Since its inception about a decade ago, DevOps has been up for debate in IT teams across the planet. Some swore by it and preached about how it was going to revolutionize IT operations while others considered it to be a marketing fad.
Over the years, the DevOps movement has grown from strength to strength, but it’s still not quite mainstream in corporate circles. Its lack of popularity in the upper echelons of software development teams can be attributed to the fact that companies often fail to fully grasp DevOps practices and how they can deliver significant value to their development and operations teams.
When implemented without proper understanding (or best practices), it can quickly turn into a nightmare filled with disastrous bugs that lead to delayed releases. This also adds to the general apprehension surrounding DevOps methodologies.
However, when DevOps is done right, it can bring together development and operations teams to transform the whole business and turn it into a single (powerful) operational entity. This can be achieved by facilitating seamless collaboration, communication, and integration across the enterprise.
In a nutshell, DevOps significantly boosts the agility of IT service delivery, optimizes costs, and simplifies IT management. This is because these teams also automate repetitive tasks and deliver products considerably faster.
So what are the top four DevOps best practices that consistently lead to successful project delivery? Let’s take a look.
1. Lay the Foundation for a Cultural Shift
For DevOps practices to have a chance of working well for your organization, you have to first lay the foundation for a cultural shift. DevOps is all about transforming businesses into a single entity by integrating tools, processes, and people, and that’s not always going to be easy to achieve.
In fact, making changes to your company’s culture will be the biggest challenge in this whole process. So if you want new policies and procedures to have a lasting impact on how your organization operates, you’ll need to launch a company-wide movement that starts with top-level management and runs all the way down to entry-level staff.
Before you bring development and operations teams together, you’ll also need to disassociate the names from the functions. You need to do this to ensure that personnel on both teams are adequately informed about the value that each brings to the business. Once this is understood, you can put them all together in cross-functional teams.
To successfully achieve a cultural shift, you’ll also need to offer them incentives. At Intersog, we have found that rewarding cross-functional teams that deliver improved customer experiences can be the most effective incentive model. Another approach is also to reward cross-functional teams that make failures inexpensive.
However, there’s no clear path to this, it’s instead relative to your organization. For example, some businesses like to show recognition and appreciation to high performing employees to motivate others to make the transition. Others nurture leaders within groups to help make the cultural shift a seamless process.
2. Implement a Continuous Delivery Model
For DevOps methodology to work, you have to implement a Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery model. The idea here is to build quality into the product right from the beginning.
High performing cross-functional teams take testing seriously and embrace full test coverage throughout the whole process. This means performing tests on the functional code, performing integration tests, smoke tests, process tests, and even engaging in testing right up until the product is delivered.
To put this DevOps methodology into practice, at a high-level, the following approaches can work for your organization:
- Shorten Lead Time
- Amplify Feedback
- Continuous Learning
Shorten Lead Time
When an organization focuses on shortening the lead time, it’s trying to reduce the overall time it takes to get the product from the idea phase to delivery.
There are several ways to do this, some of them are as follows:
- Apply lean methodology (eliminate waste, reduce bottlenecks)
- Automate repeatable tasks
- Make work highly visible
- Set work-in-progress limits
- Work in small batches
Amplifying feedback in cross-functional teams is all about leveraging multiple monitoring tools. This approach essentially accelerates our ability to receive feedback and defects or waste in the workflow.
Again, there are several ways to do this, some of them are as follows:
- Commit logs monitored by everyone
- Fault injection
- Peer Reviews (where all changes are peer-reviewed)
With the continuous learning approach, cross-functional teams will work within an endless loop where you can incorporate things like Kata or Kaizen.
Organizations that successfully create a culture of continuous learning typically have the following characteristics:
- Blameless culture
- Communication feedback
- Feedback that’s goal oriented, actionable, and not personal
- Goals with a focus on improvement and building trust
3. Embrace the Blue-Green Deployment Methodology
To mitigate risks and minimize downtime, businesses should seriously consider the blue-green deployment approach. When you follow this method, a new deployment (blue) is triggered whenever a change is made, and it’s deployed in parallel to the (green) old one.
Whenever this happens, both deployments will run side by side, but only a small amount of traffic will be routed to the blue deployment. If it proves to be successful, the rest of the traffic will be slowly routed to the blue deployment and the green deployment will be gradually phased out.
On the other hand, if the blue deployment fails, all the traffic will be routed to the green deployment and the blue deployment will be removed. When you follow this method, you can easily switch between both deployment environments without crashing the system or experiencing any downtime.
4. Identify Key Metrics and Continuously Monitor Performance
When repeated tasks are automated, it will be vital to engage in performance monitoring after identifying some key metrics. However, while monitoring plays a key role in DevOps, it’s critical to address regulatory compliance.
As you’ll have hundreds of procedures and services running within the system, it’s going to be impossible to monitor everything. As a result, it’s best to focus on the following critical categories instead:
Application activities and decisions need to be monitored to identify important issues like performance and regression of applications. This can be achieved easily with tools like AppDynamics and New Relic.
Application logs also need to be proactively monitored and analyzed. These insights will provide a clear picture of resource usage and user behavior patterns which will help scale up the infrastructure whenever there’s a need to boost performance.
To find out how well your automated deployment pipeline is performing, you’ll have to monitor how often the code is being changed. It’s also important to see how many bugs are being identified and fixed and how many objective features are being incorporated.
DevOps tools need to be leveraged to alert the team whenever an automated deployment fails. In our experience, almost all continuous integration servers come with notification features so they can be set up to alert personnel through chat servers, automatically.
Monitoring your server will be crucial with almost any type of enterprise infrastructure even if you’re not practicing DevOps methodology. So you might already have performance and service-level agreements in place that can be leveraged for DevOps best practices.
However, it’s still important to actively engage in infrastructure monitoring to ensure successful project delivery.
Vulnerabilities should be handled automatically when the code moved into production. Whether it’s a known or unknown vulnerability, it’s imperative to have processes in place to identify and mitigate them quickly.
Some DevOps tools that can be highly useful to DevOps teams are as follows:
Configuration Management: Ansible, Chef, Puppet, and Salt
Build Server: Artifactory, Jenkins, and SonarQube
Source Code Repository: CloudForce, Git, Subversion, and TFS
Test Automation: Selenium, and Water
Virtual Infrastructure: Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and VMware vCloud
At Intersog, we have been using DevOps best practices across the company for many years to successfully deliver software products on time and on budget.