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8 DevOps Best Practices for a High-Performance Team

Noor-ul-Anam Ruqayya
DevOps Practices

Wondering about DevOps best practices? If you are looking to improve and streamline your current process, we recommend these practices and how to implement them.

What are DevOps Best Practices?

DevOps best practices involve implementing continuous integration and deployment,  testing early and often, increasing collaboration between teams, and changing the organization’s culture. If you follow these practices, it will result in greater efficiency when deploying and over time, more reliable services.

What is DevOps?

Let’s start with some definitions to level-set. Different teams have different interpretations of DevOps, so it’s probably best to begin with a reliable working definition.

Gartner gives the following definition of DevOps:

“DevOps represents a change in IT culture, focusing on rapid IT service delivery through the adoption of agile, lean practices in the context of a system-oriented approach. DevOps emphasizes people (and culture), and it seeks to improve collaboration between operations and development teams. DevOps implementations utilize technology — especially automation tools that can leverage an increasingly programmable and dynamic infrastructure from a life cycle perspective.”

In engineering organizations, the development and operations teams are often siloed. This gives rise to a number of problems across the software development lifecycle (SDLC) including communication gaps that can lead to slower deployment frequency. 

DevOps, a term coined in 2009, is a culture and practice that involves the development and operations team working in collaboration with each other throughout the development lifecycle. A unified approach to development helps teams build reliable products faster. Check out our blog, A Complete Guide to DevOps (Explained Simply) for more information.

Why Should My Organization Adopt DevOps?

Over the last decade, DevOps has changed the way that engineering organizations work. Most notably, it introduced a cultural shift that proved necessary for following the agile method. DevOps helps to improve deployment frequency, reduce failure rate, shorten time to fixes, and speed up recovery time. In the 2020 Atlassian DevOps Trends survey, 99 percent of respondents said that DevOps had a positive impact on their organization. 

DORA’s State of DevOps Report 2019 also reported that elite performers release code 208 times more frequently and 106 times faster than low-performing teams. The study uses cluster analysis to help teams identify themselves as low, medium, high, or elite performers. Viewers of the report can leverage the findings, identify specific DevOps techniques to adopt, and thereby improve their software delivery practices.

DevOps Best Practices

  1. Agile Software Development 

Agile is a software development and project management approach that helps teams deliver value to end-users faster via actual customer and user feedback. Teams that follow the Agile method aim to deliver in small increments. Every step of the process, including requirements and plans, is continuously evaluated to help teams respond and adjust as needed. 

DevOps emphasizes delivering reliable code faster, engenders cross-team collaboration, and leverages automation. Agile focuses mainly on workflow productivity tools (such as Kanban and Scrum), customer requirements, and incremental progress. The idea of using agile in DevOps is to achieve faster release cycles with improved reliability for the end user.

  1. Continuous Integration (CI) 

Continuous integration is a software development practice in which the source code is regularly merged into a central repository. After the merge, automated builds and tests are run to validate the quality of the code. 

The goal of continuous integration is to find and address bugs earlier in the life-cycle, improve the overall code quality, and maximize deployment efficiency. As teams improve the overall process working in unison, the frequency will organically improve. Finding bugs earlier in the development cycle helps teams avoid potentially bigger issues once the code is released to production. Over time this also improves technical debt.

  1. Continuous Delivery (CD)

Software deployment is a process that spans build, validation, and version control to deployment and post-deployment. Continuous delivery is a software development practice and an extension of continuous integration. In CD, the development team produces the code in short cycles, which can automatically be released at any time. Any changes in the code are automatically built, tested, and released into production. 

In an organization that has properly implemented continuous delivery, developers have a deployment-ready build that has passed the standard test procedure. CD enables an automated release process on top of automated testing, and you can easily deploy with just a few clicks.This helps teams reduce the manual effort when deploying because the framework improves the testing and review steps. Ultimately this streamlines how code gets into production and then minimizes failure because of the rigor applied across all steps.

  1. Microservices 

Microservices architecture is a distributed application that combines multiple services, each performing a particular feature or function. In the microservices architectural pattern, each service can be deployed separately, run its own processes, and communicate to the other services via a web interface. The different services within a microservices architecture can be written using different languages or frameworks, and deployed independently or as a group of services. 

What makes microservices interesting is that they are closed and open at the same time. The overall architecture is open for extension via the exposed interface but closed for modification which can be implemented and versioned separately. 

In a microservices architecture, it’s easier to remove a single point of failure by ensuring that any issue in one service does not impact another. Additionally, microservices are easier to scale as the DevOps team can simply extend the functionality by adding a new microservice without affecting the rest of the application.  

  1. Infrastructure as Code

Infrastructure as code (IaC) is the practice of provisioning and managing a service’s infrastructure via coding and employing software development techniques such as version control. IaC allows teams to interact with the infrastructure programmatically instead of making the configuration changes manually or through scripts. 

In other words, the infrastructure in DevOps is treated the same as any other code. Since it is defined by code, the infrastructure and its services can be swiftly deployed using standardized patterns and updated with the latest patches and releases. With IaC, DevOps teams can test their applications earlier in the development in a production-like environment. The code is validated and tested to avoid common deployment issues. Ideally, the DevOps teams expect to provision several on-demand test environments in a reliable manner. Not only does IaC help them avoid manual configuration, but it also enforces consistency. Teams who implement IaC can deliver more stable environments rapidly, and at scale. 

  1. Configuration Management 

Configuration management is the process of managing the state of the system’s resources such as virtual machines (VM), servers, and databases. By using configuration management tools, teams can automate and standardize the otherwise manual configuration process. This prevents the system admins from having to manually configure the operating system, server software, and system apps. It also allows developers to roll out changes in a systematic manner lowering the risk of accidentally modifying system configuration. 

Configuration management is often used in conjunction with infrastructure as a code. Templating the system definition and configuration enables teams to operate complex environments at scale. 

  1. Version Control 

Version control is the practice of managing software code in versions. This helps the development team track changes, revisions, and makes it easy for developers to review and recover the code. Version control is a fundamental DevOps practice and essential in DevOps practices such as continuous integration (CI) and infrastructure as a code. 

Usually, version control is implemented using Git, which allows multiple developers to code in collaboration. Each developer works on their own copy of the code and the changes made by any developer are not merged within the master branch until it has been approved by the repository owner. This clear process of merging the code changes in the same file makes it easy to handle conflicts and roll back changes without affecting the codebase. 

  1. Continuous Monitoring 

Continuous monitoring is another critical DevOps practice. It means having complete visibility into the health and performance of the overall application stack from infrastructure to the high-level software components. The DevOps team utilizes a collection of telemetry (event data and logs) from different parts of the system. 

Continuous monitoring enhances the visibility of a system’s operations, especially ones that can trigger security breaches. By having such visibility, the DevOps team can set up alerts and work towards resolving issues as they occur. Teams can also identify performance bottlenecks and resolve them before they cause further potential damage.

DevOps teams make use of monitoring dashboards, and set-up meaningful alerts against the  collected data metrics so they can proactively watch how the services are behaving in production or in other words how users experience the parts of the service. These real-time insights allow teams to better understand how certain changes are affecting their end-users and then they can work towards fixing or improving. 

What Does it Mean to Shift Left with Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD)?

In DevOps, we often hear about the practice of shifting left to improve continuous integration and continuous delivery. The shift left concept introduces testing at an earlier stage of the SDLC. Instead of sending multiple changes to the QA or testing team at once, various tests are run throughout the development cycle to help developers fix errors quickly and early. The idea is to streamline and help improve the quality of the code. 

Not only does this concept help teams reduce incidents down the road, but it also cuts down the time and cost of fixing issues and bugs when in production, which can have detrimental impact to users and therefore the business. 

What is Automated Testing? 

Automated testing is another integral part of DevOps. Automated testing usually includes unit testing, end-to-end testing, integration testing, and performance testing. The goal of automated testing is to run more tests, increase the testing frequency, and save time spent on manual tasks during code review. Frequent and additional testing also enables the early detection of errors or anomalies and enhances the overall quality of the service. 

What Cultural Changes are Important to Make DevOps Work for Your Organization? 

The main goal of DevOps is to break-down silos and improve communication between the various sub-teams across dev and ops. A well-defined team structure works great, but a team needs to foster great communication and collaboration to actually see measurable results. 

Using DevOps tooling that all team-members have access to provides transparency. A unified view is everything! If developers are using a log management tool like Splunk to glean insights from how production is behaving, and the ops team is using a metrics-only aggregated report, they are not seeing the same patterns and trendlines. Essentially, they are speaking different languages because they are looking at totally different types of reports.

Tools help bring dev and ops teams closer together by creating a shared workflow with clear lines of ownership and responsibility, all while automating the entire process. For example, communication tools like Slack help to speed up communication across teams, which can then be shared with a broader set of stakeholders inside the org.

How can Blameless Help?

DevOps has become a popular practice within many engineering organizations. There is a growing desire to build reliable online products and services that satisfy end-user requirements and ultimately to stay competitive and grow. 

Reliability of online services is a must-have for every business. Blameless makes the process of implementing DevOps easier and brings all functional teams together, especially when it matters during on-call and during an incident. To learn more about Blameless products, check out the demo or sign up for our newsletter below.

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