What is DevOps, how it works, key benefits and the best practices

Jun 11, 2021

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Andrii Rybakov

Nowadays, businesses, including SMEs without the IT department, intend to be technically savvy and expect to access the advantages of technological innovation immediately. According to a Google report, ‘86% of organizations say it’s important for their company to develop and begin production of new software quickly’. That makes DevOps come in handy. 

The growth of implementing DevOps has increased during the past several years. Google states that ‘77% of organizations say they currently rely on DevOps to deploy software or plan to in the near future’. Thus, the particular technology serves as a potential game-changer in business. Companies using or outsourcing DevOps practices have proved that its principles can result in enhancing visibility regarding the project progress, increasing development efficiency, simplifying system configuration, optimizing resources, and strengthening data security.

So what is DevOps? How many stages are in the DevOps lifecycle? How can your business benefit from it? And what are the key practices of implementing DevOps? Read in our blog post. 

What is DevOps?

By definition, DevOps serves as a software development process and even as an organizational culture shift. The goal of DevOps is to speed the delivery of high-quality software solutions by automating and combining the efforts of both development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) that typically performed separately from each other. 

But in practice, the most successful DevOps processes and cultures can extend beyond development and operations. That allows incorporating inputs from different application stakeholders, such as infrastructure and quality engineering, security, risk management, or users and customers - into the efficient software development lifecycle. 

DevOps also represents the actual state of the evolved software delivery cycles during the last two decades. Starting from giant app-wide code released per several months or sometimes years, now we have frequent releases (each day or even several times daily) of small iterative features and functionality updates. Thus, DevOps is about satisfying software users’ need to get frequent, innovative features and providing uninterrupted performance, along with availability. 

Being a philosophical approach, DevOps is connected with continuous improvement, collaboration, and operational transparency. DevOps does not concentrate on individual work; it focuses on the entire flow - from initial ideas to available products or functionalities. This approach helps optimize all processes in between, paying attention to achieve proper business value at a higher speed. That allows effective DevOps teams to reduce time to market, eliminate bugs and provide a stable infrastructure. 

The DevOps lifecycle

The DevOps lifecycle is considered a series of development processes (also known as workflows) that are iterative and automated. At the same time, these processes compose a larger development lifecycle, also characterized as the automated and iterative one. That promotes optimizing the rapid delivery of required software solutions. 

Although there can be differences regarding the names and numbers of workflows, experts traditionally indicate the following six: 

Planning. In this stage, DevOps teams analyze new features and functionalities to implement in the next release depending on prioritized feedback from end-users, case studies, and inputs from internal stakeholders. The main objective of the planning phase is to maximize the product’s business value by creating a backlog of features. In turn, these features, when delivered, will provide desired outcomes that also have value. 

Development. The development serves as a programming step that requires testing, coding and building new and improved features due to user stories and relevant backlog’s work items. The most common practices in this stage include test-driven development (TDD) and pair programming, along with peer code reviews. Besides, developers prefer using their local workstations to write and test code before sending it through a continuous delivery pipeline. 

Integration. During this stage, developers integrate the new code into a current codebase, test it and package it into an executable for further deployment. Besides, the common automation activities involve merging code changes into a particular ‘master’ copy, analyzing the code taken from a source code repository, and compile automation. Lastly, the best practice is to store the outputs of the continuous integration (CI) in a binary repository before the next phase starts. 

Deployment. Here the outputs from the integration phase are deployed to the runtime environment, which allows executing runtime tests for checking their quality, compliance, or security. If developers find any errors or defects, they have an opportunity to intercept and remediate all issues before the end-users notice them. The effective practice of deploying to a production environment is to provide the initial deployment to a small subset of end-users. After ensuring stability, the eventual deployment will be provided to all users. 

Operations. The operations stage helps ensure that the running of all delivered features is smooth and seamless and that the service faces no interruption. Thus, DevOps teams use operations to make sure that the network, data storage, platform, computing, and security are performing appropriately. Ultimately, if something wrong happens, the operations phase helps identify the incidents, alert the necessary personnel, determine problems, and apply fixes. 

Learning. Learning requires collecting feedback from end-users and clients regarding features, functionalities, performance, or business value of the particular software solutions. Such information allows taking back to the planning stage and providing new improvements or functionality in the next release. That also includes analyzing different backlog items from previous operations activities, which helps developers avoid past incidents and prevent their happening in the future. 

Top six benefits of using DevOps

The main reason for the increase in implementing DevOps is that this approach makes a significant difference in how companies operate at the fundamental levels. Here we detail some key benefits of implementing DevOps for businesses:

Speed. Applying DevOps allows moving at high velocity, which also includes innovating for clients faster, adapting to changing markets, and becoming more effective at driving business results. Therefore, this model promotes DevOps teams to achieve the desired results. For instance, microservices and continuous delivery (CD) encourage these teams to take ownership of software services and release necessary updates to them much quicker. 

Rapid delivery. The DevOps approach promotes increasing the releases’ frequency, along with pace. That allows innovating and improving products faster. After all, the quicker a company fixes bugs and releases new functionality, the faster it responds to the clients’ requirements and creates a competitive advantage. Using continuous integration and continuous delivery predicts automating the release process, from building to deploying. 

Reliability. DevOps helps ensure the high quality of app updates or infrastructure changes, which makes a company provide reliable delivery at a higher speed and maintain a positive experience regarding end-users. Besides, applying practices such as continuous integration and continuous delivery enables developers to make sure all changes are functional and safe. Meanwhile, monitoring and logging allow obtaining real-time data on the overall performance.   

Scalability. Implementing DevOps provides scalable operation and management of a company's infrastructure and relevant development processes. Automation means that an organization can manage complex systems effectively, and the risks are also reduced. For example, applying infrastructure as code practice allows managing various environments, including development, testing, and production, more efficiently.

Enhanced collaboration. The DevOps cultural model helps make teams more productive, which concentrates on values like ownership and accountability. That promotes close cooperation between developers and operation teams as they start sharing multiple responsibilities and combining their workflows. Also, implementing DevOps leads to decreased inefficiency and saves time by reducing handover periods between devs and ops. 

Security. Using DevOps not only allows companies to move quickly but also retain control and preserve compliance. Organizations can implement a DevOps model with no need to sacrifice security thanks to automated compliance policies or specific configuration management techniques. For instance, using practices like infrastructure as code or policy as code, a company can determine and monitor compliance at scale. 

DevOps best practices

Besides establishing a DevOps cultural model, a company can bring DevOps to life within its teams by providing the software development lifecycle with particular practices. While some of these practices focus on accelerating, automating, and improving a specific phase, others can cover several stages. That helps DevOps teams create and maintain seamless processes, which results in increased productivity.

Here we analyze some of the DevOps best practices that companies can implement:

Continuous integration (CI) & continuous delivery (CD). When these two practices take place, the result is CI/CD, a process that requires automating each step from code commit to deploying production fully. Applying CI/CD enables teams to concentrate on building code and eliminates the overhead, along with potential human errors related to manual steps. Also, CI/CD allows deploying new code faster with fewer risks. That promotes more frequent deployments and makes teams more agile, efficient, and even confident in the running code. 

Version control. Companies apply version control to manage code in versions - track revisions or change history for making code easier to review and recover. This practice is always implemented using specific version control systems that allow numerous developers to cooperate in authoring code. Version control serves as a basic DevOps practice that also helps share coding responsibilities among developers and store the code for potential easy recovery. Finally, this practice is a crucial component in other ones like CI and infrastructure as code. 

Infrastructure as code. Organizations can use the particular practice for reliable, repeatable, and controlled deployment of system resources. Besides, applying infrastructure as code makes deployment automated and reduces the risks regarding human errors, especially in complex environments. Such an effective solution allows DevOps teams to maintain development and testing environments and make them identical to production. Thus, duplicating environments to various data centers or cloud platforms has become much simpler and more effective.

Configuration management. This practice involves managing the resources’ state within a system, along with servers, virtual machines, or databases. Applying configuration management tools, DevOps teams can provide controlled and systematic changes, which reduces the risks related to modifying system configuration. Organizations use these tools for tracking a system state and avoiding configuration drift. Also, companies can combine them with infrastructure as code for templatizing and automating the system’s definition and configuration easier. 

Monitor & logging. DevOps teams monitor metrics and logs for defining the influence of application and infrastructure performance on the end user's experience using their products. Therefore, companies capture, categorize and analyze data and logs collected from apps and infrastructure to understand the ways changes or updates affect users and get insights regarding root causes of issues and unexpected changes. Such active monitoring is critical because there must be 24/7 access to services as the frequency of updates increases. 

Communication & collaboration. Implementing DevOps tools and automating the software delivery processes promotes cooperation by physically combining the workflows and duties of both developers and operations. DevOps teams establish strong cultural norms depending on data sharing and facilitate communication using chat apps, project tracking systems, or wikis. That leads to better communication across not only development and operations teams but also marketing and sales. Finally, this practice allows focusing more on the company's projects. 

Why consider DevOps?

Organizations that apply or outsource DevOps have better opportunities to strengthen their positions in current markets or even expand into new ones. But DevOps is going beyond just an efficient approach for software delivery speed. According to Forrester, ‘53% of expert DevOps teams said they incorporated metrics for sales and revenue boosts, client retention, and customer satisfaction when measuring the success of DevOps projects.’ Thus, the value depends on the way DevOps helps customers see how companies truly satisfy their needs. 

Typically, DevOps outsourcing vendors have more expertise due to their experience in trying and testing different solutions and approaches. Thanks to the specialists working for such companies, customers can obtain additional resources if required. Ultimately, the partnership with a DevOps outsourcing vendor brings multiple benefits, including professional training, knowledge sharing, or support from qualified teammates. In AgileVision, we have AWS-certified DevOps engineers, which helps provide our clients with the best-in-class solutions. 

Are you already using or outsourcing DevOps? What benefits do you find the most valuable for your business? Or what factors prevent your organization from applying DevOps? Share with us in the comments below. 

How AgileVision can help

Over the past several years, AgileVision has helped many businesses with their software development as an outsourced partner and received positive customer reviews on Clutch. Are you considering DevOps outsourcing as a new approach to implement or need advice on your current software product development?

Request a free consultation from one of our software development experts.