DevOps, What’s the Deal?

DevOps

The importance of software has grown significantly over the past couple of decades. From basic websites, data-centric web applications, desktop apps and mobile apps to cutting-edge solutions involving machine learning and AI… software powers many aspects of our lives.

With the increased reliance on software and the development processes that come with it, there has also been a need for increased efficiency and a streamlining of processes round the delivery of development projects. This is where Developer Operations, aka DevOps, comes in.

DevOps is the process of systemising and automating the software delivery process to reduce costs, bugs, and time to delivery. It’s become a crucial part of the software delivery process and is a critically important component to many online applications.

If you own or manage an online application, or plan to, then let’s see how DevOps can significantly improve your product and bottom line…

What is it?

DevOps primarily focuses on two objectives:

  1. Automating the software delivery process.
  2. Reducing the costs and delivery timeframes of software development.

To achieve these objectives, repetitive and error-prone tasks, traditionally been performed by developers or infrastructure technicians, are replaced with automated processes.

This process of automation introduces several benefits:

  • Reduction in human error.
  • Frees up staff to focus on more important tasks.
  • More automation means more opportunity to perform checks and run tests.

There is an upfront cost of introducing a robust DevOps system. But if this cost is factored in early and the groundwork is done at the start of the project, then that cost is soon recuperated.

DevOps typically relies on the use of third-party platforms to perform the automated tasks, such as Azure DevOps, Jenkins, Bamboo, and others.

How software used to be released

Traditionally, software development would follow the Waterfall approach. This is a sequential process consisting of the following steps: Analysis, Design, Development, Testing, and Release. This process lacked the opportunity to pass feedback back to earlier steps.

For example, flaws introduced in the Design step may not be identified until the Testing or Release steps. This lag hindered the speed at which software was released in a complete and correct state.

A more dynamic and feedback driven approach was needed so that the process was more responsive to the inevitable changes in scope.

DevOps to the rescue!

DevOps has played an integral part in the transition away from the Waterfall approach. The latest “Iterative” approach focuses on breaking up software development projects into smaller “chunks”. The full process of analysis to delivery is performed on these chunks, with one chunk reaching the release phase before work on the next chunk commences.

With a robust DevOps system in place, project teams can streamline the steps of releasing features in an iterative, cyclical manner. DevOps automates the cumbersome tasks necessary to facilitate software delivery, it also encourages testing the product earlier and more often.

Here’s a few of the key benefits of DevOps, along with examples…

1) Automating manual tasks

Cumbersome and repetitive tasks are automated, freeing up the implementation teams time to focus on active development. Automation also decreases the chance of human error – it is far too easy to delete the wrong file or copy files into the wrong location. Simple errors such as this can cause a whole deployment to fail.

2) Dedicated environments for testing

Work is typically performed upfront to automate the software deployment process into multiple target environments: i.e., Development, Testing, UAT (User Acceptance Testing) and Production.

Having separate environments with the same codebase allows different teams to review the latest features, fixes, and enhancements in isolation. This ultimately increases the visibility on the software and provides more opportunity for issues to be discovered and for feedback to be provided.

3) Improved code and data tracking

The golden standard today has been to use a trusted source code tracking system, namely Git. Doing so allows for a fully traceable history of all code changes made in the codebase.

DevOps will go one step further and provide added functionality on top of the source code repository. Code Reviews can become a standard practice before code is automatically packaged and prepared for deployment to a dedicated testing environment.

Also, database backups can be performed as a step in the deployment pipeline, further decreasing risk to a business.

4) Increased speed of delivery

Something that has become critical in the success factor of businesses today is the delivery speed of software updates. One of DevOps primary responsibilities is streamlining the process of bringing code changes into the hands of the end-users as quickly (and safely) as possible.

Automated delivery pipelines coupled with greater testing and early usage means that tested software can be used by end-users far sooner than with the traditional Waterfall approach. And updates can literally be released with the click of a button.

5) Reduced costs over the long run

Cost reduction is at the forefront of most businesses’ minds. The upfront costs of setting up robust DevOps systems is far outweighed by the long-term savings made by reducing the strain on the implementation team.

Greater visibility on updates earlier on in the delivery process through dedicated test environments also means that bugs are identified early where they are easier to rectify. Also, reducing the chance of your end-users identifying bugs is highly important to your reputation and may also impact your bottom line in the long run.

In summary

DevOps consists of software delivery automation, dedicated testing environments, source code tracking and software delivery best practices. It’s evolved along with the new Iterative software delivery methodology which replaced the out-dated and inflexible Waterfall approach.

DevOps has become the backbone for many leading-edge businesses and startups over the past couple of decades – and for good reason. Streamlining operations, reducing costs, and deploying new features into the hands of your end-users earlier than the competition are all crucial elements in becoming a market leader. A robust DevOps system is vital in making this happen.

Photo by RealToughCandy.com (RTC) from Pexels

Daniel Boterhoven

Developer and Founder @DenimDevAU. I create #apps for the web and mobile.

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