DevOps is a movement with a set of practices that aim to increase collaboration between IT operations and development teams. The movement grew as a reaction against common problems that IT teams face, including the siloing of team members, the uncertainty of introducing new features, the fear of deploying changes, the difficulty of finding defects and, most importantly, the rise of bottlenecks within the software development lifecycle.
These common problems hinder both the speed and agility of businesses. This is why the philosophy of DevOps has become an important topic in CIO circles— because it is an approach to changing the business mindset about how technology is created, deployed, and used. CIO.com writer Rich Hein says, “Some refer to [DevOps] as a philosophy. Using both lean and agile methodologies, organizations bring IT operations and development teams as well as quality assurance people together throughout the software life cycle to create a more collaborative process that, in the end, should deliver software and/or services in a faster and more continuous manner. Traditionally, elements of IT have been siloed. DevOps aims to break down those silos to get everyone working towards the same goal.”
A recent study by Utah State University and sponsored by Puppet Labs, revealed that DevOps practices can increase IT performance and improve a business’ bottom line. As a result, it is no wonder that, for many organizations, adopting DevOps has become a rite of passage. However, building a successful DevOps environment is not as easy as it sounds; it requires organizations to rethink current software development practices, project approaches, team roles, as well as key aspects of IT culture.
Implementing Key DevOps Practices
At the heart, DevOps encourages implementing a number of key practices, including:
- Continuous Integration: Integrating code into a shared control repository regularly, preferably daily.
- Continuous Delivery and Deployment: Delivering and deploying changes and fixes daily in a controlled, rapid manner.
- Automated Testing: Testing deployments and deliveries in a continuous, automated fashion.
- Active Monitoring: Conducting “health-checks” to ensure platforms, applications, and solutions are running appropriately.
The above practices are necessary to enabling this new wave of collaboration. For example, continuous integration enables teams to better detect errors and bugs, allows them to deliver their projects more quickly and in a predictable manner, and increases overall transparency. Continuous delivery and deployment enables teams to release their work, make changes or fixes, and build a software that is deployable throughout its lifecycle.
In addition, DevOps environments aim to remove the onus of manual testing by encouraging automated testing instead. This creates a productive DevOps team in which all tests are done automatically, yielding to more time for innovation as well as quicker and more accurate tests for deliveries and deployments. Active monitoring is also key, especially because DevOps leads to frequent deliveries, updates, and deployments, making it increasingly important to actively monitor software and projects and ensure their performance and health.
Adopting DevOps Enablement Tools
The above practices are necessary to building a DevOps environment. However, implementing these practices requires organizations to adopt tools that enable better building, testing, delivery, and deployment across DevOps teams.
As demonstrated through the graphic above, there are a proliferation of tools in the market and, unsurprisingly, many organizations do not know where to start and which tools are most effective. We researched top tools that help organizations enable DevOps––from Gradle and Maven to MUnit and Puppet. Check out this list of tools to learn more about top DevOps tools for:
In addition to choosing the tools that best suit your organization’s environment, it is also important to understand how to leverage these tools to implement key DevOps practices.
Get started by exploring some of our how-to guides:
- How-to DevOps: Leveraging Maven for Build Automation
- How-to DevOps: Continuous Integration with Mule and Gradle
- How-to DevOps: Leveraging MUnit for Test Automation Guide
- How-to DevOps: Cloud-based Continuous Deployment
Benefits of a DevOps Environment
There is a reason why many organizations are turning to DevOps. The benefits of adopting DevOps are many, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Benefit #1: Increases visibility and decreases the risk of uncertainty in terms of timelines and project delivery.
- Benefit #2: Enhances collaboration and enables teams to formulate better solutions
- Benefit #3: Improves the process of detecting and addressing errors, bugs, and other issues
- Benefit #4: Creates a model based on collaborative, sustained, and instant team feedback
- Benefit #5: Eliminates the emergence of bottlenecks within organizations and across the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)
The above benefits are only a small representation of the power of DevOps and the impact that it can have on organizations. Take, for example, the experience of one of our customers: Cox Automotive. With MuleSoft, they were able to adopt DevOps and transform the way they deliver new automotive trading as well as the way in which they auctioned, priced, and exchanged products. Cox Automotive's partnership with MuleSoft enabled their team to go from 2-month cycles to 2-week sprints.
Learn more about Cox Automotive’s experience how DevOps practices and methodologies can help transform organizations and the way in which their IT teams operate.
Risks of Adopting a DevOps Model
These benefits sound like the Holy Grail of business decisions; there isn’t an executive in the world who wouldn’t sign off to faster delivery of products at a cheaper cost. But, says Laurent Valadares, Director of Cloud Operations at MuleSoft, there are a couple of things to consider before making a wholesale adoption to DevOps.
“There are some security risks you need to plan for,” he says. “The more you make a tool or program, the more a glitch could have a much larger consequence than it could in the past. You have to have more robust test frameworks or air testing. You need much more robust safety cushions.
It’s important to build more risk mitigation processes. If you have no unit testing, if you had only a month to test every permutation, you won’t have that agility.”
Another thing to consider, says Valadares, is the importance of adopting all aspects of DevOps culture, as identified by Chris Kelly, developer/evangelist at New Relic:
- Hire generalists
- Integrate continuously
- Monitor continuously
- Deploy continuously
- Build with resilience
“You can’t take one of the aspects of the culture, you have use all of them or it will be very risky,” says Valadares. You have a working methodology like Agile. Then you have the necessary tools. You must have a cultural expectation like Fail Fast. Then you need automation.” If all of these are working together, you then have the optimum environment for DevOps to succeed.
Finally, hiring people experienced in DevOps is a crucial, yet difficult task. It’s much more challenging to staff for DevOps.” says Valadares. “You need to have the classic system admin skill set, but the DevOps person also needs more developer skills and development best practices. Ultimately you need someone who understands both. You’re looking for developers who like back end or sys admins who like code. Then you have a devops.”
Read more about the dawn of DevOps, the risks associated with it, and how to harness digital revolution to your organization’s advantage.
Building a Successful DevOps Team Structure
As mentioned, it is challenging to staff for DevOps. DevOps is not only a technological shift, but a structural and cultural one as well. Organizations cannot merely adopt DevOps practices and relevant tools and expect to seize the benefits of the collaborative and productive landscape that DevOps can create.
In order to effectively adopt DevOps and maximize its benefits, organizations must structure their teams in a way that encourages collaboration, increases visibility, reduces bottlenecks, and, most importantly, breaks down silos within organizations. To achieve this, organizations must commit to a series of steps:
- Assembling Resources
- Aligning Business Goals
- Adopting Suitable Tools
- Measuring Team Effectiveness
Explore the above steps in more detail and see how they can contribute to building successful DevOps team structure.
DevOps and Microservices
Along with DevOps, microservices is an increasingly emerging trend for many organizations. Microservices architecture grew out of a set of DevOps ideologies employed at companies such as Facebook, Google, Netflix, and others. According to Katharina Probst, Engineering Manager at Netflix, and Uri Sarid, CTO at MuleSoft, DevOps excellence is a key component of microservices excellence.
A microservices-based architecture introduces changes that are often well received, especially by teams creating modern applications. Those embracing change find that productivity is increasing at an accelerated pace. As a result, solutions can be delivered much more quickly to those requesting flexible, scalable applications. Microservices can bring a number of significant benefits to those in the field of DevOps, this includes:
- Deployability: Microservices offer increased agility, which fuels the ability to roll out new versions of a service. That agility is due to shorter build, test, and deploy cycles. Microservices can also incorporate the flexibility needed to employ service-specific security, replication, persistence, and monitoring configurations.
- Reliability: A fault with a microservice only affects that microservice, and its consumers. When monolithic applications experience a fault, the entire monolith may fail.
- Availability: Releasing a new version of a particular microservice requires very little downtime, whereas rolling out a new version of a service in the monolithic application normally requires a full restart of the entire monolith.
- Scalability: Microservices can be scaled independently using pools, clusters, grids. That deployment characteristic makes microservices a great match for the elasticity of the cloud.
- Modifiability: Microservices offer the flexibility to consume new frameworks, libraries, data sources, and other resources. As loosely coupled, modular components, microservices prove to be easier to work with and support dynamic discovery and binding via a registry.
- Management: Microservices can leverage the agile methodology, where the application development effort is divided across teams that are smaller and work more independently.
DevOps and the Value of APIs:
It is clear why DevOps has been beneficial to enterprise IT, especially as it increases reliability and minimizes disruption, while enabling organizations to increase the speed of delivery. Still, it is not enough to adopt the necessary DevOps tools, practices, and team structure. DevOps must be balanced with a focus on asset consumption and reuse in order to ensure that the organization is maximizing the value of all newly built assets.
This is where Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and an effective API strategy come in. DevOps can only take the code production process so far and APIs can take organizations one step further enabling sustainable and secure scalability. Through using well-designed and built, documented, and visible APIs, organizations can further increase the innovation possibilities of DevOps and make a step change in the way that they approach projects and the speed at which the deliver them. Learn more about the role of APIs and how it enhances DevOps models.
You can also explore how MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform can kickstart digital transformation and help organizations get the most out of adopting DevOps and APIs:
- DevOps and the API Lifecycle with Anypoint Platform
- Applying DevOps to the API Lifecycle: A Demo
- Digital Transformation: An Architect’s Role in the New IT Operating Model, with Siemens