What is DevOps? (Definition, key components and benefits)
Updated 27 March 2023
DevOps is a popular approach to software development that improves the way in which organisations deliver applications and services to clients. It combines software development with IT operations, shortening the system development lifecycle. If you work in tech, understanding the key elements of DevOps can make your job easier and allow you to further expand your skills in the field. In this article, we answer, 'What is DevOps?', explore the DevOps lifecycle and discuss important benefits of using this approach.
What is DevOps?
Learning the answer to, 'What is DevOps?' can help you expand your IT skills and gain the necessary knowledge to make your job in tech easier. The term 'DevOps' is a combination of words 'development' and 'operations', which describes different practices, cultural philosophies and tools that combine software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops). Tech companies find DevOps highly beneficial because it allows them to maximise their production potential and develop applications and other projects at high velocity. Thanks to DevOps and the philosophy behind it, they can improve their products faster than organisations that use traditional infrastructures and management.
Key components of DevOps lifecycle
DevOps lifecycle is a process that helps organisations optimise their processes. It encourages continuous growth and development, resulting in faster delivery times. The lifecycle consists of several stages, which function as coexistent elements, often occurring simultaneously. The key stages of a DevOps lifecycles include:
1. Continuous development
The first component of a DevOps lifecycle is continuous development, during which the team concentrates on planning and programming the software. This component encourages regular and continuous updates. As a result, the team can deliver code to customers as soon as they finish writing and testing it. This is possible because, typically, continuous development simplifies the development process by breaking it down into smaller development cycles.
2. Continuous integration
In software engineering, continuous integration (CI) is the practice that allows tech organisations to automate the integration of code changes that several contributors developed. As a result, they can easily create a single software project that's functional and includes all necessary adjustments. In addition to this, it also enables clients to provide feedback that contributors can use when they're about to incorporate new features into applications. In many instances, this is the most intense stage of the DevOps process, as the most changes can happen throughout its duration.
3. Continuous testing
Another key component of DevOps is continuous testing, which is a form of software testing that contributors and team members perform at every stage of the development lifecycle. The primary goal for this process is the assessment of the quality of the software. Typically, development teams do this by identifying any bugs and errors in the code. A major element of this DevOps stage is quality analysis (QA), which allows the team to test the software's usability. The QA process also tells them if the software meets the key specifications and client requirements.
4. Continuous deployment
Continuous deployment (CD) is a process that aims to validate if the contributors implemented the correct changes and if these changes are stable enough for a software release. Thanks to this component, developers can address any code and software issues quickly and hassle-free. It also makes their work more accurate, as CD eliminates the need for scheduling releases. To improve the CD stage, it's important that organisations maintain high levels of consistency between development, staging and production environments.
5. Continuous monitoring
Continuous monitoring is an operational stage during which developers identify any grey areas in the software. This phase also gives them enough time and resources to enhance the overall efficiency of the application. During the monitoring stage, they also address and eliminate any system errors, ensuring full functionality, availability and security of the software.
6. Continuous feedback
In DevOps, continuous feedback is the process of regularly evaluating the effects of each software release and creating reports that help the development team improve their future releases. Effective feedback is almost immediate and entire teams and departments can receive it at the same time. The way in which an organisation processes client or expert feedback can impact its corporate image and simply help the development team improve the way in which they fix code errors and implement adjustments to applications. Continuous feedback also helps companies improve employee engagement and productivity.
To implement continuous feedback in DevOps, organisations can identify their improvement areas by asking contributors and developers about the things they like and dislike about the project or the entire company. It's necessary that executives try to make any changes within projects relevant to the developers' true experiences and create a safe space in which they can share feedback with others. Once that's possible, it's helpful to consider a soft launch of the process to see how the continuous feedback model impacts the workflow, software releases and the team's overall results.
7. Continuous operations
Continuous operations are the last component of the DevOps lifecycle whose primary goal is to help developers eliminate or at least significantly reduce the need for planned downtime, including scheduled maintenance. There are various elements that they can incorporate to make that possible, such as A/B testing and aiming for small and frequent releases. Thanks to continuous operations, organisations can maintain the same productivity and efficiency levels, regardless of any events of disruption.
Benefits of DevOps
DevOps can be a highly effective approach to software development, which promotes agility in business and can improve the results of teams regardless of their size. Here are some benefits of DevOps for organisations and team members:
Improved adaptability and speed
Thanks to DevOps, organisations can quickly adapt to any market changes or changes that their clients demand from them as a part of their project requirements. DevOps simplifies collaboration between development and operation teams, allowing them to exchange feedback and approve new releases more frequently. As a result, they can move at high velocity to deliver innovations to customers faster.
Quickly addressing customer needs
DevOps enables developers to release smaller, frequent releases as soon as they've tested them. This is possible thanks to DevOps' continuous integration and delivery, which play an important role in automating internal development processes. As a result, contributors and developers can go through all the stages of a project, from build to deploy, multiple times and in less time.
Better cross-team collaboration
DevOps is a philosophy that encourages the collaboration of multiple teams that work towards a common goal and share the same values, such as accountability and trust. Most importantly, it concentrates on making teamwork easier for the development and operations teams, which share the same workflows. As a result, it's easier for them to reduce any inefficiencies and communicate because they use the same processes and tools.
The DevOps approach encourages frequent, even daily, releases, which is why security if one of the main concerns in DevOps. As a default, this approach requires that all teams working on the project take the necessary security measures to identify and eliminate any vulnerabilities or even grey areas. This way, they can prevent any security or data breaches. Some ways in which DevOps teams can ensure maximum security of their work include:
Implementing DevSecOps: DevSecOps stands for development, security and operations. It's a trending practise that sees security as a fundamental of DevOps, making it possible to engage security experts who can regularly evaluate code releases and automated tests.
Reviewing smaller chunks of code: Another helpful practice to maximise a project's security is to never review huge code or the entire application at once. Focusing on smaller parts of code at one go helps improve security and allows the team to identify smaller bugs and issues.
Offering security training: Through training their development and operation teams on security, organisations can make them more aware of any potential issues or breaches that might take place. For example, companies can do this by including on-the-job security training as a part of their onboarding process for new developers.
Using password management tools: Often, smaller companies and teams choose to store their passwords and account data in spreadsheets that managers and team leaders share. Using a password manager improved security, as it automatically generates credentials and eliminates the need of sharing passwords between individual users.
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