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According to a recent DevOps trends survey, 99% of companies see the benefits of adopting DevOps practices. Most of them admit that implementing DevOps makes company culture more collaborative and healthy. As for the measurable results, companies usually get:
- Consistent and high-quality project deliverables
- Frequent deployments and fast time to market
- Low release failure rate and fast recovery times
Now, let’s see what it takes to implement DevOps and get those valuable improvements. Having the right people, culture, and tools matters the most. Assuming you have those, the next crucial thing is following best practices. So, what are DevOps best practices?
Best practices for DevOps implementation
The following seven principles make the basis for a successful DevOps implementation strategy. Adhering to them, you’ll make the most out of introducing the DevOps culture to your company.
1. Practice agile methodology
Agile project management is the first prerequisite for introducing DevOps. Following the agile methodology, teams divide work into small chunks. It allows them to deliver small but incremental features fast, which lays the basis for DevOps’ continuous deployment practice.
Agile development teams implement adaptive planning and welcome changing requirements at any stage. They are flexible enough to handle unplanned work and respond to feedback coming from the operations team.
From the cultural point of view, Agile and DevOps share a lot. Both of them embrace change and put the business value of the software product in priority. DevOps builds upon Agile and extends its principles beyond the development team by bringing them to the operations team.
2. Continuously automate processes
Automation accelerates the development cycle by reducing the amount of manual work. It helps you push code in production more frequently and produce consistent, reliable, and safe software.
You need a good strategy and vision on what to automate and how because you don’t want to make bad processes happen faster. You should start with automated testing to remove manual processes from unit tests, integration tests, and performance tests. Each test should and take a few minutes to run.
After the testing is automated, you can build DevOps pipelines to automate the build - configure - deploy - test - release cycle. In parallel, you can introduce automation in your infrastructure configuration management and performance monitoring tasks. It will allow you to better control software that is running in production.
3. Follow CI/CD best practices
Continuous integration and deployment best practices are at the heart of the DevOps culture. Implementing them often requires the biggest investment and effort. At the same time, it has the most sufficient impact on the results if done following Martine Flower’s continuous integration best practices:
- Maintain a single source repository
- Automate the build process
- Make the build self-testing
- Commit to the mainline daily
- Trigger a build after every commit
- Test in a clone of the production environment
- Make fast feedback on quality available to everyone
- Make fixing broken builds a priority task
This list can be extended by several continuous delivery best practices. By implementing those, you can make sure that your software remains in a deployable state throughout its lifecycle. It means that you can deploy your system to production on demand at any time.
- Build apps with loosely-coupled architecture
- Integrate security into the development and testing stages
- Fully automate the deployment process
- Use a version control system
When continuous delivery works well, for some projects, for example, web apps, it may evolve into continuous deployment. At this level, following continuous deployment best practices empowers your team to deploy every code change to production as soon as possible.
4. Choose your DevOps tools wisely
DevOps tools represent a set of solutions that enable the collaboration of development and operations teams across development, testing, deployment, and performance monitoring. Your toolset may include:
- Work planning and tracking (Jira, Confluence)
- Development environment (Kubernetes, Docker)
- Source control tools (Github, Gitlab, Bitbucket)
- Infrastructure provisioning IaC (Ansible, Puppet, Terraform)
- CI/CD pipelines (Jenkins, AWS CodePipeline, CircleCI)
- Test automation, management, and orchestration (Mabl, Xray, Zephyr)
- Deployment automation (CodeDeploy, Bitbucket Pipelines)
- Performance monitoring (Appdynamics, DataDog, SumoLogic)
- Change management and problem tracking (Jira Service Desk, Opsgenie)
Choosing an optimal combination of tools provided by different vendors often requires experimenting. When building your DevOps toolchain, you’ll have to:
- Decide between multi-purpose and single-purpose tools
- Choose among several similar solutions by different vendors
- Select tools that integrate seamlessly with each other
- Integrate legacy tools your company uses into the new ecosystem
With the variety of DevOps tools available, it’s easy to accommodate too many of them and overcomplicate your processes. To avoid this, you should prioritize processes over tools and refrain from copying someone else’s automation solutions blindly.
5. Make your software observable
By giving preference to loosely coupled architectures, you ease the deployment of new functionality on your developers. However, this causes an additional burden on your operations team, which has to monitor a complex and ever-changing system.
When working with distributed systems, your operations team will have to cope with unpredicted patterns and properties. According to monitoring and observability best practices, tracking the logs, traces, and metrics is not enough anymore. You should create an own diagnostic system to identify unknown unknowns, understand what causes problems in your system and debug it quickly. For this, you should have:
- A black-box or a white-box monitoring system that allows connecting data from all points of monitoring in one place.
- A symptom-based alerting system that will notify about possible problems before they happen.
- Ability to quickly create monitoring dashboards to visualize metrics that matter at this particular time.
The performance of your monitoring system should also be measured. To know if it performs well, you should keep an eye on the number of changes made to your monitoring configuration, the adequateness of the alerts that your system sends, and the time it takes your team to solve issues.
6. Shorten feedback loops
DevOps strives to reduce wasted effort not only through process automation but also through information exchange between team members. It strives to facilitate feedback on people’s work efficiency and quality at all stages of the development cycle:
- Code test results become available to developers withing minutes
- Bugs and failures are reported immediately to be fixed right away
- User feedback and usage reports are communicated for every new feature
- Performance characteristics get displayed on visual management boards
- Customer satisfaction metrics and feedback shared with the team
Sharing and implementation of customer feedback are often overlooked. This best practice emphasizes the importance of doing this to better address customer needs. This way you can make sure every new feature is solving a real problem and is appreciated by your customers.
7. Transform culture and mindsets
DevOps is a culture, not a role. Adopting DevOps practices requires creating an environment for cross-team communication and collaboration. When introducing DevOps culture, you’ll work on:
- Building trust and transparency between development and operations
- Instilling an attitude of shared responsibility and ownership
- Promoting customer-centricity and empathy across teams
You should also encourage people to develop personal treats that are extremely important for working within the DevOps culture. Those are the ability to problem-solve, forward-thinking, and empathy.
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