How to succeed at DevOps? Here are 5 factors to consider

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CIOs at large, medium and even small organizations nowadays are looking towards transitioning from legacy project-based, waterfall model to uninterrupted delivery of software. DevOps is the proven way to achieve it.

DevOps refers to a methodology as well as cultural shift in the way organizations function. Unlike traditional waterfall model where project moves from one phase to the next (and cannot be reversed), DevOps brings collaboration amongst strategy, product management, development, quality testing, and support teams to provide for continuous cycle of product development, learning, and improvement. It is a necessity for mission-critical projects where infrastructure downtime or failure costs can be high.

While DevOps can help companies deploy applications faster than conventional approach, the journey is far from an overnight transition. There are some critical factors that need to be considered for truly succeeding at DevOps.

Here are the top 5 critical success factors:

1. Leveraging AutomationAn important part of DevOps implementation is to develop applications or bring changes to the existing ones at the speed of business. By automating the iterative tasks, the team can focus on more important strategic areas and achieve business objectives within the desired timeline. Moreover, executing changes manually on the infrastructure can be highly complex, time-taking, buggy and inefficient without tools like Chef, Puppet, Ansible, CloudFormation, Terraform, etc. Hence, it is critical to ensure the infra runs without any inconsistencies and behaves in accordance when you’re updating new changes in the applications.

2. Orchestration: Orchestration takes the traditional automation to the next level. It streamlines and joins several automated tasks together to create a process or workflow that speeds up development process. In other words, orchestration breaks the operational silos and makes DevOps a truly collaborative process between developers, operations, and quality assessment teams. Orchestration makes use of already available interfaces. Therefore, the teams do not have to depend on rip and replace approach. They can develop automated workflows from existing APIs and integrate them using an orchestration platform, rather than stopping and re-developing from scratch.

After introducing an orchestration service and subsequent new workflows, the business should continue to use automation tools to replace repetitive processes and build new workflows that are faster, more accurate, and cost effective. The success of DevOps largely depends upon the ability to implement automation and orchestration for application delivery.

3. Microservices Based ArchitectureMicroservices means a software-based system architecture that can be utilized for developing complex IT applications by using smaller, independent mini-applications. These applications interact with each other through APIs. Using these modules, businesses can optimally allocate their workloads across different teams or businesses units, bring flexibility to operations, and accelerate the project lifecycle. Moreover, these standard APIs are part of a structured library and can be used repetitively, as and when required. Microservices provide the ability to quickly develop applications that address business problems.

4. ContainerizationIn simple terms, a container carries the entire runtime environment: an application, dependencies, libraries, binaries, and configuration files required to run it. All of this comes in a single, convenient package. Containerization allows the abstraction of differences in operating systems and underlying infrastructure. It is an effective way to simplify the DevOps implementation. Containerization can be used for automation of some IT processes and convenient application packaging. The Ops team develops containers with all configurations; and the Dev team can work on coding of the application, thus, setting their priorities straight. Containers come up way more faster than the standalone servers so scaling is really fast. With containerization, businesses can reduce human errors in development and implementation, utilize resources more efficiently, and cut down their time to market.

5. Investment in DevOps tools for monitoring and loggingOnce the complete architecture is implemented, it is important to continuously invest in monitoring as well as logging. Since every DevOps project is unique in nature, not every aspect needs monitoring. The organization should identify critical aspects of the projects and use appropriate monitoring tools accordingly. Some of these aspects include development milestones, project vulnerabilities, deployment status, server health, and activity monitoring etc. There are popular tools like issue trackers and integration servers that can monitor some of these aspects. But investment in a comprehensive toolkit that monitors all aspects will enable the complete DevOps strategy for an organization and ensure a reliable infrastructure, product, and process. Logging on the other hand is critical to shoot automated alerts to the concerned team when the system sees errors in logs. These logs also trigger alerts for system logs and auth logs to track any malicious activity. Nonetheless, a centralized monitoring and logging dashboard such as ELK stack for open source solution; Splunk for enterprise organisation is a must.

However promising DevOps may be, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Every organization needs to have its own strategy for DevOps implementation. The key is to transition away from legacy approach to DevOps slowly and steadily, taking care of specific challenges on the way.

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