From DevOops to DevOps | Best Strategies to Implement for Your Team

DevOps implementation strategy

In today’s rapidly changing world, software products need to be upgraded frequently and quickly to bring value to customers and users. Software features are continuously developed, tested, deployed, and operated in the production environment. New features are not only developed and tested successfully, but they also deployed and operated without much chaos and disruption. Software cross-functional teams which include product owners, software development, quality assurance (QA), operations need to work together to ensure the fast flow of work from development to operation. This requires development teams to be more productive in delivering quality work while QA, operations, and other teams need to use automated tools and follow well-formed practices to minimize their dependence on other teams. DevOps has been a process that organizations seek to achieve this goal.

In this blog, we will discuss the essential strategies for organizations to implement a successful DevOps transformation effort.

Organizational change

A transformation in DevOps must begin within. It involves organizing, empowering, and enabling teams to maximize their capabilities and their chances of success. In other words, it is more about people than tools and technology.

Organizations need to establish and nourish a DevOps culture that encourages continuous learning, cross-team collaboration, empowered teams, and sharing metrics as a way for continuous improvement. Such a DevOps culture can span multiple teams across departments.

A dedicated team should be created to be responsible for the DevOps transformation efforts for the whole organization. This team is separated from the rest of the company and only focuses on the daily operation, allowing the organization to be more innovative and disruptive than the rest. Objectives and goals for the team have to be clear, specific, achievable, and measurable. They should also be agreed upon by executives and shared with everyone. The members of this team should dedicate to these efforts full-time. They should possess skills in different domains such as information security (InfoSec), development, operations, sales, and marketing.

Start with the right team

To start a DevOps effort, it is important to begin with selecting the right project or initiative. Applying DevOps to a new project tends to be easier than existing ones as you do not have to deal with existing codebases, processes, and teams. Making changes to the existing projects is riskier when they have existing products or services in operation. However, many DevOps transformation efforts are started with existing projects as a solution to address on-going problems in the development and operations of the products or services. In fact, high performance in IT organizations deploying DevOps is achievable in both new (brownfield) and existing (greenfield) applications, according to the 2015 State of DevOps report.

You should consider choosing the most innovative, energetic, and sympathetic teams to start with as their members tend to welcome and adopt new ideas than those of other teams. A team that has influence and respect from the organization is also a good candidate. This team’s success in DevOps transformation offers a testament and makes the process of expanding the effort to other teams easier.

Of course, you can find a relevant team, but its members may lack DevOps necessary skills. Thus, hiring the right people and providing staff sufficient training on DevOps processes, practices, and tools are also important for having the right team for your DevOps initiative.

Establish a continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) pipeline

Organizations must establish and implement the practices necessary for the continuous flow of work from development to operations. A set of such practices forms CI/CD pipeline whose goal is to ensure the fast and reliable delivery of work from development to operations without causing problems in the production.

At every stage of the CI/CD pipeline, production-line environments should be used. That is, development, test, and staging environments must be similar to that in the production. By doing this, developers and testers always run and test the system on the production-line environment, which eliminates the mismatch between development and operations. When a problem occurs in operations, developers can quickly detect and fix it without interfering with the normal operation of the system. 

Environments should be created automatically using scripts and predefined configurations. The process to create an environment that is already embedded in the script and configurations. This practice allows on-demand creation of development, test, and production environments the repository easily and quickly when needed. 

To enable on-demand creation of production-line environments, it is necessary to place every artifact, e.g., source code, test scripts, configuration files, and environments, of the system in version control. Everyone must use version control to manage their work. Furthermore, a single repository for the entire system should be used. Mismatches will eventually occur if multiple repositories are used. 

Include test automation into your strategy

It is safe to say that without test automation, you cannot implement DevOps practices successfully. Testing would become a crucial bottleneck in the CI/CD pipeline if your project lacks test automation. Manual testing requires more time to perform, delaying the process of delivering work downstream of the CI/CD pipeline and the feedback that developers need to validate or fix their work. 

A process for automated building and testing software to run on target environments must be established. This process allows tests to be executed automatically when the code is published to the repository. Through this process, the task of creating automated tests to validate their code is integrated as a part of developers’ daily work. Several best practices can be employed:

  • Automate tests at different levels: unit, acceptance, and integration tests.
  • Detect errors as early as possible. Unit tests are faster to run than acceptance and integration tests. Unit tests can also increase test coverage over the other types, according to Martin Fowler’s Test Pyramid
  • Run automated tests on production-like environments.
  • Perform automated tests as much as possible.  
  • Automate both functional and non-functional tests.   

Use Telemetry and Metrics

To support problem diagnosis and solving as well as discover opportunities for continuous improvement, organizations need to create and use telemetry and metrics. Telemetry is “automated communications process by which measurements and other data are collected at remote or inaccessible points and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring” which involves the use of metrics and data collection approaches to support measurement and monitoring.

Telemetry allows teams to detect a problem, to formulate hypotheses about possible root causes of the problem, and to find solutions to address it. Where the bottleneck of the DevOps pipeline is, what causes the increase in on-call after business hours during the operations, and what causes the delay in fault repair are examples of the questions to be answered using telemetry. Telemetry helps detect contributing factors affecting a problem and its resolution.

Organizations need to create and use telemetry in development, testing, staging, and production environments. It is also created across the DevOps pipeline. The telemetry program should be centralized, meaning that events, logs, and metrics collected from different stages of development and operations are transferred, stored, and aggregated to help analyze the system as a whole.

Events and logs are created and recorded at different layers, operating systems, database, business logic, application/user interface, and environment. Metrics need to be recorded and used at different levels: sales and transactions in the business level, response time, faults, transaction time at the application level, storage and disk usage, CPU load, network traffic at the infrastructure level. Other important metrics in the DevOps pipeline can include build status, change, and deployment and release frequencies, duration, environment status, idle time, build breakage, downtime, impact of defects, percent of automation, change success rate, time/cost per release, cost/frequency of outages in operations, on-call after business outs, mean time to repair (MTTR), and mean time to detect (MTTD).

Application libraries are necessary for teams to create, collect, and store events, logs, and metrics. Tools are also important for visualizing, alerting, detecting trends, and other analytics capabilities.

Continuous Learning and Improvement 

To succeed in implementing DevOps, teams need to establish a culture that enables members to continuously learn and improve their skills at detecting and addressing problems. Mistakes and problems are always happening in any complex system. It is important for teams to learn from mistakes and prevent them from happening again.

Solutions for common problems and lessons learned are stored and shared throughout the organization, which helps multiply the knowledge and saves a lot of time for other teams facing similar problems. The knowledge on problems, know-how, solutions to address problems, etc. must be shared widely to medium as chatrooms and forums to multiply the effects of learning and improvement.

Instead of naming and blaming people when a problem occurs, teams should focus on using the opportunity as a means for improving the quality of the system and learning the ways to fix the problem. The working environment without naming and blaming encourages risk-taking and innovation while helps to preserve good relationships and foster mutual cooperation between people in the project.

Telemetry and metrics collected are also used for discovering opportunities for improvement. Consulting and teaching from experts are also as important as self-learning and self-improvement.

Conclusion

DevOps is a well-accepted approach to addressing the challenges in developing and delivering quality software fast to the market. It is reported to helping organizations shorten the time from development to operations, improving the products and services quality, and increasing the cooperation of teams from different departments such as development, QA, InfoSec, and operations.

Hope this article can provide you the most important strategies for implementing a successful DevOps transformation effort in organizations. These strategies involve people (choosing the right team, changing organizational structures and culture, continuous learning and improvement), technology (test automation, tools, and infrastructure), and practices (establishing a CI/CD pipeline and using telemetry/metrics).

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