An introduction to DevOps: What it is and why it matters


What is DevOps?

The term “DevOps” itself is a portmanteau of two business functions: software development and IT operations. By uniting the two phrases under a single term, “DevOps” symbolizes the tight, interconnected relationship between them.

Simply put, DevOps is a software engineering philosophy and practice that seeks greater integration between development and operations, with the ultimate goal of delivering better service to your customers. DevOps originates in the related agile methodology for software development, a set of methods and practices that uses cross-functional teams and an iterative, incremental approach to development.

In order to achieve faster speed and higher-quality code, automation and monitoring are crucial tools to the practice of DevOps. Tests, integration, configuration, and deployment can all be automated. Meanwhile, performance monitoring tools are critical to ensuring that the availability, reliability, and usability of your customer-facing services are all at acceptable levels.

Also central to the DevOps philosophy is the idea of “continuous deployment.” By using an automated testing suite, you can verify that new changes to your code base won’t break your deployment or cause performance issues. You can then automatically and safely commit these changes to production.

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What are the benefits of DevOps?

DevOps seeks to make your company more agile and reactive, so it’s no surprise that speed is one of the major benefits. According to the 2017 State of DevOps Report by Puppet, high-performing DevOps organizations deploy code 46 times more frequently and recover from downtime 96 times faster than their competitors.

With DevOps, you don’t need to choose between speed and quality: you can get both at the same time. Puppet’s 2016 State of DevOps Report also found that top-performing organizations spend half as much time working through security issues and 22 percent less time on unplanned work and rework.

Continuous delivery is one of the biggest factors in why DevOps gives your organization such a speed boost. Companies such as Amazon have used DevOps and continuous delivery to roll out new features at a pace of every 11.6 seconds, on average. Automated tests ensure that the code is correct and up to your organization’s usual standards.

Iterative development and deployment is another winning strategy for DevOps organizations. By making frequent, incremental changes to your code, you can dramatically lower the likelihood of introducing problems with any single change.

When you do run into an issue, it will be easier to troubleshoot and roll back if necessary. In addition, you can quickly get customer feedback about a particular change and make the requested alterations.

In today’s increasingly competitive business landscape, companies need to be flexible and adaptable in order to better anticipate changing customer demand. Businesses who use DevOps to release software faster and become more responsive are the ones that will be best poised for success.

By encouraging cooperation between development and operations, DevOps also fosters a collaborative, cross-functional mindset. The entire organization can put its brainpower to work solving a problem.

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How to implement DevOps in your organization

Curious about what you can do to implement DevOps within your business? You’d be in good company. Titans of the tech industry such as Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Etsy have all successfully made the switch to DevOps. Thanks to DevOps, for example, Etsy’s software developers shifted from making deployments twice a week to more than 60 times a day.

Of course, you can’t simply snap your fingers and become a “DevOps company.” It’s a gradual process that doesn't happen overnight, and it’s as much a mental shift for your employees as it is a tangible change.

To get started, think about the metrics and KPIs by which you’ll judge the success of the project. What are you hoping to achieve by moving to DevOps — faster deployment speeds, fewer errors and crashes, happier customers, or all of the above?

You’ll almost certainly need to make some changes to your institutions and company culture when adopting DevOps. Breaking down silos, shifting away from legacy tech, adding new software to your toolbox, and automating your manual processes are all serious investments of time and effort. Investing in continuous deployment tools and technologies will also be key to the success of your DevOps implementation.

DevOps requires patience, talent, effort, flexibility, long-term commitment, and a team that’s devoted to making it work. However, the vast majority of organizations find that the benefits of speed, code quality, and agility are well worth the investment.

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