Does DevOps have a future?
Both organizations and talents want to be sure they invest their time and effort into the right thing. Therefore, what they want to know is — does DevOps have a future?
Does DevOps have a future? As an IT outsourcing provider with 15+ years of experience and one of the world-leading Managed DevOps Services providers, IT Svit has to answer this question quite a lot. Companies of all sizes want to address their business needs — predictable delivery of new products and updates, stable uptime of customer-facing applications and services, secure storage of sensitive data.
Over the past decade, the DevOps approach to IT operations became a uniform answer to all of these challenges. However, DevOps is not a buzzword anymore and people are always after new shiny toys. Our customers ask us quite often if they are right to invest in DevOps, or maybe it’s time to look for another, a better methodology? Does DevOps have a future or is it already outdated?
What is DevOps to begin with?
First of all, you must understand that despite being a decade old, there still is no precise and definitive description of what is DevOps — because it is not a technology that can work only according to some rigid specification.
DevOps is rather an ethos of communication and collaboration, culture and methodology that enables developers, Ops engineers and QA specialists to combine their efforts and align their goals in order to ensure the stability of your business IT operations and predictability of the software delivery lifecycle.
It was proven multiple times that DevOps is hugely beneficial for all businesses, as compared to traditional software development workflows. When developers and system engineers work to reach the same goals from the project inception until the product release and further on — the business gains a competitive edge while optimizing the internal processes and improving the cost-efficiency of operations at the same time.
Therefore, as it is a dynamic methodology that can use any tools to achieve a wide variety of goals while following the same main principles: IaC, CI and CD.
- IaC stands for Infrastructure as Code. Instead of running your servers as a group of pets, with individual configurations and manual administration for each of them, you run your servers farm as cattle, provisioning and killing them as need be, quickly and efficiently. This is done by using virtualized cloud computing resources provisioned according to special configuration files.
At different points in time throughout this decade, these were, Ansible playbooks, Chef and Puppet recipes & cookbooks… now they are Terraform manifests and Helm charts. Perhaps, in the future, there will be some new great ways to organize infrastructure — the principle will still be the same.
- CI stands for Continuous Integration. In short, this is a practice when the developers integrate customer feedback and business stakeholder input in the form of new product features on a constant basis. It is technically implemented through a practice of developing the code in short Git branches and frequently integrating new code batches into the main project trunk. This nullifies the chance of a merge conflict happening while merging long branches, which caused multiple bugs in the past.
The business benefit of this DevOps principle is the reduced time-to-market for new product features. In addition, fewer bugs make it to the staging environment and none are brought to the production environment. This means positive end-user experience and shorter customer feedback loops, which build customer loyalty and brand advocacy.
- This is possible due to the testing being very fast and automated. Testing environments are provisioned with scripts (Terraform manifests, Jenkins workers, other CI tools). They are using Docker containers to launch an app and all the required routine and test it using the automated unit and integration tests. Thus said, the major part of work is done by developers with little effort, which greatly increases their productivity and the speed of software delivery.
- CD stands for Continuous Delivery. This is a principle of configuring a digital pipeline of tools used in the SDLC in such a way that the output of one operation becomes an input for another operation. The result is that every code commit results in a new product build pushed to staging, ready for QA and release to the prod. In production, the same logic applies to automated infrastructure management workflows, mostly for backup/recovery, scaling the system up/down and monitoring its performance.
Technically, it is done using a variety of cloud platform-specific (AWS Code Pipeline, Google App Engine, etc) and open-source (Jenkins, Ansible, etc) tools that can be configured to automate most of the routine operations. As a result, your system engineers can automate the manual tasks that took up the majority of their time. Instead of working hard to keep your systems barely afloat, they can wok smart to free up the time needed to redesign the system, make it more cost-efficient and remove the performance bottlenecks.
As you can see, DevOps culture can solve multiple challenges your business faces, but it seems a bit like a magic wand. Actually it is not, it is hard work requiring lots of planning and intrinsic understanding of multiple aspects of the SDLC and infrastructure operations.
The future of DevOps: specialization into a variety of roles
Thus said, while DevOps is definitely here to stay (at least until something better is offered, which is not likely to happen soon), it is important to follow the latest DevOps trends to understand what practices to adopt. The most obvious and expected step in the DevOps evolution is the further specialization of DevOps roles, as a single system engineer can hardly cover all the needs of the modern business.
As more and more business aspects are done using DevOps approaches, the DevOps must be able to understand the product code, the security requirements, the testing best practices, the database management, the architecture of edge computing applications, the Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning development specifics, the ways of integration with various mesaging platforms to enable ChatOps and many, many more facets of IT operations. Let’s look at several aspects of the future DevOps scope.
Automating security checks is a hard task, as the risk of automating the flaws is quite high. Shifting the testing to the left must ensure that the application is built according to the security and compliance requirements of both your company and your legislation of your registration country. Thus said, the DevOps engineers must write the automation scripts in a way that will ensure that developers follow these requirements and guidelines.
In addition, they will have to configure the Docker container security features, Kubernetes cluster security policies, cloud platform security and monitoring tools, as well as ingrain security checks into your business DNA. This is quite a task to complete and we already see many companies dedicating some talents or whole teams to ensuring the security of their DevOps procedures.
With DevOps methodology automating all aspects of IT operations, it could not have overlooked the system monitoring and analytics tasks. When your systems run automatically, you need to find a way to analyze the system logs in their entirety in order to keep your hand on the pulse. This is where AI and ML come to DevOps aid.
A tandem of DevOps engineer and Big Data scientist can train and deploy a Machine Learning model that will process all the machine-generated data and keep a close eye on several key parameters like CPU load, RAM load, I/O throughput, number of simultaneous database connections, etc.
Operational thresholds based on historical data can be set to highlight the normal pattern of operations. Then, the model monitors these parameters and if any of them exceed the thresholds, it informs the system engineer on shift and offers several preconfigured scenarios of dealing with the incident. With time the model becomes very accurate in addressing the issues, which leads to self-healing infrastructure that recovers automatically after any failure, further increasing the stability of your IT operations.
With nearly every company having some ways to interact with its customers online, automation of deployment updates becomes crucial. Long gone are the days of post-release crashes. Most of the products nowadays are updated seamlessly, without end-users barely noticing the new releases. This is possible due to Canary and Blue-Green deployments, rolling updates, in-app updates on the restart and other strategies based on DevOps CI/CD pipelines.
App containerization and microservices
One of the major challenges for any business running a legacy infrastructure is containerizing its monolith application and splitting it into microservices. Docker containers are lightweight code packages containing everything your application needs to run — runtime, networking, dependencies. However, as they all share the same kernel, they don’t require separate virtual machines to run, which frees up tremendous amounts of resources, making your IT operations much more cost-efficient.
Splitting an app into microservices allow running it as a loosely coupled group of components that can scale, be updated and restarted individually — another huge step towards cost-efficiency. Thus said, every DevOps engineer must be able to write a Docker image, compose a container out of it and manage it using a Kubernetes cluster. However, this niche has so many nooks and crannies that dedicating a specific talent to it alone will definitely help your organization to gain and retain a competitive edge on your market.
PaaS or Platform As A Service management
The developers and system engineers don’t have to configure anything from scratch nowadays. Cloud computing vendors like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud or Azure provide Platform-as-a-Service tools that enable various aspects of software delivery and infrastructure management in one click. However, over a decade of DevOps operations, these tools became so numerous that finding the best components for designing and running the cloud infrastructure for your next project can become quite a time-consuming task.
Therefore, one of the future DevOps roles will require a specialist to know all the facets and interdependencies between various PaaS tools to be able to build modular, flexible multi-cloud environments. While a detailed FAQ and help is available for any of them, learning it in detail requires such an exorbitant amount of time that the only feasible way for it is to dedicated a specialist to it full-time.
With messengers like Slack, Telegram, Viber, WhatsApp and other becoming the main channel of communication between teams it is only logical to make them a part of your IT operations. Multiple DevOps tools allow configuring chatbots in a particular way to provide smart alerts about various events.
For example, your Development team can be informed of the successful completion of the tests for the latest app build in chat, no need to monitor the dashboard or the terminal anymore. If the testing fails — smart alerts can provide the location of the incident, the stage when it happened, the link to a GitHub repo with the code and even a server response code to simplify the debugging. Monitoring your systems from the convenience of your chats is much better than keeping an eye on a dozen of dashboards, don’t you think?
Conclusions: DevOps has a bright future and you can be a part of it!
Thus said, the need for DevOps engineers is steadily growing, as many companies are currently on various stages of digital transformation and cloud adoption. However, it can be quite hard to find the DevOps expertise exactly fitting your business DNA and project requirements. This is why most companies prefer to outsource their DevOps tasks to reliable Managed Services Providers like IT Svit. We have the team with ample experience in all aspects of DevOps operations and can help you achieve your business goals!