What is DevOps?

Gui Alvarenga - July 19, 2022

Many companies now are to some extent software companies. No matter what industry your business is in, your company relies on software and applications to deliver value to clients and to meet your business goals. As digital transformation evolves in large and small businesses, efficient and functional software and application development are more important than ever.

Often, this responsibility falls on the development and operations teams in the IT department. However, many team organizations are not optimized for peak efficiency.

If your IT department is falling behind your expectations, you may benefit from moving away from the traditional siloed method of software development toward a collaborative DevOps approach that can offer technical and financial benefits for any business.

What a DevOps Team Does

DevOps is a culture, or a collaborative organizational model, that combines the software development and operations teams into one collaborative group.

Traditional IT organization models separate teams into specialized siloes. For instance, you may be familiar with waterfall development. It is a linear approach to software creation that separates each step of production into phases: designing, coding, testing and deployment. With this approach, development teams write code in isolated environments and then release it to operations to deploy and support.

There are two major problems with this model. First, handing off new code and features between departments takes time, leading to inefficiency. Second, development teams may not understand operational roadblocks that result in dysfunctional code. As a result new features may have to bounce back and forth between steps multiple times before deployment.

DevOps is different: production occurs in self-sufficient cells focused on one entire project rather than in siloed phases. It doesn’t require handoffs between teams, which reduces bottlenecks and roadblocks. In addition, developers can implement feedback from operations team members faster, resulting in quick code improvements and problem solving.

DevOps’ Roles and Responsibilities

DevOps services are a broad area — the entire development lifecycle falls under a DevOps engineer’s job description. As a result, DevOps engineers are generalists rather than specialists. Some may be software engineers with operations experience; others may be system administrators with a coding or testing background. Still, a complete DevOps team requires a few specific roles.

First, DevOps engineers design infrastructure and integrate resources for the entire project. DevOps automation architects automate systems when possible to reduce workload. DevOps architects may also design new strategies and tools for certain projects. The release manager takes responsibility for planning, scheduling and managing smooth delivery.

Other team members include software developers and testers who write and update code, fix bugs and add new features. Overseeing the entire environment is a security and compliance engineer, who ensures overall security throughout development.

The entire team works together closely throughout the software development lifecycle. Their daily responsibilities may include:

  • Planning, testing and developing applications and infrastructure
  • Automating mundane tasks
  • Incident response and management
  • Fixing bugs and deploying updates
  • Performing quality assurance
  • Monitoring and optimizing services and infrastructure

DevOps’ Expanding Collaboration

Some DevOps team models advocate for even broader collaboration with other departments. For example, one expanded collaboration model is DevSecOps, which incorporates security measures into every step of the DevOps process. This may include adding steps to the workflow, such as a risk assessment or creating a security strategy.

Another common model, called BizDevOps, invites executives, owners and stakeholders to the technical team. These collaborators share unique insight during the planning and monitoring phases of the software lifecycle. They can direct project priorities toward customers and clients better than IT team members alone. Business team members ensure that DevOps is always delivering value to users.

Security at the Speed of DevOps

Organizations are rapidly adopting DevOps as they retool their IT infrastructure. Learn how you can adopt a DevOps model without sacrificing security by using automated compliance policies, fine-grained controls, and configuration management techniques.

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Goal of DevOps

Rapid code development doesn’t always lead to rapid code deployment. The primary goal of DevOps is to solve this problem. DevOps speeds up operations by improving collaboration and reducing barriers between previously separated teams. Greater efficiency is the biggest benefit of DevOps — this model allows team members to deliver value to clients more effectively.

DevOps teams accomplish efficiency goals through a combination of shifting workplace culture and improving methodology.

Mindset and Culture

Traditional IT environments have one team develop new code, but once it succeeds in the test environment, they “throw it over the wall” to operations. Operations then takes responsibility for the rest of the software lifecycle.

DevOps introduces a new culture that aligns both people and processes toward a shared goal. The idea is that the team who builds the code also runs it. This offers developers a new perspective of practical needs and challenges. The result is simplified deployment and maintenance.

DevOps also has a unique mindset regarding failure. Rather than focusing on eliminating failure by implementing restrictive processes and approvals, DevOps teams recognize that failure is inevitable and plan for it. DevOps engineers build their processes so that their failures are small and happen early during development, which makes it easy to quickly recover. In addition, an environment that doesn’t punish mistakes encourages more innovation.

At its core, DevOps is a philosophy of collaboration and shared responsibility. It embraces the idea that trust is the key to great performance.

Practices

While DevOps is more of a process model and mindset than it is a specific set of tools, most DevOps teams follow standardized practices. For example, continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) are generally pillars of DevOps methodology.

Continuous integration refers to engineers collecting code changes into a central location throughout their code building process. In this code repository, they can carry out automated tests to find bugs and optimize the software for faster releases. Continuous delivery expands on continuous integration to automatically deploy code changes to testing or production environments after the building stage. With the right implementation, your team can have new features and updates ready to release at any time.

Continuous deployment goes one step further. It automates the deployment process so that as soon as code changes pass all production requirements, they go live to clients without human intervention. Only failed tests will interrupt deployment. This further accelerates the software lifecycle timeline and relieves “release day” pressure.

DevOps is focused on releasing frequent, incremental changes rather than occasional large updates. Smaller updates are faster to deploy, less risky and easier to fix if errors arise. Using the CI/CD pipeline makes it possible to avoid the operational challenges of deploying more frequent updates. Traditionally organized IT departments can’t accomplish this because with divided teams, new changes must go through extensive internal approvals before going live.

Technology

A DevOps team may use microservices architecture to accomplish its goals. This refers to breaking down complex systems into smaller projects. Developers build individual app components that can run independently. This makes applications much more flexible by reducing the need for complicated coordination.

In addition, DevOps teams use collaborative tools such as a hybrid cloud. This allows the team to achieve greater flexibility and portability while maintaining security and system control. The team may also use third-party tools and technology to facilitate automation, security and performance monitoring.

Benefits of Having a DevOps Team

Incorporating DevOps practices into your business does much more than improve company culture. In addition to reaping the benefits of improved collaboration, your organization can operate with improved speed and functionality both technically and from a business standpoint.

Technical Benefits

In a traditional environment, the team that finds technical problems isn’t always the team that solves them. As a result, processes slow down dramatically, and problems can even get more complex before they get better.

When the development team and operations team share goals, responsibilities and resources, they can expose and solve issues earlier. Also, the change sets that a DevOps team works with are typically much smaller than their traditional counterparts. Not only do DevOps principles improve productivity, but they also reduce the complexity of technical challenges.

Combining development and operations also creates an efficient positive feedback loop. When development and operations are two independent silos, feedback about performance may never make it back to developers. When they are part of a team, however, developers get the feedback they need to improve code and develop new, higher quality ideas.

In addition, DevOps can improve your system security. DevSecOps models encourage every team member to take responsibility for cybersecurity at each step of the development pipeline. Building security into the process helps engineers detect security issues and minimize vulnerabilities.

You can even incorporate security automation tools such as cloud security posture management (CSPM). Fully integrating methods like this into DevOps practice improves risk assessment, incident response and compliance monitoring in any cloud environment.

Business Benefits

A streamlined software development process leads to better company performance. You will be able to deliver value to your clients faster. Quicker releases, higher quality features and continuous improvements all give your business a competitive advantage and higher ROI.

Your business applications and services will also become more stable with the implementation of a DevOps team. A DevOps environment encourages continuous testing, which improves the connectivity of the system and allows it to function seamlessly. Furthermore, automation and standardization make deployments more predictable.

In addition, better communication leads to fewer issues slipping through the cracks. With fewer problems to solve, a DevOps engineer can continuously move forward on new projects. Team members will spend less time fixing bugs and more time innovating novel solutions.

A DevOps model can also positively impact your bottom line. Often, an IT team can wait hours or days for another department to approve or deny their work — and lost productivity means lost profits. However, DevOps can save you more than time. The unique workflow mitigates software release costs by rolling out less complex changes and also reduces costs associated with network downtime.

Cultural Benefits

According to a 2018 WeWork market research survey, employees are twice as likely to feel more fulfilled and productive when they work in a collaborative environment. Working on a team makes employees happier and more engaged. As a result, they will work harder and stay longer at your company.

Furthermore, a collaborative workplace, which the DevOps model offers, gives employees greater opportunities for professional development. Team members gain more valuable skills experience, which helps them make better choices for your business.

Challenges of Adopting DevOps Processes

Switching to the DevOps model often requires an overhaul of business practices, but the biggest adoption challenge is not implementing new methodology. Often, you will need to change your system’s infrastructure to support new workflows, a time-consuming and resource-draining process.

You may run into more human challenges as well. The DevOps culture of trust and collaboration takes time and effort to adopt, especially if teams were previously siloed. This challenge is even more difficult to overcome if any teams have a history of conflict. It may also require employees to change the way they work, so it’s natural to face some resistance.

Properly implementing the DevOps model is key to overcoming adoption challenges such as these. Keep reading to learn how to make these changes in your company.

Implementing DevOps Methodology

The first step to creating a functional DevOps environment is making the necessary cultural changes. You can’t successfully introduce new policies and procedures without laying the personal groundwork first. DevOps philosophies aren’t just for your IT department — you need to shift the entire company culture toward collaboration and trust. You can do this by encouraging leaders to motivate their team members and offering incentives that reward cross-functional team efforts.

Next, you’re ready for the technical changes. Start by building platforms for continuous integration and continuous delivery — and ensure your team knows how to use them. After that, automate processes such as testing procedures and QA tasks. Then, you’ll be ready to establish a continuous deployment system.

With these steps, your DevOps environment is in place — but your job isn’t done. Continuously monitor performance in these key areas: the CI/CD pipeline, deployments, vulnerabilities and overall application performance. If metrics in these areas are falling short, you may need to fine-tune your processes and tools.

To facilitate a smooth transformation, ensure you follow these DevOps best practices:

  • Shift left: conduct tests and fix bugs earlier in the development process through the CI/CD pipeline
  • Gather feedback: optimize speed and quality by implementing a feedback loop throughout the pipeline so that every team member knows about test results, failures and process changes
  • Use automation: save time and resources by automating tasks such as testing, deployment and monitoring
  • Change work culture: encourage trust and collaboration to improve efficiency throughout your entire organization
  • Measure results: watch performance metrics to ensure you’re moving in the right direction

Common Roadblocks and Mistakes

When implementing DevOps methodology, it’s all too easy to become captivated by all the DevOps tools available on the market. The right tool can solve plenty of problems, but with each new DevOps tool comes new training and security requirements that can make the transition more confusing. Even integrating tools with your infrastructure takes time and resources.

Keep in mind that your best tool is your team. Focus on structures and processes rather than technology while you transition. After your team has fully adopted the DevOps mentality, you can figure out what tools you need.

You should also be wary of focusing too much on metrics. Don’t get lost in the numbers — collecting data is only useful if your team can make appropriate changes in response. There are four key metrics to pay attention to: deployment frequency, lead time for changes, change failure rates and time to restore services after a failure. Set goals for these numbers and create a strategy to help your team meet expectations.

Another roadblock to successful DevOps implementation is improper resource allocation. Make sure your teams have subject matter experts in charge of each part of the development process. With skilled talent working on specific tasks, teams are less likely to waste time.

Learn More

Taking a cloud-native approach brings both speed and scalability — attributes its proponents can all agree on, even if they can’t agree on what the term “cloud-native” actually means. To reach the peak value of DevOps promised by its advocates, organizations need to find a way to embrace cloud-native app development securely.Blog: Modern Infrastructure Requires Modern Cloud Security

Invest in a DevOps Team Today

The way your IT department is organized could be holding you back. If you want to increase speed and productivity in software development and operations, it may be time to change your approach. DevOps promotes collaboration and efficiency, and all you need to make the transition is a shift in mindset and a few updated processes. Learn more about DevOps transformation today to unlock the benefits for your business.

Your DevOps implementation will only be successful if you can complete it without sacrificing security. Learn more about CrowdStrike Cloud Security, and schedule a demo of our DevOps and DevSecOps solutions.

GET TO KNOW THE AUTHOR

Guilherme (Gui) Alvarenga, is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager for the Cloud Security portfolio at CrowdStrike. He has over 15 years experience driving Cloud, SaaS, Network and ML solutions for companies such as Check Point, NEC and Cisco Systems. He graduated in Advertising and Marketing at the Universidade Paulista in Brazil, and pursued his MBA at San Jose State University. He studied Applied Computing at Stanford University, and specialized in Cloud Security and Threat Hunting.