What is DevOps Automation and How is it Helpful?
By Sakshi Pandey, Community Contributor - March 9, 2023
Introduction to DevOps and DevOps Automation
DevOps is an amalgamation of various tools, working methodologies, and practices designed to enhance the efficiency of the software development lifecycle. Continuous integration/continuous delivery is one of the central practices of DevOps. This method was developed to improve the ability of business to quickly develop and deliver software without compromising quality.
Central to the success of DevOps is the concept of a team of people that are able to build, test, and maintain the software themselves. DevOps teams enable the delivery of updates, or additional features with very short turn-around times. This is why the employment of DevOps strategies is highly popular, since they allow businesses to streamline their projects, increase their profits, and gain an edge on their competitors.
Additionally since teams are cross functional and able to build, test, and maintain software by themselves there are fewer issues regarding communication, bugs, and conflicts, which may slow down projects.
DevOps Automation builds on the efficiency of DevOps by employing software tools to make repetitive processes in DevOps more efficient in order to further optimize and expedite the software development lifecycle.
How is DevOps Automation Helpful?
Automation acts as a support to reinforce all other DevOps methodologies and allows for teams to automate any tedious manual routine or repetitive tasks. This allows teams to refocus their energy on other aspects such as improving designs, planning new features, and carrying out better collaboration.
Essentially automation facilitates smooth and consistent DevOps processes to enable teams to make frequent updates and deliveries over a short period of time. Automation can be helpful in various stages of building, testing, deploying, and enhancing Software and it aids DevOps teams to foster greater consistency, accuracy, and speed.
Where human error is highly common when performing a repetitive task, automation allows users to perform tasks in a consistent, predictable manner. Automation also makes deployment and integration faster since automation tools can work in a focused manner, and have powerful processing power. They can work 24/7 without any breaks, additionally, tasks can be performed parallelly with automation to further expedite the SDLC.
Automation helps businesses scale up their software production, and allows teams to quickly and reliably release new code in various environments with different OS and settings while dealing with multiple software projects.
Also Read: Guide to DevOps Automation Testing
How to perform DevOps Automation
DevOps encompasses various processes and not all of them can be automated. It’s essential to choose the appropriate processes to automate at the beginning of any software project.
Following are some of the processes that an be best optimized through automation:
1. Planning Phase
It’s imperative to establish a requirements document, and sketch out a plan for the development of the software. This phase is the time DevOps teams use to ideate and decide the features and functions of the software they plan to build, make decisions such as choosing performance metrics, and lastly take feedback from all stakeholders.
At this phase tools such as GitLab, Atlassian, Jira, GitHub, and Azure DevOps can be used to automate certain tasks such as:
- Gathering Stakeholder Feedback
- Issue tracking
- Organizing Information and Prioritizing actions
- Visualizing Progress with Dashboards.
2. Coding Phase
This phase involves the creation and design of software code to fulfill the requirements decided upon during the planning phase.
During this phase it’s imperative to use a source code repository to collaborate and keep track of all code, to review code, and to perform corrections as needed.
At this phase tools such as GitHub, BitBucket, and GitLab can be used to automate certain tasks such as:
- Repetitive manual tasks in code development.
- Code review.
3. Build Phase
In this phase code submitted to the source code repository is compiled and built into artifacts which are executable in different environments. Following this automated unit and regressions tests are run to ensure the code is functional and suitable to be deployed.
The decided performance metrics are used to measure the quality of the code, its performance, its functionality, and other traits prior to release.
At this phase tools such as GitLab, GitHub, Docker, Puppet, Gradle, and CFEngine are employed to automate tasks such as:
- Building the code into executable artifacts.
- Generating statistics.
- Containerized environment creation.
- Generating demo web pages and documentation.
- Automating the iterative testing and review process.
4. Test Phase
This phase involves continuous testing to detect any bugs or defects, validate the code, and ensure that its acceptable according to the requirements document. Quality assurance is also carried out at this stage to verify and approve the code for integration and deployment.
At this phase tools such as Selenium, Cucumber, JUnit, and TestNG are employed to automate tasks such as:
- Automating unit tests and acceptance and regression testing, security and vulnerability analysis, configuration testing, and performance measurement.
- Prioritization and allocation of errors found.
Also Read: Test Case Prioritization: A Detailed Guide
5. Release and Deployment Phase
Once the software or updated feature has passed the Testing Phase and all requirements have been met it can then be deployed. In the case that a new or updated feature is being released the teams will often ensure that back-ups are available in case something goes wrong and then deploy the feature.
During this Phase staging of the release is carried out as well. This step is penultimate to the deployment of the new features/live website. This staging environment is a replica of the live website and the last step where the DevOps team and other stakeholders can test the quality in a production-like environment prior to deployment.
At this phase tools such as Jenkins, AWS CodePipeline, Ansible, Chef, Kubernetes, CircleCI, Docker, and Jira are employed to automate tasks such as:
- Managing, scheduling, and coordinating various feature releases into the live website.
- Network, Data storage, and general configuration management to optimize performance.
6. Operations and Monitoring Phase
Once the software/feature has been deployed it is important to monitor the server and performance of the software to understand the impression it has on its users and to flag incidents early. Continuous feedback from users is also taken in order to continuously improve the application and keep it relevant.
At this phase tools such as Slack, Splunk, Wireshark, Sumo Logic, pendo, and pingdom are employed to automate tasks such as:
- Automation tools that can monitor availability, performance, or security problems and generate alerts based on them help solve this challenge.
- Application monitoring
- Security monitoring
- Alert generation for any incidents or errors
- Monitoring the availability of the software
- Collecting user metrics and feedback
- Creating Visuals for User and Performance Metrics
DevOps is not linear and testing needs to be done early in tandem to the other phases to shorten the time to deployment and reduce the possibility of defects and errors making it to the final product. DevOps Continuous testing is a crucial component of DevOps. To successfully utilize DevOps practices and efficiently deliver software performing tests simultaneously to the development, build, integration, deployment, and monitoring phases is critical.
From designing test cases to implementing them, automation testing is often a time-consuming process. This is especially due to a large number of browser versions, operating systems, and devices tests have to be run on. BrowserStack’s Cloud Selenium Grid makes this process even more efficient by allowing users to run automation test scripts on 3000+ real device/browser/OS combinations for more cohesive testing.
Additionally, Parallel Testing with Cloud Selenium Grid may be utilized to perform Cross Browser Testing on a larger scale, further optimizing and speeding up the testing process. This enables DevOps teams to guarantee a consistent user experience across different browser versions and devices for each and every one of their releases.