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What is DevOps? An Ultimate Guide for Beginners
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The DevOps meaning combines many software development phases into a collaborative cycle to promote quicker software development. Traditionally, the software development life cycle was a long process done phase by phase, where issues were found at the IT testing stage. This resulted in inefficiencies, as it gave developers and designers less time to fix issues, allowing for a greater chance of human error.
But what is DevOps exactly, and how does the DevOps life cycle improve the software development cycle? We’ll cover the DevOps definition, benefits, and more in this article.
What is DevOps? [Definition]
What does DevOps mean? DevOps is a name given to the set of practices that combine development and IT operations to shorten the software development lifecycle through continuous delivery and feedback. The practices also encourage better communication and coordination between different business units.
What Constitutes Dev and Ops?
You might assume that Dev, as in development, refers only to the coders – but that’s not entirely true. Dev includes the entire team involved in building the product, like the design and quality assurance teams, for example. Similarly, Op, or operations, includes everyone from operations rather than just engineers – system engineers, release engineers, system administrators, DBAs, network engineers, operations managers, and more are all included.
With the DevOps life cycle, the entire lifespan of a software or product is covered.
What is Agile?
Before we get into more details about DevOps, let’s take a look at agile methodology. Many people compare and confuse agile and DevOps. While both are similar in some ways, both have different purposes.
The agile methodology involves delivering software in small, fast releases through an iterative approach. Agile doesn’t focus on automation; rather, it’s an approach that allows the development team and customers to communicate and give regular work updates and feedback. Learn more about Agile with this free tutorial.
Unliked agile methodology, DevOps doesn’t involve communication with the customer. The DevOps life cycle is more dedicated to the internal team, specifically between the development and operations teams. It also focuses on automation and uses many tools for feedback. With DevOps, there is continuous development, continuous testing (CT), continuous deployment (CD), continuous monitoring, and continuous integration (CI).
The continuous monitoring stage ensures high quality, and the continuous delivery ensures timely delivery.
The DevOps Life Cycle
The main stages in DevOps are as follows:
- Configuration Management (Continuous Development)
- Continuous Integration
- Formulating Test Strategy (Continuous Testing)
- Deployment Pipeline (Continuous Monitoring)
- Build Automation
- Deployment Automation (Containerization & Virtualization)
- Continuous Delivery
Suppose a version of the software is ready for testing. Upon testing, the team notices some defects and the developers must address the issues. But what happens if these early-stage issues aren’t fixed, and other issues arise as a result?
Configuration management tools allow for version control. The code rolls back immediately to the most stable previous version if an issue happens. It also ensures that there is a record of who has made any changes to the code. This helps developers segregate and work on independent issues without overwriting each other’s changes.
Why Not Just Do Source Code Control?
Version control also includes database scripts, build scripts, deployment scripts, project plans, libraries, configuration files, documents, and everything else related to a particular version of the software. It also ensures that when the system fails for some reason – be it code or database or configuration changes – we know precisely what to roll back and to which point.
There are many tools for version control like ClearCase, SVN, and more. Many complex projects create different branches of the same codebase and work on individual branches. Later on, all the branches are merged to form the final source code.
What happens when many code changes are merged at once, and an error occurs or something fails? With simultaneous changes, it’s hard to figure out what went wrong and in which branch, and usually takes a while.
With Continuous Integration, even the smallest of changes over the stable codebase are immediately built and tested through a set of automated test cases. If something fails, developers have to stop further development and fix the issues first. This ensures that the software is in a stable and working state at all times.
Continuous integration is the essence of DevOps, as it ensures that the code is built and tested continuously – whenever any changes are made.
Recorded changes and new versions should be created to perform a smooth CI process. Further, build scripts should be automated and always updated to be readable with more additions as the project size increases. Developers should also prepare a comprehensive automated test suite to pinpoint code errors within the build.
The CI server then performs the automated build and runs the automated tests.
Some helpful CI tools are Jenkins, Buddy, CircleCI, GitLabCI, and more.
How Does the CI Software Know if Any Changes Have Happened?
The CI tool polls the version control tool to trigger the build, runs the tests, and generates results.
Formulating Test Strategy
In the DevOps life cycle, a comprehensive set of tests are created to be run for each build. As project functionality grows, new test cases, both new and old, are created and run with each build.
The testing strategy phase ensures unit testing, acceptance testing, and regression testing are all done automatically for each build. Then, the feedback report is generated immediately. The only manual work left is exploratory testing by the testers.
Sometimes, the requirement changes as the project advances. The code and tests are updated based on new requirements, but we seldom find time to update requirement documents. Through automated tests and test suites, requirement documentation can be generated automatically.
As easy as it sounds, this stage puts a lot of responsibility on the automated test suites, which have to be robust enough to ensure that the system won’t break if new functionalities are added and that all possible scenarios are anticipated.
Some common testing tools used are Junit and Selenium.
As we have seen earlier, CI is the essence of DevOps. However, for CI to work correctly, all stages of testing, development, feedback, operations, and release should be synced.
But total sync isn’t always what happens. Sometimes, testers must wait for a stable or working build; sometimes developers get the feedback and issue reports for a previous release after they have already started work on the next release. Finally, operations teams might have to wait for proper documentation and fixes, leading to delays.
The deployment pipeline, also known as a build pipeline or CI pipeline, helps solve these delay issues. This stage of the DevOps cycle allows developers, testers, and operations to collaborate.
Once the delivery team checks in a piece of code, a build is triggered, and automated unit tests are run on it. Once these tests pass, automated acceptance tests are run. After passing this step, user acceptance testing (UAT) is done, and the product goes for release to staging or production. At every step, feedback is given, and if there is any failure, it can be corrected immediately and checked in.
Because of this continuous delivery of software versions and faster feedback at every stage, the number of issues eventually reduces, and the quality increases.
Build Automation and Deployment
Build automation is a process where each of the build stages – retrieval of software code from the repository, code compilation, converting code into a binary artifact, and executing automated (functional) tests – are all scripted in a single file.
When the build script is executed, all of the above tasks are performed. This leads to faster delivery and better collaboration between different teams. It also ensures minimal rework and fewer defects in the build. Some popular build tools are Ant, Maven, and Make.
So what happens after the code passes the unit testing stage? For CI, the deployment process must automatically occur immediately. This stage includes installing EAR files, configuring databases, configuring server settings to suit the production environment, deploying the application to production, and restarting the servers, if necessary.
Some helpful deployment automation tools are Jenkins, Microsoft Visual Studio, AWS CodeDeploy, Puppet, and Distelli.
Also known as continuous build and deployment, every commit or action signals the CI server to perform the entire automation cycle.
Continuous delivery is the entire DevOps process – continuous delivery of artifacts through automated builds, deployments, and tests leading to on-time delivery of efficient code with minimal defects.
Where is DevOps Used?
Many industries, like finance and telecom, demand timely results, where delays in development can cost companies immense loss of profit and customers.
For businesses that rely so heavily on met timelines, the DevOps process provides quicker and more stable code production.
For example, an online retail website can cater to customers, while new changes are being deployed to the server, reducing the downtime.
Furthermore, DevOps has given a brand-new approach to internally maintain projects and reduce testing, deployment, and integration time, reducing the overall time taken to implement new functionality.
Benefits of DevOps
DevOps has revolutionized project development and saved companies and IT teams tons of time and money. Here are a few of the many benefits of DevOps.
Innovation: With such an increased software production speed, companies benefit from better efficiencies to help allocate time to creative and innovative pursuits.
Collaboration: Before the DevOps life cycle, many teams would work independently, sometimes creating silos that hindered morale and productivity. DevOps assures more collaboration, improving company morale and helping teams understand their role as it relates to each other and the company goals. Better collaboration is also linked to better job satisfaction and performance.
Business Growth: DevOps improves consistency and speed, allowing companies to scale their companies at a faster rate.
Security: Before DevOps, IT teams would sometimes sacrifice security in the interest of quick delivery. However, that puts companies and customers at risk for hacking. DevOps entails automation and configuration management that ensures speed without sacrificing security.
Reliability: Continuous integration and delivery assure the quality and security of a product, as it constantly tests functionality and targets issues for quick fixing. DevOps tools also help monitor and log commits to allow companies to gain insights from metrics.
DevOps Best Practices
Here are some fundamental principles and practices to ensure the DevOps process runs as smoothly as possible.
Stakeholder Consultation and Participation: Collaboration is essential and characteristic of the DevOps life cycle. Companies and management teams should consult with support staff, developers, and operations teams to ensure commitment and alignment with the DevOps plan and process.
Application Monitoring: Developers and IT teams should record solutions in real-time as soon as they take place. This helps companies report on performance and improve progress over time.
Dashboards: Dashboards are a great plus in the DevOps cycle, as they allow teams to record key metrics. Best practices entail making solid use of these dashboards to help inform business strategy and improve performance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is a DevOps Example?
There are many DevOps tools available now, but one example is Slack. This tool opens communication across entire teams and individuals and provides businesses with a bird’s eye view of a workflow.
2. What is the Main Purpose of DevOps?
DevOps helps IT teams streamline and speed up software production, improve product quality, and minimize opportunities for errors. It also encourages collaboration within teams.
3. What is DevOps and How Does it Work?
DevOps is a lifecycle of practices that combines siloed IT operations into one process with continuous testing and delivery. It entails a 7-step process with consistent checks and testing to reduce opportunities for errors and maintain high product quality and team collaboration.
What is DevOps? A process and software approach that promises efficiency and accuracy. DevOps helps entire IT teams and companies produce timely, high-quality software products with a reduced opportunity for error.
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