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What is DevOps – A Detailed Introduction


DevOps is an amalgam of two departments that play an important role in any web solution company – the development and the operations departments. It is an attempt to streamline efforts in developing, delivering and maintaining products. To this end, DevOps is an end to end solution for companies, as it plays an active role in every step of this process.
The success of any company that offers web solutions is chiefly dependent on the following departments:

  • Development team: responsible for churning out sprints quickly, checking changes to code, and releasing the product on time.
  • Quality Assurance (QA) team: that works round the clock to identify as many bugs and problems in the product as possible.
  • Ops (IT) team: that ensures deployment servers are stable, reliable, and running in full steam. They also make sure that the infrastructure is scalable and standardized, so that it can handle client activities.

Is That All?

Not really. On the day of the product’s release, the development and QA teams usually perform last minute tests before pushing the product to deployment servers. Following these tests, they also make changes to fix the problems they identify. These changes require the Ops team to make changes to hosting servers, so that there aren’t any compatibility issues. It is their responsibility to ensure that the servers are healthy and secure, and capable of serving customers. Simply put, these departments work together, despite being separate. However, if they lack coordination some problems can be difficult to resolve. Some problems can be difficult to deal with and could even force a roll back of certain features, which no company wants. DevOps is a solution to this problem of coordination between these otherwise segmented factions of the same organization.
The problems that any web solution organization usually faces have three causes:

  1. Poor development methodologies.
  2. Lack of automated system configurations that the Ops team is responsible for.
  3. And, lack of coordination between the development and operations teams.

When you look closely, it becomes clear that these problems are manageable if development and operations departments work together. The development team usually focuses solely on releasing their product on time. The operations team, on the other hand, focuses narrowly on managing infrastructural problems. The two teams work separately, without much interaction or integration. DevOps remedies this flaw in organizations, and is a methodological solution to technical problems.
Stages of DevOps Methodology:

    • Development stage
      • Software Configuration Management / Version Control (SCM)
      • Continuous integration (CI)
      • Building
      • Testing
    • Releasing stage
      • Continuous Delivery / deployment (CD)
      • Virtualization and Virtual Machines
      • Containerization
    • Infrastructure Automation Stage
      • Monitoring
      • Configuration Management (CM)
      • Infra as Code

     

Let us examine these stages in greater detail.

Development Stage

We begin with version control. Version control, or SCM, is a way to track all the changes that you make in the base code. It enables multi-site/multi-user/multi-team collaboration on multi-software projects. It is not only effective in tracking changes, but also in finding bugs. Version control reviews the entire software development process. Prime examples of SCM tools are Git, SVN and Perforce.
Next, continuous integration (CI). CI goes beyond version control to perform quality checks on the product in the development phase. CI tools like Jenkins keep a close eye on SCM tools to monitor changes and maintain quality.
Then we have continuous building. Continuous building is the process of compiling changes and making them without compromising on quality. Additional quality checks are performed to maintain the quality of code. This functionality is obtained by integrating Jenkins with SCM tools.
Lastly, we have continuous testing. It is the process of performing pre-configured tests on the product to ensure it delivers on promises despite changes in its code and its basis. Tools like Junit and Selenium are good examples of continuous testing tools.

Delivery Stage 

Continuous delivery puts pressure on the development team to build and test the product regularly so that it is ready for release at all times.
It is a burden, however, to wait for an approval to release the product every time something changes. Hence, continuous deployment is a policy that DevOps teams adopt to get rid of the need for an approval. The product is released automatically following changes, so long as it meets the required standards for quality control.

Deployment Stage

If the product is to be ready for continuously deployment, it must be maintained efficiently. Most organizations have a data center to do just that. A data center generally consists of a large number of machines that perform computation tasks such as compiling, testing, and executing scripts. The physicality of these machines is limiting. It reduces the ability to upscale infrastructure. It also makes it difficult to utilize the machines fully. These limitations can, however, be overcome virtually.
Virtualization allows DevOps to host many operating systems on a single physical machine. It increases the utility of physical machines greatly. VMWare provides good tools for virtualizations. Their technology is quite popular in the industry.
A variant of virtualization technology – containerization – is also gaining popularity in DevOps circles. In fact, it is the in-thing at the moment as containerization allows you to package your product along with its dependencies – components that are essential to create the right environment for your product – in a container. The containers can then easily be run on any machine to unpack its components. Virtual machines can also perform this task. However, they might not be as efficient with the results. A good example of a containerizing software is Docker.

(Credit arstechnica.net)

Infrastructure Automation Stage

Infrastructure automation is the process of automating configurations and processes in the infrastructure. There are several ways to do this. For instance, if a specific configuration is required on a large number of machines in the infrastructure, the configuration can be converted to code – Infra as Code – and used to configure the machines. It is also necessary to handle changes in configurations of machines systematically. For this, there are configuration management tools. Puppet, Chef and Ansible are all examples of configuration management tools that allow you to manage your systems without compromising on their integrity.
Lastly, it is essential to monitor your infrastructure at all times to make sure their healthy and working to their best potential. For this, there are monitoring tools like Nagios and Zabbix that keep a check on your systems and utilize them optimally.
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