First and foremost, let’s review the notion of DevOps and clarify when it might come in handy.
DevOps stands for development plus operations. This is a collection of rules for software development that is enhanced by the traditions of successful IT operations. Such a combination allows for a shorter and more efficient software development life cycle (SDLC) without any loss in the quality of the end product.
Now that you read the definition again, the idea of implementing DevOps tactics in your company to lower the costs and improve software quality seems to be the right thing to do. But what exactly does it mean “DevOps implementation into the existing business model”? When should a company consider turning to this strategy and how to make this implementation go smooth and efficient? Well, get your pens and notebooks together since this will be a long-read about the premises for DevOps strategy implementation, the actual steps to make on the way, and the tips on how to maintain success for an extended time.
When it’s time to turn to DevOps
Every company or team can try DevOps at any moment without any hesitation. Despite the voluntary transition to this process, there are particular business situations when it is essential to review the process and implement DevOps to enhance the software development process. Below you will find five most common cases when a DevOps strategy can be of great help.
Miscommunication among development teams
Lack of communication or severe miscommunication inside the global development team that includes smaller teams comes from the strict differentiation of work duties. For example, it is clear that developers write code and QA testers inspect the app to ensure its proper functioning. Yet, developers do conduct quality assurance testing in the format of unit tests and if they do not communicate their findings properly, testers might build their QA strategy wrong hence not delivering the highest result possible.
A similar case comes with the infrastructure provisioning team that cannot guarantee the app’s stable performance without the information from QAs and developers. Meanwhile, if there is a problem with the production environment and testers have no clue about the issues, then the results in the testing environment will also be not applicable to the prod since the input data of both environments is different. Whenever software development and IT operations teams have so severely restricted work duties and do not collaborate with each other, the result will be a significant prolongation of the project and a financial and reputational loss for the development company.
How can DevOps help?
DevOps system of work process organization dictates that all teams have to work in alignment. This means that developers, QAs, and system administrators (responsible for the operational component) stay in close daily communication and discussions of the development workflow. As a result, every team stays informed about the progress and possible problems the other teams might experience and so adjust their daily work plan based on this information. Such a procedure allows minimizing the time for software delivery and the number of potential bugs and no-goers before releases and updates.
Prolonged and tedious deployment of the infrastructure
In a traditional or old-school manner of infrastructure deployment, system administrators get used to the manual preparation and deployment of new development and testing as well as the prod infrastructure for a new project of software development. As a result, the team of sysadmins requires a lot of time (several weeks for large-scale projects) to prepare a new project for the developers to work with. Since all the operations and building blocks are created manually, it frequently leads to misconfigurations that require more time to be modified and prepared for the upcoming work. Again, this extends the delivery date of software and hence increases its costs.
How can DevOps help?
Within the DevOps framework, new infrastructure for further development as well as tests and production is delivered with Infrastructure as Code (IaC) approach. This approach combines automation and virtualization concepts getting together. This means that the infrastructure is delivered and managed through machine-readable definition files. These files then generate service components. The virtualization component allows for creating testing environments in a controlled and isolated way to maximize the potential for testing and minimize any impact on the production environment. IaC, in simpler words, offers developers an opportunity to begin working on a software development much faster since they no longer need to wait for system administrators to create it for them. Furthermore, the automation component of the IaC approach also eliminates many human errors that are common when infrastructure is created manually.
Insufficient test coverage
As mentioned above, testing is usually performed by two teams: developers and quality assurance engineers. The former is responsible for more code-related testing called unit tests. This means that whenever a particular unit of the software is developed, they run a check to ensure that this particular part in functioning properly at this early development stage. What developers do not go through is integration and performance testing that is performed by the QA team later in the development cycle. Due to the fact that this kind of testing is performed later, and frequently manually with minor inclusion of automated tests, the critical functionality of the developed software does not get covered enough to state that the testing went thoroughly. As a result, this causes unnoticed bugs appearing in production for end-users and so impacts users’ trust and satisfaction level.
How can DevOps help?
Automation of all processes is one of the key ideas of the DevOps strategy for software development. This rule also applies to testing. DevOps tries to automate as many tests as possible and so eliminate the time required for manual testing as well as human errors related to such work. In most cases, within the framework, the team will adopt additional tools to automate tests, for instance, Selenium, Appium, TestComplete, Tricentis Tosca, and others. All of these tools allow automating not only functional and integration tests but also unit tests. Their alarming systems instantly inform all members of the DevOps team about the detected bugs and their locations.
Increased amount of errors after releases
The number of errors in any deployed software is directly related to the quality and scrupulosity of testing performed before the release. So how well the testers perform their tests (such as functional, security, usability, integration, and many others) directly impacts the overall quality of the end-product. Whilst this idea is clear for all companies and businesses working in the sphere of software development, it is also clear and obvious that performing all tests at all stages of product development is literally impossible. One of the core rules of testing is that one cannot perform all tests because it requires enormous amounts of time and human effort that is simply unprofitable. This results in under-testing of particular software elements and hence might let major bugs through to the production environment. What is worse is that these bugs are frequently hard to reproduce in the testing environment due to the differences between prod and test environments or different builds existing in prod and test environments. And while the QA team is trying to identify those differences and bugs, customers continue to suffer from working in an unplanned way software.
How can DevOps help?
Remember about the close cooperation and communications DevOps offers? Well, such collaboration guarantees rapid and steady delivery of debugged application updates via application release automation (ARA). The automation minimizes if not eliminates the time required for a release and allows the team to easily bring the new build to the production environment for the users. Configuration errors can also be eliminated with the help of this strategy since all processes are automated, and the impact of human errors is minimized. In terms of existing errors, this automation also helps QAs to spend less time on testing and not miss out on the potential major bugs.
Users have little to no confidence in software quality
This point is a logical continuation of all the issues described above. If a company releases an app that has major bugs, then how would an ordinary app user trust that after the new release something will change? Just consider an example that a new rising social media app has login problems after the past three releases. After the first release, a user might think: “Well, this happens, the team is working so that’s fine for now.” After the second release with the same error, the thoughts might be: “Ok, I give them a chance but it’s really frustrating that I can’t use the app after each release.” After the third release with the same major bug, the user would simply leave the app be and go search the market for an alternative. But this is an exaggerated and obvious example of a lack of customers’ trust. If you consider that after releases in Facebook’s messenger begin to disappear some threads or a particular set of smiles stops working, then you would get end-users who, in fact, need to conduct their own manual testing before using the app to ensure that everything is OK. Not only such cases frustrate people, they literally turn the market away from such apps and sooner or later this kind of software sinks into Lethe.
How can DevOps help?
Owing to the increasing automation of all development and testing processes, the number of released bugs is significantly minimized and the possibility of a major bug crisis is declining after every release. The end-users, as a consequence, get a better built and developed app with fewer errors that do not impact the basic functionalities of an app. The users then understand that their photos would not disappear from their profiles and their attachments would remain in the same place, for example, so they trust the app, they trust the developers, and they spread the word about the app in the market increasing the number of active users.
A lot of time required for the deployment of new builds and fixes
These problems also arise from the lack of communication between the teams. On average, an uncoordinated team of developers, QAs, and system engineers needs from two to four weeks to identify, define, fix bugs and implement all the updates to the production environment. And this concerns only the minor changes and bugs. Whenever software is developed for a big market or crucial business operations, such delays in fixes may cost a fortune for the end-users.
How can DevOps help?
Again, communication and automation of this strategy allows to implement the ARA strategy and so update the existing software builds faster and less noticeable for the customers. The number of configuration errors with ARA, as mentioned above, would also go down.
What DevOps is not
After learning the cases when DevOps can improve your business’ workflow and enhance the development and release of the software, you might get the wrong impression that DevOps is about automation only. Some people also believe that once they go for DevOps implementation, their software development would turn upside down and get profitable and efficient the next day. Of course, in a utopian world, both of these statements are correct but the reality is a bit different.
- Automation is not the same as DevOps. Always keep in mind that DevOps is a strategy that teaches a team to cooperate and move forward together to deliver better results. Automation, in this case, is only a tool that helps the team reach their goal: minimize human errors and speed-up releases.
- Tools are not all you need to work within the DevOps approach. Yes, you might need additional testing tools or management tools to enter your day-to-day operations and make them efficient. But remember that even the best tool would not do the magic if the junior QA continues to perform the tests manually and makes mistakes. The key aspect of DevOps is the adoption of this approach by all team members. Only when each and every person on the team would aim at using Ansible or Docker and will integrate those tools into their work naturally the software delivery and quality would increase. Continuation and stability are the key components here.
- DevOps is an addition, not a new wheel. DevOps is an opportunity to optimize daily working practices and to configure the team’s tools for enhanced performance. DevOps is not a new way of working but rather an opportunity to look at the same operations from a different angle for better efficiency.
DevOps implementation: a how-to guide
Here is a simplified step-by-step roadmap for implementing the DevOps approach to go away from the traditional development practices.
Appoint a DevOps manager
To run the transition smoothly, you will need a DevOps manager who will deal with financial and human allocation in the process and monitor the effectiveness of the program.
Build a strategy
The newly selected DevOps manager will need to work on the collaboration among departments and enable the best practices of the approach:
- Develop a new DevOps environment for all team members: understand everyone’s goals and duties, then tune up teams’ communication, and set common goals for the cycle.
- Explain and implement IaC to ensure that the IT infrastructure team can instantly react to the requests from developers and QAs.
- Automate all processes as much as possible.
- Reorganize the delivery process
From now on, the software needs to run in containers with all the essential information to run an app. Once containers are isolated, it gets easier to identify and fix any issues or update app parts.
- Implement CI/CD tools
CI/CD tools, Jenkins or TeamCity, help to software deployment and configuration management. They enhance infrastructure automation for a containerized app.
- Align QAs and developers
While the DevOps manager needs to automate most of the processes, such tests as usability or security still require manual checks. The manager needs to ensure close cooperation of developers and QAs to cover all required tests together (at least one time a day) and to maintain bug fixing directly after every check.
- Monitor app performance
Daily app performance monitoring helps to identify any leaks or potential crises faster than the end-users do and hence avert any major app issues. This should be done by monitoring app servers, UX feedbacks, etc. Whenever any defects are allocated, the manager will need to prioritize their fixing queue and isolate their impact as much as possible.
DevOps approach can help complete software development projects faster and at a higher quality. Ensure that you are ready for your team to reorganize their work, implement new tools, and change the order of things for a greater future. DevOps can make your team and hence final product more reliable and flexible but be ready to make changes and fund them appropriately.