Using DevOps to Achieve Faster Time-to-Market

Susan Asher | Monday, January 23, 2023

Using DevOps to Achieve Faster Time-to-Market

To stay competitive, companies consistently create new applications and add to existing ones to help businesses market to customers. But innovation is hampered when problems arise between the development side and the operations side of application production. Development teams write code to create new products, features, and updates; operations teams deploy and manage the software while diagnosing any errors caused by integrating new code that developers deliver for release. Because of the barriers between these traditionally siloed teams, miscommunication and product release delays are not uncommon occurrences. To help both sides work better together, companies use a collaborative approach, DevOps, which unites developers (Dev) and operations (Ops) teams to improve productivity by automating more of the product release process and monitoring software performance in time-efficient chunks.

DevOps has been growing since it was first introduced in 2007 when an IT project manager raised concerns about the inefficiencies of software development practices due to the separation between software development and IT operations teams. Developers would spend months developing software, Quality Assurance (QA) would scramble to test everything before the proposed release date and send back to the developers the defects that needed to be changed, and developers would scramble again to fix the errors and send the application back to QA. Often, even though the software wouldn’t yet be production ready, business stakeholders would insist the software be released as planned, causing Ops to do hotfixes to address the problems with the software. This ineffective way of working prompted developers and IT operations teams to work together in a new way. The term DevOps was coined to show their united relationship and work processes, maximizing efficiencies for developing and deploying applications.

Although DevOps has been around for more than a decade, it’s still gaining traction. The Global DevOps Market size was estimated at USD 5,114.57 million in 2021, USD 6,079.38 million in 2022, and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 19.04% to reach USD 14,554.23 million by 2027, according to GII Global Information. Understanding what makes for a healthy DevOps team is important as it matters in how often a DevOps team deploys to production. Over 80% of top performers deploy at least several times per day and less than 10% of them deploy less than weekly, according to the 2021 DevOps Setups Benchmarking Study.

Development and Operations

Development and operations combine together to increase the efficiency, speed, and delivery of software development. The job of development is to create application software, add new features to existing software and add updates for users. The job of operations is to generate constructive feedback to improve the code, resulting in a better product. Operations views production from a completely different angle, focusing on ensuring users can access a fast, stable, and bug-free system. 

However, DevOps is not simply the combination of development and operations teams. It merges a set of practices, processes and cultural philosophies that must be adopted by all components of the software pipeline.

The software pipeline includes the following DevOps practices:

  1. Continuous build and test
  2. Source code management
  3. Continuous integration
  4. Continuous deployment
  5. Continuous monitoring
  6. Software release

    The phases of DevOps are ongoing and often work simultaneously. Steps 3 and 4 work together to form continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD). One other area that DevOps focuses on to achieve quick deployment times is automation.

    Automation in DevOps

    Traditionally, developers created software in large chunks of code over weeks or months, followed by weeks and months of testing before deploying an application. This would become known as the waterfall model of software development as after months of developing an application, large streams of code flowed downstream all at once, and then that would be followed by weeks or months of testing to be sure the application worked. This traditional way of creating apps has long been replaced by most companies with agile software development methods, which break projects up into several phases by creating small chunks of code that are integrated, tested, and deployed in hours. Writing small amounts of code increases the frequency of deployments, shortens the time to develop new code, and allows for an iterative process to monitor and improve both code and operations every day. Agile processes allow companies to respond to market needs much quicker than possible with the waterfall method.

    After building code, developers initiate continuous integration, which is the automated integration of code changes from multiple developers. At least once a day, developers upload their code into a single repository that tests the code to ensure it works as expected. When someone checks in their code, they are verifying that the code can actually run as intended in the environment users will experience it. This eliminates the stress of not knowing whether the developers’ code will work in the operations environment. Once code passes continuous integration and testing, it can go through continuous deployment, which automates its approval into production. Continuous deployment includes all of the steps and processes required to make software systems or updates available to customers.

    Continuous monitoring refers to the automated process of detecting, tracking, analyzing, and reporting on specific components of the entire pipeline. By continuously monitoring your software, you can quickly identify any security risks, compliance issues, and performance issues, and make changes needed to fix them.

    DevOps-oriented teams use source control, which is synonymous with source code management (SCM) and version control. A source code control system (SCCS), such as Git and GitHub, is used to track and record all changes made to both the application code and configuration management code. Managing a running history of changes helps resolve conflicts when merging updates from multiple contributors. Because an SCCS retains the history of a project’s modifications, contributors can revert to previous versions of their project when needed. To unite Development and Operations, both teams need to adopt a routine of application performance monitoring and optimization in nearly real-time. This allows the developers to understand the impact their changes have on performance. SCCS is critical to alleviating the strain of growing development costs on a company, which occurs as software projects increase in the number of code lines and contributors.

    Tools for DevOps

    To manage all the various projects the development team is working on, DevOps relies on tools like Scrum and Kanban. Tools like Ansible and Terraform are important to automate repetitive tasks that take system administrators hundreds of hours a year to automate server configurations to deploy applications. Tools like New Relic, Microsoft Azure Application Insights, and Dynatrace allow DevOps teams to understand an application’s performance and identify any bottlenecks. Most of these tools are open source, so companies don’t have to purchase them.

    Benefits of DevOps

    Adopting the DevOps approach helps companies be prepared for a world more fast-paced than ever before. Promoting collaboration between developers and operations improves the quality of software development, the rate of software releases, and the speed of innovation. Errors can be caught and fixed before code can be pushed out into the production environment. This in turn improves the security of product releases. The deployment process also ceases to be a stressful event lined with contingency plans. With each of these increases in efficiency, DevOps shortens the time to market from months and weeks to days and hours.

    Development wants change. Operations wants stability. Companies want both. With DevOps, every member of the team can achieve their goals.

    Getting Started with DevOps

    IT training can help you discover how to incorporate DevOps in your practice. ExitCertified offers a variety of classes in Agile and DevOps, the CI/CD pipeline, Git and GitHub, Scrum, Kanban and more, helping you to lead the way with managing and improving DevOps. A DevOps Executive Workshop will help senior leaders understand and embrace DevOps and use those insights to embrace action plans for moving forward with it in their organization.  

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