A Beginner’s Guide to DevOps
Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack - February 24, 2020
What is DevOps?
Consider the following scenario:
New software is being developed. Developers create some code, run some unit tests and throw it “over the wall” to QAs. QAs find bugs and bring them to devs to be debugged. Devs blame QAs and the testing environment for the bugs. When bugs are finally resolved, QA throws the code “over the wall” to Ops. Since Ops teams have to limit changes to their system, there is a high possibility of their system crashing when the code is released. Ops blames QAs and devs and the cycle continues.
Without DevOps, this becomes a perpetual cycle of disagreement. DevOps resolves this by introducing a set of tools, practices, and mindsets that bridge the gap between development and operations teams. The goal of this would be to speed up software delivery while maintaining (and upgrading) software quality.
DevOps applies Agile practices to QA and Ops teams, thus streamlining build, validation, deployment, and development of software. For this purpose, DevOps prioritizes integration, collaboration, and automation between Dev and Ops teams. It seeks to standardize development environments and improve predictability, efficiency, and security in the software development lifecycle.
Why is DevOps needed?
When implemented well, DevOps offers the following advantages to development and testing teams:
- Provides greater control over the production environment to developers
- Improves the frequency of deployment
- Lowers failure rate of new software releases
- Improves mean time to recovery
- Increases speed and quality of released software
- Achieves faster time to market
Questions to ask before implementing DevOps
Don’t apply a practice just because it is trending. Implementing DevOps must be a carefully considered decision. Ask these basic questions before strategizing on this matter.
- What is it you are trying to achieve with DevOps – greater software quality or cheaper & faster delivery or more collaboration between teams or some or all of these?
- Is your software architecture able to accommodate DevOps?
- Is there a leadership roadmap that will take charge and guide the implementation of DevOps?
Components of DevOps
There are four components at the core of DevOps. Anyone seeking to implement this methodology must have a deep understanding of each component, and how they work in combination.
- Continuous Integration (CI)
- Continuous Delivery (CD)
- Continuous Testing
- Continuous Monitoring
1. Continuous Integration (CI)
Continuous Integration refers to a practice that involves regular integration of code changes to a shared code repository. Generally, integration occurs several times a day. This practice prioritizes committing small code changes frequently rather than infrequent big changes. Every commit triggers a build, which involves running a number of tests that identify if already existing features have been broken by new changes.
Every team member pushes code to a common build server that performs an automated build. This practice helps to detect issues early in the process. It also ensures that all integrated modules function as expected. This means QAs have to work on minor bugs on an ongoing basis rather than deal with a cluster of code failures at one go.
2. Continuous Delivery (CD)
After Continuous Integration comes Continuous Delivery. This practice pushes the code build in the Continuous Integration stage into production. This process also includes filtering the code through various stages – QA, Staging, Production, and the like.
The process is automated and is triggered by every code build. The new code is automatically tested, verified and released into production. Obviously, this results in quicker time to market, lower risk (due to human error) and lower costs due to more automation. Additionally, it also helps in getting quicker feedback from end-users of a finished product.
3. Continuous Testing
DevOps will not work without continuous testing. From the CI stage itself, a number of tests need to be conducted for proper validation of code and integrating it with the existing codebase. This is mandatory to ensure that the software works according to requirements and is not disrupted by bugs or anomalies.
Once these automated tests validate that the code works without errors, the code is pushed to QA for the next round of verification and approval.
In the QA environment, functional tests are executed, after which the code is pushed to the staging environment. More tests are run and if the code passes, it is released to the production servers.
It is not possible to reap the advantages of DevOps without Continuous Testing. The code needs to be tested every step of the way, and the process of testing needs to be automated before it can go to manual testers. This ensures that healthy code comes out at the end of the DevOps pipeline while saving time and effort.
4. Continuous Monitoring
While code is being deployed via the CI/CD pipeline to the production environment, the Ops team will have to constantly monitor the environment to ensure positive levels of uptime, stability, and availability. This is known as Continuous Monitoring.
Ops teams will have to use their own software for monitoring. They will also have to monitor deployed applications for bugs and issues. This is best done when Ops works with Dev teams to build tools that can best monitor and analyze such issues.
Best Practices for DevOps
Incorporate the following techniques to get the most out a DevOps-driven software development process:
- When automation is possible, do it. The right CI/CD tools are instrumental in creating an effective DevOps system. They reduce the time spent on each task and reduce the risk of human error.BrowserStack provides a number of integrations with popular CI/CD tools that help with the implementation of DevOps. This includes tools such as Jira, Jenkins, TeamCity, Travis CI and much more. It also provides a cloud Selenium grid of 2000+ real browsers and devices for testing purposes. Additionally, there are in-built debugging tools that let testers identify and resolve bugs immediately.
- Run tests on all code without failure, be it manual or automated testing (ideally, both).
- Keep testing environments – QA, staging, production – as frequently and thoroughly as possible. This helps identify and mitigate potential issues before code is deployed to production.
- Stay up to date with current technology trends. Software development cannot afford to fall behind on technological development.
- Deliver software quickly. When required, roll back software equally quickly.
- Implement collaboration. This is the very crux of DevOps. Business, operations and development teams need to be consistently and completely aligned to ensure that DevOps practices are successful.
The high rate of DevOps across the software development landscape is proof that it works and works well. While implementing it may take some effort, the results speak for themselves. In a world where release cycles and deadlines keep getting shorter, DevOps saves time, conserves human effort and ensures high product quality. This means that user experience remains pristine, without the users having to wait weeks or months for it.