DevOps is an approach to software delivery that integrates the development process with service operations tasks. Effective DevOps implementations facilitate greater productivity by increasing efficiency and reducing silos between teams.
While team culture is a big part of DevOps, success also depends on having the right tools to create a frictionless workflow. In this article, we’ll look at seven technologies you should include in your DevOps arsenal. These will help automate your delivery pipeline and encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration.
Collaborative Source Management
Version-controlled source repositories are essential for DevOps. Services like GitHub and GitLab allow code to be stored centrally, making it available to everyone involved in the project.
Repositories should be kept open where possible, as this is often useful for non-developers to access the code and make small changes. This creates a simpler workflow where anyone can contribute on their own initiative. Changes can still be reviewed by the developer before being merged into the master branch.
Your source control provider should integrate with the other tools on this list. It represents the source of truth for your project, where all constituent materials are securely stored. You can implement automation around it to continuously test and roll out changes to production.
Project and Problem Management
Having a central task management system is also important. This can be built into your source control platform, such as the Issues functionality in GitHub and GitLab, or you can use an external solution that specifically targets project management. Jira and Trello are two popular options.
Issues should be publicly available, just like the code in your source repositories. Making your background visible in your organization informs teams about your engineering orientation. It also allows individuals to check whether the problem is already known and reduces the risk of recurrence. Support staff, customer account managers, QA testers, and project managers should all be able to contribute to issues based on their discoveries, requirements, and priorities.
The success of DevOps depends on having direct communication channels between different teams. If teams don’t talk to each other, you won’t achieve a fully integrated development process. Developers may overlook problems that occur in production, and operators may not appreciate the rationale behind specific engineering decisions.
Asynchronous communication tools are essential to overcome these barriers. Chat solutions like Slack, Mattermost, and Rocket Chat allow ckear discussions that keep everyone on the same page.
A central manual that defines key engineering approaches, operational strategies, and business objectives is another useful asset. An internal website, wiki, or digital notebook allows for evergreen information dissemination using a self-service model. This keeps individuals productive when faced with an obstacle.
Automated testing improves software quality and consistency. Automation and testing are two key components of DevOps; combining both makes each stronger.
Running tests on every code commit gives you confidence that you can safely deploy at any time. Automated testing allows non-developers to make simple code changes without the risk of causing an undetected regression. Increasing test coverage is one of the best ways to find new bugs and prevent them from recurring.
There are several different types of tests you can run. Unit tests are the simplest, targeting specific code functions individually. Integration tests are the logical next step because they test interactions between multiple units. End-to-end tests examine all user flows, such as accessing the registration page, filling out a form, and creating a new user account in the database.
Continuous Integration (CI) Pipelines
Continuous integration (CI) pipelines are used to automatically perform actions when code changes in your repository. CI applications are built on the most popular source control systems such as GitHub and GitLab, and are also available as stand-alone platforms such as Travis and Jenkins.
That is the role of CI to integrate new changes to existing code in your project. They are most commonly used to implement the automated testing procedures discussed in the previous section. Pipelines can also run linters, scan your code for security issues, and perform any other necessary checks before changes are considered ready for use.
Continuous delivery (CD) is a closely related topic. CD pipeline usually runs after CI. It contains steps that automatically build, deploy, and release your project after new changes are merged. An efficient CD implementation will allow you to deliver new code without any manual intervention, while providing a reliable rollback option in case of problems.
Observability is a pillar in the DevOps mindset. The ability to precisely monitor live systems allows you to quickly discover new issues and develop patches in response.
The best observability solutions will be able to integrate metrics, logs, and traces from your applications. The data collected should be used to assemble visual dashboards that give you an immediate overview of your service’s performance. Automated alerts can ping on-call teams in response to problems, minimizing downtime and associated costs.
Prometheus is one of the most popular surveillance solutions. It is often combined with technologies such as Grafana and Elasticsearch to present useful insights in an accessible format. Building an observable stack takes time because you’ll need to work out what metrics to collect and how to present them, but the work pays off by raising awareness of system health.
Infrastructure as code
Infrastructure as code (IaC) tools automate the construction and maintenance of cloud server resources. Infrastructure components are defined as text configuration files in the versioned repository. As the IaC tool pushes new files, it interacts with your cloud provider’s API to create services in your account.
IaC results in a repeatable infrastructure where changes can be audited, reviewed and tracked over time. You can express complex physical environments using relatively simple configuration rules. The differences between clouds are abstracted for you, making it easy to navigate between them.
Ansible and Terraform are two of the most popular IaC tools. They are typically used as part of a CI pipeline, so when you make changes to your source configuration, cloud changes are automatically applied. Developers can also use IaC to create temporary engineering environments that closely mimic production.
Successful DevOps depends on configuring multiple tools to work together. Work starts as tickets in a centralized project management system. The code is then checked into an automatically testable version-controlled source repository as part of the CI pipeline. The changes are next applied to the infrastructure provided by the IaC provider on demand. Production workloads should be continuously monitored using a set of observables that allow regressions to be quickly detected and resolved.
Adopting this toolchain leads to a fully integrated workflow that benefits from extensive automation. New fixes can be rolled out continuously using an iterative development model that empowers everyone to contribute. Instead of manually creating deployments and reviewing issues, developers and operators focus on the unique elements of their work. This means you can send higher quality code.