Seven Effective Tips to Get the Most Out of your DevOps
It seems that every firm is trying to include DevOps in their software delivery cycle these days. This is understandable. According to the 2019 Accelerate State of DevOps Report, companies using DevOps are more likely to achieve elite performance in software development and delivery.
Companies such as Google and Amazon can be deploying thousands of updates a day. These rapid updates improve company performance and result in the provision of better software solutions for the end-user.
In this article, we will look at seven effective tips to get the most out of your DevOps so you can maximize success. Before we look at some of these tips, let’s briefly define DevOps.
What is DevOps?
DevOps is a term for a group of management practices that aim to quicken the deployment of changes to a system while ensuring high quality delivery. It incorporates management theories such as agile infrastructure and agile development. One of the most influential books on the topic, which resonated with a lot of influential business leaders in Silicon Valley, is “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.
At its heart, DevOps boils down to the idea that you should be able to implement changes quickly, so you can release a superior product to your customers faster. This ability to bring a superior product to market fast, gives companies that can achieve this edge an advantage over their competitors.
Review Your Organizational Structure
Collaboration is the bond that allows software companies to deploy and execute changes fast. Companies that are experts at DevOps classically reduce the obstacles to collaboration.
In traditional IT organizations, departments are siloed. They interact with each other only when necessary. Hence, they have limited knowledge of each other’s work. This model presents a linear process of developing, testing and deployment.
To reduce these silos, you need to first analyze your organizational structure, and identify obstacles to collaboration. This starts by ensuring management is on board with your vision. You need to:
Review the job description of managers and create KPI that support collaboration.
Create remuneration packages that foster closer collaboration between departments.
Addressing structural issues that impede collaboration between departments will help. You also need to put in place a system of communication between departments.
Fortunately, there are useful tools to smoothen continuous collaboration between different lines of business. Channels of communications should not be limited to sending emails or conference calls. Remember, DevOps requires continuous and fast collaborations to ensure fast deployment.
Using unified communications (UC) is an effective way to foster collaboration in a company. Unified communications integrates phone calls, email, chat, document sharing, conferencing and other platforms necessary to exchange information within the organization. Importantly, you can also access much of this information in one place.
Reduce Operational Hurdles for Deployment
The way an update is deployed will differ by company. There is usually a system in place to discuss targets and a series of checks in place before deployment. For example, department heads will come up with an idea. They will be developed, then reviewed by quality assurance before operations deploy it.
This can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process, which slows down the speed of development. The problem for many companies is that changes, both large and small, need to go through the same process of quality assurance before deployment.
While it makes sense to have this process in place for major updates, it should be possible to push smaller updates faster. Two things need to happen to achieve this:
Empower staff to make decisions independently while giving them the opportunity to learn from mistakes without risk.
Reduce the administrative hurdles to deployment by creating a ranking system for reviewing updates. This will allow developers to push small updates independently, or with minimal oversight.
Empowering staff to push changes enables you to speed up DevOps.
Plan in Small Batches
Planning in small batches is important in promoting DevOps in an organization. With small batch testing, the cycles of testing hypotheses, acquiring feedback and going at it again can be done within a very minimal time frame. It is fast and efficient—simple.
This feedback might feel obvious. Perhaps the better question to consider when planning in small batches is: How small is small? Let the INVEST concept in agile development help you out.
Independent: Planned small batches should be independent of other parts.
Negotiable: Every batch should be iterable and negotiable upon receipt of feedback from deployment.
Valuable: Each one should add value to the project and the end-users.
Estimable: Batches should contain estimable information for scope determination.
Small: Small should be small enough to be processed within a few hours up to a few days.
Testable: A planned batch should be testable and can be monitored continuously.
Results of deployment, testing and monitoring of each batch should then be deployed at least once a day. Also, in planning small batches, different departments should be kept in the loop. This will greatly benefit DevOps efforts in the organization.
Create Space for Collaboration
Even without DevOps, fostering collaboration between departments is imperative. You can formalize collaboration through regular meetings. However, departments are usually situated in separate office areas, floors or even different buildings. Think about having to walk to a conference room on a different side of the facility just for a meeting.
This kind of setup is an example of a bottleneck for collaboration in an enterprise. And with collaboration being the heart of DevOps, creating a company culture and office space conducive to teamwork is of utmost importance.
SpaceX is an example of a company that promotes collaboration throughout the organization through company culture and physical space management. Offices are open, and each person can see what everyone else is working on. This promotes motivation for employees to work passionately. Also, everyone has access to camera feeds from different parts of the factory, which inspires curiosity about what others are doing. Because of this culture, employees become dedicated and excited to accomplish results.
Take Advantage of Microservices
In processing complex IT systems, it is more beneficial to break bulks to smaller, more digestible pieces. This is where microservices come in.
Microservices or microservice architecture is an architectural style wherein a complex system is broken down into smaller services. Rather than treating a system as a whole, it is perceived as a collection of manageable pieces.
Teams simultaneously working on parts of a system as a whole makes it more prone to breakdown. Utilizing microservices makes monitoring, maintenance and testing easier. They are also loosely connected to each other which means fixing wouldn’t much affect the other parts. Moreover, each microservice is releasable independently.
As an example, Wix started out with a monolith which was useful at first when they were only handling 1 million sites. However, interdependencies and poor quality coding resulted in downtime which is ultimately bad for business. Now that they shifted to using microservices architecture, they quickly scaled up reaching 70 million sites.
Maintain Continuous Monitoring
DevOps promotes fast and continuous integration and deployment. A fast-paced environment is more susceptible to problems. Something at any point can fail within the software development life cycle. Continuous monitoring helps you identify mistakes fast. It ensures the optimal performance, reliability and health of the software.
Setting monitoring targets, like development milestones, can improve this process. A development milestone is an overarching category that can give an insight into your team’s actual performance. Monitoring tells you the performance of your DevOps implementation.
A method to consider is synthetic monitoring wherein your application undergoes simulated customer interaction. This way, you can monitor the exact action and performance of your software before they get released to actual users.
Practice Change Management
DevOps employs continuous integration, continuous deployment and continuous monitoring. It is a cycle of fast-paced changes. Change management is essential to keep the system run like clockwork.
It might be easier said than done because changes have effects on various stakeholders. This includes your customers as the end-users, security, regulatory compliance and company policies. With this, changes within the development, testing, deployment and monitoring should be cohesively managed.
Change management is intrinsically reactive. It usually happens because of feedback received after deployment. But with DevOps, change management should be proactive. Instead of managing large-scale changes, processes are broken down into smaller parts with clearly defined scopes. Furthermore, anticipated changes are scheduled, scaled and communicated across the board. Possible risks and problems are efficiently managed because of this.
No system is perfect nor exactly the same. The key to a successful DevOps implementation is assessing what works best for your organization. DevOps is not a standardized process. It is not a system that will work for every company. Rather, DevOps is a theory of management.
Improving DevOps at your firm will involve a system of continuous review and improvement. You need to understand what is working, the problems and what you can improve. This can all be done through continuous processes with the help of automation and collaboration. No matter the size of your software development projects, these simple tips and tricks will help you make the most out of your DevOps.