April 6th, 2022 By The Guide

5 DevOps Practices You Should Be Following

Integrating DevOps into your development strategy means not only consuming tools and services dedicated to DevOps, but also implementing DevOps the right way. Best practices are guidelines developed over time by many developers and IT Ops teams based on their own experiences and opinions of the most optimal strategies and practices. In a fast-paced industry like software development, best practices can and should change in response to the evolution of the market. Read on to learn about 5 of the best practices for DevOps in the modern day.

What is DevOps? 

DevOps is the combination of developers and IT operations under a single umbrella. It emphasizes a collaborative approach to software development, where both teams work together to create and support the infrastructure for an app or website as well as the app itself. This is in contrast to previous development methods, which kept the two teams separate. As a result, response times were slower and communication difficulties were more likely.

Why Your Organization Should Be Using DevOps 

DevOps is a relatively new practice, but it has recently exploded in popularity within the software development industry. There is good reason for this popularity: groups that integrate DevOps practices report that elite teams release 208x more frequently and 106x faster compared to the lower performing teams. Notably, this drastic increase in speed does not lead to a decrease in quality – in fact, those same teams report a 7x reduction in the failure rate.

These eye-opening facts naturally pique teams’ interest in DevOps. How does it work, and could we apply those strategies to enjoy similar benefits? Read on to learn about 5 of the best DevOps practices you can implement for your organization.

Best DevOps Practices Your Organization Should Be Following

Continuous Integration 

Continuous integration is a common development practice that has overtaken the old style of software development. Previously, a periodic scheduled build would merge multiple branches at once, but the new code base would be drastically different from the starting point. Developers would then spend considerable time figuring out what has changed, and then have fix the main code base due to multiple integration conflicts. The longer a branch remained separate from the main code base, the higher the probability of more conflicts.

Isolating issues is much easier with continuous integration. As the name suggests, instead of bundling many code changes into a infrequent single release, continuous integration advocates for continuously integrating new code changes into the main code base. Typically, these code changes are also much smaller, since they can be isolated to a single feature, or even a single code function or method. This makes it much easier to both pinpoint and rollback specific problematic commits without also reverting other functioning changes.

The goal is for code changes to be integrated with the existing code repository frequently enough so there is no time window between commit and build, so that no errors can occur without developers noticing and correcting them

Shift Left with CI/CD 

CI/CD stands for continuous integration/continuous development (or delivery) and refers to a software pipeline whereby new commits from developers are automatically tested and integrated into the codebase. For some permutations of CI/CD, these commits are even pushed directly to production, provided they pass testing.

To ‘shift left’ refers to introducing testing earlier into the development process. If you imagine software development as a linear process, starting at the left with design and finishing with a general release on the right, then traditionally testing took place towards the far-right of the process – typically, just before launch. Shifting left introduces testing during the development process, rather than after it, which helps to catch bugs earlier when they are easier to remedy.

Implement Automation 

Any steps in the end-to-end process that are manual need to be examined as candidates for automation. If the manual step is also a hand-off to a separate department, this risks becoming a major bottleneck that can disrupt the process to a halt.

The reality of ever-increasing security vulnerabilities is causing many firms to evaluate their software supply chain security, which has the potential for adding more complexity and manual tasks. Making these improvements by implementing a platform for software development can help ensure there is automation to meet these security and policy requirements. In addition, a platform should also automate additional areas such as environment creation and making information available.

Monitor Metrics that Make Sense

Metrics are vital for any DevOps project, particularly those implementing automation into their workflow. If something goes wrong, like a failed test or a broken build, your team needs to know as soon as possible. Of course, knowing whether something went wrong in your automated pipeline is crucial, but monitoring should not stop at malfunctions. Understanding the health of your app or website is vital to providing your customers with the best possible user experience, but knowing what to track is just as important. Meaningless metrics and data points that don’t provide real value represent a waste of time and resources – to know what you should monitor, you need to know what’s important to your project.

Metrics, logs and traces are said to be the ‘Golden Triangle’ of observability in monitoring.  These are made up of logs (log files are typically generated by system components when events are triggered and help track inputs and outputs through individual functions and methods), traces (which follow the flow of logic through a system) and metrics (vital system information such as RAM/CPU usage, bandwidth consumption, and disk space usage.)

Individually, there are many specific metrics that are more important to some projects than others. The decision as to which metrics are most important will strongly come down to your specific app or website.

Communication and Collaboration 

One of the driving forces for DevOps is to enable more efficient and effective collaboration between developers and IT Ops teams. When creating software, both teams are vital to creating and supporting your website or app, so it doesn’t make much sense to keep them separated. Particularly in light of industry advancements towards a ‘one platform to rule them all’ approach to software development and IT ops administration, it simply doesn’t make sense to keep teams isolated.

Both teams have their part to play in building successful software and the end product depends on both teams in order to function properly. DevOps aims to bring the two closer together by integrating them into a single unit and fostering collaboration between members.

How To Implement These Best Practices Into Your Team 

Making changes to team practices is never easy, particularly large ones. If your team is not using the DevOps methodology, then getting buy-in from everyone on the team can be a challenge. The old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a very tempting fallback for those reluctant to try out new strategies and methodologies.

The most common problem teams face when trying to implement DevOps is when teams are siloed into their own areas of ownership. Teams may feel that they ‘own’ one particular area of development. Any encroachment on that by another team is viewed with suspicion, and likewise, new responsibilities may be looked at as outside of their purview.

Implementing a ‘you build it, you run it’ practice can help to break down these barriers. Developers are no longer ‘throwing it over the wall’ once they’ve finished building something – instead, they have to collaborate with IT Ops and they get a much clearer picture of how their code runs in production. Likewise, DevOps administration is then more directly tied to developers. Introducing these changes is not simple and will take time, much like any business culture changes, but getting separated teams to work together and feel a shared ownership and responsibility to the end client is vital to successfully implementing these best practices amongst all team members.

Get Started With DevOps Best Practices

Software development is a fast-paced industry that is constantly changing and evolving in response to new technologies and new market conditions. Staying on the cutting edge requires constantly updating your best practices and responding to changes within the industry. Implementing and updating best practices as they evolve can cause friction with teams who are reluctant to change what they know, but these best practices come about because they have been shown to work.

Changing team culture and implementing new ways of working is difficult, but fortunately, there are tools and services that can help make these new integrations much smoother. If you are looking to implement these DevOps best practices in your team but are struggling, then get in touch with the team at Guide-Rails®. Our experienced team can help you on your journey.