What is DevOps and How Automation Helps Achieve It

DevOps!

It has captured a significant position in the IT world and has become a critical part of software engineering methodology. DevOps involves changes in process and culture. Many organizations face the difficulty of managing workflows due to hand-offs between development and operations stages while managing continuous integration and delivery. By integrating participating tools, it is possible to automate process flow and implement DevOps successfully.

Before we delve further into the topic you may ask what exactly is “DevOps”?

What is DevOps?

Well, as the name suggests, DevOps forms the union of two different sub-disciplines – Dev and Ops. While the term ‘Dev’ refers to the software development in general, it is actually used on a much broader scale covering a vast network of people who assist in developing a product including Product Managers, the software developers, Quality Assurance engineers, and others. On the other hand, ‘Ops’ is the indicating term for the system engineers, network engineers, system administrators, DBAs, and the whole contingent staff who work on the complete IT infrastructure and operations. Thus, DevOps, in short, deals with collaboration and communications between software developers, QAs and IT operations.

To be precise, DevOps is a software development practice where operations engineers, development engineers and QAs participate together in the entire service lifecycle of the product, from design stage through the development process to production or implementation support.

Glitches Overloaded…unhappy team members

 dev-and-ops

Why DevOps gained popularity

A big reason for the evolution of DevOps is that the knowledge gap between software and infrastructure engineer is gradually fading. They have to work together to yield the best performance from software and hardware infrastructure. Another major reason is the migration to the cloud where the operations team is not managing the hardware in true sense and the focus has shifted to reduced cost of product delivery and better application delivery performance.

Prior to DevOps, the development team and the operations team worked in complete isolation. All were unaware of the current status of the project from each other’s perspective. This led to some obvious and unavoidable problems that hindered the progress of IT firms significantly. Some of these problems were –

  • Lack of collaboration
  • Lack of synchronization
  • Loss of productivity
  • Increased costs and overheads
  • Risky deployments
  • Difficulties in tracking changes

The solution to all these problems – though obvious now – were not very visible. It was important to introduce a systematic intervention that would alleviate all the problems, while at the same time would be easy to implement and be sustainable.

Challenges accepted! Introducing “DevOps” – The ultimate goal!

The introduction of DevOps in the IT industry was a paradigm shift towards better software development and delivery practice. It had the desired positive effects while keeping at bay the potential negatives.

  • People started working together.
  • Teams started thinking alike.
  • A token of “Trust” started growing between the groups.
  • Teams shared responsibilities.
  • Team silos broke down.
  • Process became streamlined and automated
  • Process efficiency and delays became measurable and actionable
  • Product delivery feedback cycle became continuous and quicker
  • Constant monitoring of product quality became easier and time-saving

Following the phenomenal success of DevOps, banking on its operational power and problem-solving ability, the great IT-gurus proposed a plan of automation to achieve DevOps in reality.

Why Automation needed for DevOps

DevOps employs lean methodologies that are aimed at reducing manual hand-offs between development, operations, and finally customers.

devops-cycle

Fig: The Power of Automation in DevOps Lifecycle Stages

Let’s take a flash back to the typical CR (Change Request) handling process in an organization. A customer initiates a “change request” through email or ticket submission using help desk system. The operations team receive updates about the issues. They communicate the same message to the associated developers. The development team starts working on the same. Once the development work is completed based on the change request, the solutions are passed over to the testing team who get their testing environment ready, deploy the solution and then communicate with the developer for any feedback. Finally, at the end of testing, the resultant solution gets deployed at the customer end.

This conventional method of change request implementation has many disadvantages. Process gaps, manual interventions, communication delays and missing chain of information are some of them. Any latency in the transfer of information between customers and the development team is detrimental. Since multiple stakeholders are involved in the development loop, the much-treaded path can be prone to errors and miscommunications.

Post development phase, testing phase and finally post-deployment customer feedback stage – all these steps involve various internal and external stakeholders. With manual interventions at each stage of DevOps system, the feedback loop is bound to suffer. 

Automating DevOps process through integration

Automation is the lifeline. By leveraging integration technologies, we can actually bring the tools together as used by different stakeholders. With a proprietary integration platform, we can integrate tools from different phases of the DevOps cycle like BMC Remedy used by the operations team, Rally used by the engineering team, build tools like Jenkins, Hudson used by the development team and even testing tools used by the QA team. Once integrated we have the power to define an end-to-end automated DevOps process that spans across multiple disparate tools. This contributes to better sync among the teams and eventually faster and more accurate deployment and releases. 

Automation monitoring the success of DevOps

Automation allows creating several real-time reports which provide a consolidated view of everything happening in a project. In an automated DevOps scenario, integration data across tools get automatically stored in a central repository. This allows users to generate various types of real-time reports such as:

  • Deployment frequency: It measures the frequency of the deployments done against the changes which are requested.
  • Change Fail Rates: It mainly calculates the frequency at which changes are getting failed.
  • MTTR: ‘Mean Time to Recover’includes the average time needed to fix the problem and gain complete recovery.
  • Lead Time for Changes: This measures the total lead time to implement a change. It actually calculates the time between a change request submission and the completion of execution.

Automation triggering productivity

With DevOps, we obtain a completely automated infrastructure with the following benefits:

  • Faster time to market– Quick deployments and easy communication allow getting to market faster.
  • Bringing isolated teams together-Development, Testing and Operations can work hand in hand when communication barrier disappear.
  • Automated workflows– All parts of the development and deployment chain get automated shortening the development and delivery process.
  • Continuous Integration – Developers can easily do unit testing, code quality analysis and then commit to the SCM for build from an IDE- all in an integrated tool setup without switching between the systems.
  • Continuous Delivery – Delivery manager can have a production-ready environment with all the latest fixes to be delivered on demand.
  • Better Monitoring – Project leads can access real-time reports and dashboards for continuous update on change requests/defects getting fixed and subsequent releases to customers.
  • Faster Resolution – Development engineers and IT help desk managers get automated notifications in the event of defects/change requests getting raised; development fixes being planned, executed, and reported to customers
  • Decreased Risk– Risk factors due to human error decrease to a great extent.
  • Cost reduction– Process management becomes less expensive as the overheads generated due to manual interventions get eliminated.
  • More focus on improving the business – Teams can solely concentrate on improving core business which adds to the final productivity.

Conclusion

DevOps as a contemporary practice that improves collaboration between development and operations teams. It helps to reach a very high limit of productivity by automating workflows. However, achieving automation across process flows is not an easy goal. Using integration technology, we can easily bring the tools together from different domains and break down the silos. And when all is hunky-dory, we obtain a complete solution for our desired Integrated – Automated DevOps story.

We invite you to learn more about the importance of process automation in achieving DevOps by setting up a one-to-one demo session. We will also discuss the role of integrations in fuelling automation and Kovair’s offerings for it.

 NB: This article was originally published by the author at DZone before re-publishing it at Kovair Blog.

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Abantika is a Solutions Engineer at Kovair Software. She specializes in Customer Services and Solutions Delivery. Understanding Customers' pain points, coordinating with associated key stakeholders and configuring appropriate solutions are her major responsibilities at Kovair. At leisure time you will find her busy with music and dance.