What is DevOps?

DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increase an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity


Roland Hewage

2 years ago | 17 min read

DevOps Model

DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increase an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity: evolving and improving products at a faster pace than organizations can using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes.

This speed enables organizations to better serve their customers and compete more effectively in the market.

How DevOps Works

Under a DevOps model, development and operations teams are no longer “siloed.”

Sometimes, these two teams are merged into a single team where the engineers work across the entire application lifecycle, from development and test to deployment to operations, and develop a range of skills not limited to a single function.

In some DevOps models, quality assurance and security teams may also become more tightly integrated with development and operations and throughout the application lifecycle.

When security is the focus of everyone on a DevOps team, this is sometimes referred to as DevSecOps.

These teams use practices to automate processes that historically have been manual and slow. They use a technology stack and tooling which help them operate and evolve applications quickly and reliably.

These tools also help engineers independently accomplish tasks (for example, deploying code or provisioning infrastructure) that normally would have required help from other teams, and this further increases a team’s velocity.

Benefits of DevOps

1. Speed

Move at high velocity so you can innovate for customers faster, adapt to changing markets better, and grow more efficient at driving business results. The DevOps model enables your developers and operations teams to achieve these results.

For example, microservices and continuous delivery let teams take ownership of services and then release updates to them quicker.

2. Rapid Delivery

Increase the frequency and pace of releases so you can innovate and improve your product faster. The quicker you can release new features and fix bugs, the faster you can respond to your customers’ needs and build competitive advantage.

Continuous integration and continuous delivery are practices that automate the software release process, from build to deploy.

3. Reliability

Ensure the quality of application updates and infrastructure changes so you can reliably deliver at a more rapid pace while maintaining a positive experience for end users.

Use practices like continuous integration and continuous delivery to test that each change is functional and safe. Monitoring and logging practices help you stay informed of performance in real-time.

4. Scale

Operate and manage your infrastructure and development processes at scale. Automation and consistency help you manage complex or changing systems efficiently and with reduced risk.

For example, infrastructure as code helps you manage your development, testing, and production environments in a repeatable and more efficient manner.

5. Improved Collaboration

Build more effective teams under a DevOps cultural model, which emphasizes values such as ownership and accountability. Developers and operations teams collaborate closely, share many responsibilities, and combine their workflows.

This reduces inefficiencies and saves time (e.g. reduced handover periods between developers and operations, writing code that takes into account the environment in which it is run).

6. Security

Move quickly while retaining control and preserving compliance. You can adopt a DevOps model without sacrificing security by using automated compliance policies, fine-grained controls, and configuration management techniques.

For example, using infrastructure as code and policy as code, you can define and then track compliance at scale.

Why DevOps Matters

Software and the Internet have transformed the world and its industries, from shopping to entertainment to banking. Software no longer merely supports a business; rather it becomes an integral component of every part of a business.

Companies interact with their customers through software delivered as online services or applications and on all sorts of devices.

They also use software to increase operational efficiencies by transforming every part of the value chain, such as logistics, communications, and operations.

In a similar way that physical goods companies transformed how they design, build, and deliver products using industrial automation throughout the 20th century, companies in today’s world must transform how they build and deliver software.

How to Adopt a DevOps Model

DevOps Cultural Philosophy

Transitioning to DevOps requires a change in culture and mindset. At its simplest, DevOps is about removing the barriers between two traditionally siloed teams, development and operations.

In some organizations, there may not even be separate development and operations teams; engineers may do both. With DevOps, the two teams work together to optimize both the productivity of developers and the reliability of operations.

They strive to communicate frequently, increase efficiencies, and improve the quality of services they provide to customers.

They take full ownership for their services, often beyond where their stated roles or titles have traditionally been scoped by thinking about the end customer’s needs and how they can contribute to solving those needs.

Quality assurance and security teams may also become tightly integrated with these teams.

Organizations using a DevOps model, regardless of their organizational structure, have teams that view the entire development and infrastructure lifecycle as part of their responsibilities.

DevOps Practices Explained

There are a few key practices that help organizations innovate faster through automating and streamlining the software development and infrastructure management processes. Most of these practices are accomplished with proper tooling.

One fundamental practice is to perform very frequent but small updates. This is how organizations innovate faster for their customers. These updates are usually more incremental in nature than the occasional updates performed under traditional release practices.

Frequent but small updates make each deployment less risky. They help teams address bugs faster because teams can identify the last deployment that caused the error.

Although the cadence and size of updates will vary, organizations using a DevOps model deploy updates much more often than organizations using traditional software development practices.

Organizations might also use a microservices architecture to make their applications more flexible and enable quicker innovation.

The microservices architecture decouples large, complex systems into simple, independent projects. Applications are broken into many individual components (services) with each service scoped to a single purpose or function and operated independently of its peer services and the application as a whole.

This architecture reduces the coordination overhead of updating applications, and when each service is paired with small, agile teams who take ownership of each service, organizations can move more quickly.

However, the combination of microservices and increased release frequency leads to significantly more deployments which can present operational challenges.

Thus, DevOps practices like continuous integration and continuous delivery solve these issues and let organizations deliver rapidly in a safe and reliable manner.

Infrastructure automation practices, like infrastructure as code and configuration management, help to keep computing resources elastic and responsive to frequent changes.

In addition, the use of monitoring and logging helps engineers track the performance of applications and infrastructure so they can react quickly to problems.

Together, these practices help organizations deliver faster, more reliable updates to their customers. Here is an overview of important DevOps practices.

DevOps Practices

The following are DevOps best practices:

  • Continuous Integration
  • Continuous Delivery
  • Microservices
  • Infrastructure as Code
  • Monitoring and Logging
  • Communication and Collaboration

Below you can learn more about each particular practice.

1) Continuous Integration

Continuous integration is a software development practice where developers regularly merge their code changes into a central repository, after which automated builds and tests are run.

The key goals of continuous integration are to find and address bugs quicker, improve software quality, and reduce the time it takes to validate and release new software updates.

2) Continuous Delivery

Continuous delivery is a software development practice where code changes are automatically built, tested, and prepared for a release to production.

It expands upon continuous integration by deploying all code changes to a testing environment and/or a production environment after the build stage.

When continuous delivery is implemented properly, developers will always have a deployment-ready build artifact that has passed through a standardized test process.

For Example: Continuous Delivery & AWS CodePipeline

3) Microservices

The microservices architecture is a design approach to build a single application as a set of small services.

Each service runs in its own process and communicates with other services through a well-defined interface using a lightweight mechanism, typically an HTTP-based application programming interface (API).

Microservices are built around business capabilities; each service is scoped to a single purpose. You can use different frameworks or programming languages to write microservices and deploy them independently, as a single service, or as a group of services.

For Example: Amazon Container Service (Amazon ECS), AWS Lambda

4) Infrastructure as Code

Infrastructure as code is a practice in which infrastructure is provisioned and managed using code and software development techniques, such as version control and continuous integration.

The cloud’s API-driven model enables developers and system administrators to interact with infrastructure programmatically, and at scale, instead of needing to manually set up and configure resources.

Thus, engineers can interface with infrastructure using code-based tools and treat infrastructure in a manner similar to how they treat application code.

Because they are defined by code, infrastructure and servers can quickly be deployed using standardized patterns, updated with the latest patches and versions, or duplicated in repeatable ways.

For Example: manage your infrastructure as code with AWS CloudFormation

Configuration Management

Developers and system administrators use code to automate operating system and host configuration, operational tasks, and more. The use of code makes configuration changes repeatable and standardized.

It frees developers and systems administrators from manually configuring operating systems, system applications, or server software.

For Example: configure and manage Amazon EC2 and on-premises systems with Amazon EC2 Systems Manager, configuration management with AWS OpsWorks

Policy as Code

With infrastructure and its configuration codified with the cloud, organizations can monitor and enforce compliance dynamically and at scale. Infrastructure that is described by code can thus be tracked, validated, and reconfigured in an automated way.

This makes it easier for organizations to govern changes over resources and ensure that security measures are properly enforced in a distributed manner (e.g. information security or compliance with PCI-DSS or HIPAA).

This allows teams within an organization to move at higher velocity since non-compliant resources can be automatically flagged for further investigation or even automatically brought back into compliance.

For Exmple: AWS Config and Config Rules to monitor and enforce compliance for your infrastructure

5) Monitoring and Logging

Organizations monitor metrics and logs to see how application and infrastructure performance impacts the experience of their product’s end user.

By capturing, categorizing, and then analyzing data and logs generated by applications and infrastructure, organizations understand how changes or updates impact users, shedding insights into the root causes of problems or unexpected changes.

Active monitoring becomes increasingly important as services must be available 24/7 and as application and infrastructure update frequency increases. Creating alerts or performing real-time analysis of this data also helps organizations more proactively monitor their services.

For Example: Amazon CloudWatch to monitor your infrastructure metrics and logs, AWS CloudTrail to record and log AWS API calls

6) Communication and Collaboration

Increased communication and collaboration in an organization is one of the key cultural aspects of DevOps.

The use of DevOps tooling and automation of the software delivery process establishes collaboration by physically bringing together the workflows and responsibilities of development and operations.

Building on top of that, these teams set strong cultural norms around information sharing and facilitating communication through the use of chat applications, issue or project tracking systems, and wikis.

This helps speed up communication across developers, operations, and even other teams like marketing or sales, allowing all parts of the organization to align more closely on goals and projects.

DevOps Tools

The DevOps model relies on effective tooling to help teams rapidly and reliably deploy and innovate for their customers.

These tools automate manual tasks, help teams manage complex environments at scale, and keep engineers in control of the high velocity that is enabled by DevOps.

AWS provides services that are designed for DevOps and that are built first for use with the AWS cloud. These services help you use the DevOps practices described above.

The 10 best DevOps tools for 2019

1. Gradle

Your DevOps tool stack will need a reliable build tool. Apache Ant and Maven dominated the automated build tools market for many years, but Gradle showed up on the scene in 2009, and its popularity has steadily grown since then.

Gradle is an incredibly versatile tool which allows you to write your code in Java, C++, Python, or other languages.

Gradle is also supported by popular IDEs such as Netbeans, Eclipse, and IntelliJ IDEA. If that doesn’t convince you, it might help to know that Google also chose it as the official build tool for Android Studio.

While Maven and Ant use XML for configuration, Gradle introduces a Groovy-based DSL for describing builds.

In 2016, the Gradle team also released a Kotlin-based DSL, so now you can write your build scripts in Kotlin as well. This means that Gradle does have some learning curves, so it can help a lot if you have used Groovy, Kotlin or another JVM language before.

Besides, Gradle uses Maven’s repository format, so dependency management will be familiar if you have prior experience with Maven. You can also import your Ant builds into Gradle.

The best thing about Gradle is incremental builds, as they save a nice amount of compile time. According to Gradle’s performance measurements, it’s up to 100 times faster than Maven.

This is in part because of incrementality, but also due to Gradle’s build cache and daemon. The build cache reuses task outputs, while the Gradle Daemon keeps build information hot in memory in-between builds.

All in all, Gradle allows faster shipping and comes with a lot of configuration possibilities.

2. Git

Git is one of the most popular DevOps tools, widely used across the software industry. It’s a distributed SCM (source code management) tool, loved by remote teams and open source contributors. Git allows you to track the progress of your development work.

You can save different versions of your source code and return to a previous version when necessary. It’s also great for experimenting, as you can create separate branches and merge new features only when they’re ready to go.

To integrate Git with your DevOps workflow, you also need to host repositories where your team members can push their work. Currently, the two best online Git repo hosting services are GitHuband Bitbucket.

GitHub is more well-known, but Bitbucket comes with free unlimited private repos for small teams (up to five team members). With GitHub, you get access only to public repos for free — which is still a great solution for many projects.

Both GitHub and Bitbucket have fantastic integrations. For example, you can integrate them with Slack, so everyone on your team gets notified whenever someone makes a new commit.

3. Jenkins

Jenkins is the go-to DevOps automation tool for many software development teams. It’s an open source CI/CD server that allows you to automate the different stages of your delivery pipeline.

The main reason for Jenkins’ popularity is its huge plugin ecosystem. Currently, it offers more than 1,000 plugins, so it integrates with almost all DevOps tools, from Docker to Puppet.

With Jenkins, you can set up and customize your CI/CD pipeline according to your own needs. I found the following example in the Jenkins Docs. And, this is just one of the possibilities.

It’s easy to get started with Jenkins, as it runs out-of-the-box on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. You can also easily install it with Docker. You can set up and configure your Jenkins server through a web interface.

If you are a first-time user, you can choose to install it with frequently used plugins. However, you can create your own custom config as well.

With Jenkins, you can iterate and deploy new code as quickly as possible. It also allows you to measure the success of each step of your pipeline. I’ve heard people complaining about Jenkins’ “ugly” and non-intuitive UI. However, I could still find everything I wanted without any problem.

4. Bamboo

Bamboo is Atlassian’s CI/CD server solution that has many similar features to Jenkins. Both are popular DevOps tools that allow you to automate your delivery pipeline, from builds to deployment.

However, while Jenkins is open source, Bamboo comes with a price tag. So, here’s the eternal question: is it worth choosing proprietary software if there’s a free alternative? It depends on your budget and goals.

Bamboo has many pre-built functionalities that you have to set up manually in Jenkins. This is also the reason why Bamboo has fewer plugins (around 100 compared to Jenkins’ 1000+). In fact, you don’t need that many plugins with Bamboo, as it does many things out-of-the-box.

Bamboo seamlessly integrates with other Atlassian products such as Jira and Bitbucket. You also have access to built-in Git and Mercurial branching workflows and test environments. All in all, Bamboo can save you a lot of configuration time.

It also comes with a more intuitive UI with tooltips, auto-completion, and other handy features.

5. Docker

Docker has been the number one container platform since its launch in 2013 and continues to improve. It’s also thought of as one of the most important DevOps tools out there.

Docker has made containerization popular in the tech world, mainly because it makes distributed development possible and automates the deployment of your apps.

It isolates applications into separate containers, so they become portable and more secure. Docker apps are also OS and platform independent. You can use Docker containers instead of virtual machines such as VirtualBox.

What I like the most about Docker is that you don’t have to worry about dependency management.

You can package all dependencies within the app’s container and ship the whole thing as an independent unit. Then, you can run the app on any machine or platform without a headache.

Docker integrates with Jenkins and Bamboo, too. If you use it together with one of these automation servers, you can further improve your delivery workflow.

Besides, Docker is also great for cloud computing. In recent years, all major cloud providers such as AWS and Google Cloud added support for Docker. So, if you are planning a cloud migration, Docker can ease the process for you.

6. Kubernetes

This year, everyone is talking about Kubernetes. It’s a container orchestration platform that takes containerization to the next level. It works well with Docker or any of its alternatives. Kubernetes is still very new; its first release came out in 2015.

It was founded by a couple of Google engineers who wanted to find a solution to manage containers at scale. With Kubernetes, you can group your containers into logical units.

You may not need a container orchestration platform if you have just a few containers. However, it’s the next logical step when you reach a certain level of complexity and need to scale your resources. Kubernetes allows you to automate the process of managing hundreds of containers.

With Kubernetes, you don’t have to tie your containerized apps to a single machine. Instead, you can deploy it to a cluster of computers. Kubernetes automates the distribution and scheduling of containers across the whole cluster.

A Kubernetes cluster consists of one master and several worker nodes. The master node implements your pre-defined rules and deploys the containers to the worker nodes.

Kubernetes pays attention to everything. For instance, it notices when a worker node is down and redistributes the containers whenever it’s necessary.

7. Puppet Enterprise

Puppet Enterprise is a cross-platform configuration management platform. It allows you to manage your infrastructure as code. As it automates infrastructure management, you can deliver software faster and more securely.

Puppet also provides developers with an open-source tool for smaller projects. However, if you are dealing with a larger infrastructure, you may find value in Puppet Enterprise’s extra features, such as:

  • Real-time reports
  • Role-based access control
  • Node management

With Puppet Enterprise, you can manage multiple teams and thousands of resources. It automatically understands relationships within your infrastructure.

It deals with dependencies and handles failures smartly. When it encounters a failed configuration, it skips all the dependent configurations as well. The best thing about Puppet is that it has more than 5,000 modules and integrates with many popular DevOps tools.

8. Ansible

Ansible is a configuration management tool, similar to Puppet and Chef. You can use it to configure your infrastructure and automate deployment. Its main selling points compared to other similar DevOps tools are simplicity and ease of use.

Ansible follows the same Infrastructure As Code (IAC) approach as Puppet. However, it uses the super simple YAML syntax. With Ansible, you can define tasks in YAML, while Puppet has its own declarative language.

Agentless architecture is another frequently mentioned feature of Ansible.

As no daemons or agents run in the background, Ansible is a secure and lightweight solution for configuration management automation. Similar to Puppet, Ansible also has several modules.

If you want to better understand how Ansible fits into the DevOps workflow take a look at this postby the Red Hat Blog. It shows how to use Ansible for environment provisioning and application deployment within a Jenkins pipeline.

9. Nagios

Nagios is one of the most popular free and open source DevOps monitoring tools. It allows you to monitor your infrastructure so that you can find and fix problems.

With Nagios, you can keep records of events, outages, and failures. You can also keep an eye on trends with the help of Nagios’ graphs and reports. This way, you can forecast outages and errors and detect security threats.

Although there are many DevOps tools for infrastructure monitoring, Nagios stands out due to its rich plugin ecosystem.

As Nagios has been around for a while (since 2002), there’s a vast community around it. Besides plugins, they also make add-ons, tutorials, translations, and other goodies — all for free.

Nagios offers four open source monitoring solutions:

  1. Nagios Core
  2. Nagios XI
  3. Nagios Log Server
  4. Nagios Fusion

Nagios Core is a command line tool, with all the basic functionalities. You can also opt for Nagios XI that comes with a web-based GUI and monitoring wizard. Nagios writes a handy comparison of their capabilities.

Nagios Log Server lets you search log data and set up alerts about potential threats. And, Nagios Fusion allows you to monitor multiple networks at the same time.

On the whole, Nagios provides DevOps teams with an infrastructure monitoring solution. However, it can take a while to set it up and make it compatible with your environment.

10. Raygun

Raygun is a world-class error monitoring and crash reporting platform. Application performance monitoring (APM) is its most recent product. Raygun’s DevOps tool helps you diagnose performance issues and tracking them back to the exact line of code, function, or API call.

The APM tool also fits well with Raygun’s error management workflow. For example, it automatically identifies your highest priority problems and creates issues for you.

Raygun APM can help you make the most out of other DevOps tools, as you are always notified about the problems.

Since it automatically links errors back to the source code, Raygun brings Development and Operations together by providing one source of truth for the whole team the cause of errors and performance problems.

Which DevOps tools are right for your team?

Finding the best DevOps tools takes some testing and experimentation. It usually takes more time to set up and configure open-source tools.

Most commercial DevOps tools come with free trials that allow you to test and evaluate them at no cost. It all boils down to your needs and goals.


Created by

Roland Hewage

I'm a Data Science, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Quantum Computing Enthusiastic.







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