What Is DevOps? A Quick Guide

If you are involved in the technology field, then you may have heard of DevOps. But what is DevOps exactly? Here is everything you need to know.

Keyword(s): what is devops

Every time you do research into a software development methodology there seems to be more that pop up. There must seem to be dozens that claim to be the latest and greatest and it’s hard to keep up. There is one that has taken root: DevOps.

But what is DevOps? Isn’t it just another isn’t a buzzword for another methodology? It’s actually a cultural mindset that’s at the center of digital transformation. And it’s important that you pay attention to it.

What is DevOps and How is it Different?

The most common mistake is confusing DevOps with Agile. There are plenty of differences. DevOps puts the focus on the developers and builds a lifecycle (called the pipeline) around them that continuously flows.

That isn’t to say that DevOps doesn’t work with Agile. In fact, DevOps works within popular Agile frameworks such as SAFe.

One simple way to think of DevOps is putting the power of automated workflow into the assembly line of software development so the developers can oversee the entire production from development to operations.

Developers aren’t just building the applications. They facilitate the entire journey through the phases of the DevOps pipeline.

The Phases of DevOps

There are eight phases to the DevOps pipeline. However, it is important to remember that these activities follow a continuous workflow and are not intended to represent a stage-gate like a Waterfall method. 

1. Plan 

This happens before developers begin coding. The team gathers any customer or stakeholder requirements during this phase into the form of a product vision and roadmap. 

The team logs the objectives in the ticketing tool in the form of agile Product Back Items (PBIs) such as Epics, Features, and User Stories. The backlog takes shape and the sprint planning begins.

2. Code

The next step is to refine the User Stories into developer tasks. The developers abide by development practices and guardrails as they begin executing code to satisfy the tasks. 

Developers use DevOps tools including version control and source code management tools such as Git. This is also known as the code repository.

3. Build 

After completing the development tasks, the developers will have committed their code into the code repository. The developer sends a request to merge the code into the shared codebase.

Here the automated tools review the code to determine any code conflicts. If there are no conflicts, the tools will merge the code.

Automated scripts kick off during the Build process that runs unit and unit integration tests that normally a developer would have to manually perform. Any bugs result in a failed build and require action by the developer.

4. Test

After the developer has corrected all the issues and a build is successful, the new build is migrated to a staging environment for more thorough testing. This staging environment could an existing environment or a newly provisioned one based on the DevOps deployment process leveraging Infrastructure-as-Code.

Once the build is in the testing environment, automated and manual testing can begin. Automated tests include security scans of the application and services. Other types of automated tests can include performance testing or load testing.

Manual tests can be user-driven verifications that check against the definition of done in the User Stories. An example of such a test would be User Acceptance Testing (UAT). The automated testing can run in parallel with the manual tests to promote the concept of continuous testing. 

5. Release

During this phase, the team assesses the build for how ready it is for the production environment. Both automated and manual tests have been successful and developers have resolved any bugs and issues. The operations team can see that there is a low risk in making the new version of the application available for use.

The concept of the continuous nature of DevOps comes into play during Release. For example, the team may release a build into the production environment after completing any set of scope. However, the team may opt not to open up the new functionality for the stakeholders to use yet. 

Another option is to continuously release parts of the application into a non-production environment until someone with authority (such as a Release Manager) deems the application ready for full release.

For example, the business might want to limit new versions of the application to quarterly releases so the business can manage its processes along with the application changes. This flexibility exists in DevOps and the Release policies manage them.

6. Deploy

The actual activity of moving the new version of the application to the production environment happens during this phase. DevOps tools can automate the deployment process to minimize or even eliminate outages that impact end-users.

If the DevOps process included using Infrastructure-as-Code to create the testing environment, the same process applies to build the production environment. This way the team can reuse the same processes to add confidence that the new application will be deployed correctly.

The blue-green deployment model is a Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) process that prevents outages. When the new production environment is complete, it exists along with the current production environment. 

The process deploys the new releases to the new environment. If there are any issues with the release, users can be pointed to the existing environment while the new environment is being fixed.

7. Operate 

Users now have access to the new version of the application. The operations team takes over to make sure jobs are running, any files are where they need to be, and the performance is working as planned.

During this phase, the users and stakeholders have the ability to provide feedback loops that result in any previously undetected bugs or future enhancements. This feedback loop is important as it serves as building the backlog for future Plan and Code activities.

8. Monitor 

The last phase of the DevOps pipeline is the building on top of the Operate activities through monitoring the environment. This includes gathering data on the application, its use, and the business processes that rely on the application.

This is all part of the feedback loop that provides an insight not only into the applications that are put into production but into the lifecycle itself. There is a lot to learn from putting things in the live environment, such as how well the team met the requirements, the velocity achieved, and the overall alignment of the solutions to the business objectives.

Become a DevOps Expert

Be at the forefront of the DevOps movement. It all starts with technical knowledge to answer the question "What is DevOps?" Advised Skills has all the resources to get you the answer.

Whether it’s insightful articles or DevOps courses, Advised Skills can help you become a DevOps leader and lead your organisation through digital transformation today!

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