IT buzzwords change like the wind. From big data, to containers, to the Internet of Things, there is no shortage of often-used phrases that organisations must quickly become accustomed to.
DevOps is the latest trend that can increase agility and improve performance in the IT department. However, confusion is still rife, with many businesses unsure what it is, and how to capitalise upon it.
One of the reasons that DevOps is proving so difficult for organisations to define is that it is constantly changing. It grows organically, and its implementation and use is quickly evolving. There is also a misconception over DevOps’ role – it’s not simply a set of tools used exclusively for cloud deployments, but a new approach to software development.
The DevOps Definition
DevOps helps to dissolve siloes and offer greater clarity between development and operations teams, helping them to better share responsibilities, clarify processes and, in a broader sense, improve the understanding of software performance and what may affect it. How, then, does it do this?
When software is developed, the different stages are typically handled by different teams. So, one team will write code, the other will test it and a third will deploy it. Here, the phrase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ comes to mind, as with so many people involved a great deal of conflict can be expected, while update cycles can take an age.
This is not the case with a DevOps environment, where the visibility across development, testing and operations yields a team that has a better understanding of how new code impacts performance, operations informs development and encourages a shared sense of responsibility and accountability. As a result, goals are clearer, shorter development cycles allow changes to be made quicker, and an organisation’s IT environment can become more agile and efficient.
Implementing a DevOps Culture
That being said, DevOps is not without its challenges. The adoption of such a model is a huge change, with the transition from the traditional data centre a potential pain point for organisations. Recruitment can also be a challenge, with a great number of IT pros still unaccustomed to this new way of working. Here there are two options – find a DevOps expert, or train existing IT teams to equip them with the correct skills. Either way, investment is required, and growing pains can be expected.
Indeed, the most significant problem is time. Understaffed development teams mean that it’s increasingly difficult for organisations to give admins the time to develop and implement all the changes that are required to successfully move to a DevOps process. Such a fundamental change requires a huge amount of learning and adaptation, and realigning current processes to the new model is but one of the worries for a business opting for DevOps.
Now, this may seem like a serious mountain to climb for organisations. However, it’s important to remember that DevOps adoption doesn’t need to be rushed. It may take months to move to this model, but its implementation is not absolutely urgent. By preparing now, and better understanding and adjusting to DevOps’ strengths, businesses can lay the groundwork for the future and see results.
Collaboration is key
Collaboration is key to the success of DevOps. Silos don’t work when aiming to provide the end-user with peak application performance. With DevOps, the different teams required to develop software becomes one team that takes full responsibility for the performance of applications.
This team must work together efficiently, and there must be full visibility and consistency in the way they work, their goals, and the tools they work with. By breaking down the silos that exist in traditional data centre environments, organisations can better prepare themselves for the DevOps model.
End-to-End Monitoring & Automation
In order for a DevOps process to work, end-to-end monitoring and automation is required. The value of end-to-end monitoring is in understanding overall application performance, which should be the unifying goal. Visibility across the application stack can improve efficiency and collaboration, while also quickly identifying any issues within the software or the infrastructure. Automation of tests, monitoring, alerts and more will also result in greater efficiency.
Speed things up
One of the main benefits of DevOps is creating a more agile business, with shorter, iterative processes key to this, enabling the IT team to handle issues and innovate faster. Indeed, the impact can be significant – with development to production cycles moving from months to hours. Thankfully, such an approach doesn’t impact business’ ability to opt for large, longer-term projects. Instead, the flexibility offered by DevOps makes it easier for companies to scale up or down, depending on the project.
Better serve the end-user
The goal of all this is to better serve the end-user, offering improved applications to make their jobs easier. This philosophy has to be wholeheartedly embraced if a DevOps approach is to succeed. Every aspect of the software should be built to improve performance, with any issues accounted for and addressed immediately. This requires commitment, though a successful DevOps approach is worth it – offering faster software updates, deployments and time-to-resolution for any issues, delivering a significantly improved end-user experience.
DevOps may be a relative mystery to many organisations now, but in the next few years expect it to become ubiquitous as businesses seek to improve efficiency, drive innovation through their IT departments, and better serve the end-user.
Adoption may seem overwhelming at first but remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day – time spent now learning about this model and adjusting your business to better suit it, will result in significant benefits in the near future.
Kong Yang, Head Geek at SolarWinds
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