Software development can be a daunting process that every developer loves and hates at the same time. Hiding endless challenges, the end-to-end dev cycle involves a number of moving parts that must fit together perfectly to make a working product.
Everything starts with an idea. It gets transformed into a concise scope and then comes the so-called development process. A bunch of smart and yet weird in their own way people form a team and the wisest among them plays the role of a team leader. A workflow process is fixed on and at last — the code starts to flow into the repositories.
Time goes by and the codebase grows. The team starts to see the light in the tunnel in the form of cool functionalities — a result of hard work and commitment. A sublime moment is reached. “We need to deploy soon” — the leader mumbles at the end of a meeting. Immediately, everyone gets panicked and one of the members replies cautiously “It is absolutely impossible to deploy all of our work by the end of the week!” The leader grins. He has been thinking about the code maintenance from the sole beginning and confidently says in response: “Let DevOps do the magic!”
The scenario outlined above is familiar to almost every distinguished development team, including ours at Accedia. Throughout the numerous work ventures that we have had, we tend to rely on DevOps practices and tools that have proved to be immensely helpful when it comes to delivering stable and reliable software products to our clients.
Before reaching out to DevOps though, it is important to understand what the actual challenge is. To help you get started, we have compiled a list of the most common ones and what we think is the best way to approach each one of them.
Top 6 IT challenges that DevOps helps you solve
So, let’s dig deeper into the development hurdles that have provoked the DevOps movement:
Over-reliance on human efforts. Spending hours reviewing checklists to ensure code is ready for deployment causes many human errors and restrict the standardization of processes throughout the development lifecycle. That’s why, when it comes to deployment on various environments or long-term maintainability of a product, it is best that your strategy involves as little human dependency as possible. Ideally, when new code is pushed to the repository’s main branch, the deployment for a target environment, like the quality assurance one, should be kicked off automatically and completed without the need of a developer.
Recommendation: It is essential to adopt an “automation mindset” when pacing toward a DevOps culture. This can be achieved via the orchestration pipeline made up of tools that enable automation. For example, Jenkins can help you bring your code from the repository to a specific environment with almost zero human interaction. Check out the Jenkins Pipeline — it helps you go through all the necessary steps to deliver a product out of your code. Other tools worth looking into are Travis, Bamboo (JIRA), AWS Code Pipeline.
Gap between Development and Operations teams. A few years ago, developers didn’t think any further than producing code and couldn’t be less bothered about its deployment and future maintenance. At the same time, the operations team had nothing to do with the Dev team and didn’t worry about the software development either. Both teams had different responsibilities and metrics defining success. As a result, when deployment time approached, it was a common scenario that a code wouldn’t work in a staging environment or the Ops team was not able to deploy it, leading to a delay in delivery and more work. After the agile methodology caught on and virtualization and cloud broke into the software development arena, it was only natural for a solution like DevOps to fall into place.
Recommendation: From facilitating the communication across Dev and Ops to predefining their responsibilities, the DevOps method is designed to offload the teams and provide greater visibility. Start with setting common success indicators focused on delivery results and getting both teams to work together on the infrastructure planning. Think about opening a DevOps role to bridge the gap between the management, operations and development, but don’t simply rely on hiring a skilled individual. He or she might make a huge contribution to introducing DevOps best practices, but it takes the entire team to accept the culture shift.
High Infrastructure dependency. The old-time IT infrastructure is not integrated with the dev processes and uses highly manual processes based on ticket management. This results in transparency limitation and makes it difficult to evaluate issues timely. DevOps is all about flexibility, allowing you to seamlessly transfer code to different resources or switch between various hardware. The new software methodology introduced managing operations environment the same way developers manage app or code and emphasizes on the importance of Infrastructure as a Code (IaC).
Recommendation: To begin with, evaluate the best IaC tools that could help you automate infrastructure deployments and configurations. For instance, Docker and Hypervisors help you bring up the required underlying infrastructure without forcing you to get the “bare metal solution.” You don’t have to worry about what kind of hardware you have at hand, given the opportunity to use the above-mentioned layer of abstraction. Make sure to also keep your eyes on some next evolution tools like Kubernetes — the Docker management tool that helps you scale in developing complex solutions.
Slow delivery and deployment processes. In the old model, developers are often confused about what to deploy, where and how to deploy it, which makes getting artefacts into the next environment a very slow process. In a DevOps world, a developer’s top priority is to verify what works and only then take it to the next level with the use of automation. This workflow facilitates continuous delivery and dramatically cuts timing for deployment.
Recommendation: Here automation kicks in again! Tools like Jenkins let developers only care about their repository. They can just push and leave it to the orchestration tools to take over and deliver their code as a product. In addition, there are also number of emerging technologies to help you speed up the process, such as CodePush by Microsoft which enables you to upload small fixes live in just a couple of minutes.
Inconsistent development environments. For any business to successfully release a new software product, the appropriate underlying environment needs to first be in place. Until DevOps was born, environments were set up separately and configured differently, causing inconsistency across the dev, test, stage and prod environments. DevOps supports on-demand environment provisioning as part of the continuous delivery pipeline, especially during the QA and Production stages, and helps prevent flow blockage.
Recommendation: The answer to this challenge is once again technology or tools that automate software provisioning. Ansible, Puppet, Chef could help you bring up the required environment (dev, test, prod) in a matter of minutes without much action being needed on your side. Thus, being able to test your solution in different environment without being restricted in any way or being worried about what could go wrong and destroy the environment you and others are simultaneously working on. So, first get acquainted with what’s out there and then choose the right technologies for your projects.
Focus on solving arising problems. In a traditional development storyline, it is all about solving emerging issues instead of focusing on innovation. The ever-growing customer demands result in higher workload and developers can barely catch up on fixing unplanned issues, leaving them with a minimum to no time for innovative experiments. This is another great reason for integrating DevOps Intelligence into your software delivery strategy.
Recommendation: Once you have adopted the DevOps methodology and implemented automation accordingly, you can finally focus on making improvements or frequent product upgrades. Think about creating out-of-the-box features that can give your product competitive advantage or utilize new tools that will put you ahead in the development game.
All in all, it is essential for a modern IT team to feel comfortable working with DevOps tools. Recent technology undoubtedly goes a long way in helping you build and deploy new software solutions, and support their long-term maintenance. Take into account that DevOps is not just about adopting new technology tool-set and skills, it also requires strong team integration and transparency. Thinking beyond one’s tech area of expertise is the first step toward the necessary organizational change.
Note: This piece is written in collaboration with Nikolay Nikolov and Alexandar Kinanov, Software Consultants at Accedia who have vast expertise in leveraging DevOps for maximizing application performance.