Want to know more about the DevOps lifecycle? We explain the seven phases in DevOps, and how each one plays a vital role in the development process.
What is the DevOps lifecycle?
The DevOps lifecycle consists of the following phases:
What is DevOps?
DevOps is a methodology for software development where the teams that write the code and the teams that ensure the code is operating properly work together through the whole process. The name comes from the combination of “development” and “operations”, the two major teams involved. The teams meet to ensure that operations requirements are met during software design, and that all the software features are feasible to operate.
The best practices of DevOps were developed to build this relationship. Without DevOps, organizations could suffer from siloed structures where development “throws code over the wall” to operations. This lack of communication makes code less functional and slows development. With DevOps principles, both teams understand each others’ needs, reducing turmoil and wasted time.
The DevOps Lifecycle
DevOps is structured around the DevOps Lifecycle, a series of processes meant to guide you through writing, testing, deploying, and running code. This DevOps workflow isn’t just a linear step-by-step process. Instead, phases are initiated and then continue to iterate throughout the whole project. A project could go through these processes multiple times before it’s completed.
The DevOps lifecycle is flexible and can respond to changes in requirements. You can rearrange the ordering and duration of phases as needed. However, it is important to keep in mind. These principles give you a structure to build your own practices around. You can be assured that if you follow all of the stages of the lifecycle, you’ll see improvements in your development speed and reliability.
The stages of the DevOps lifecycle
At the start of the DevOps lifecycle is development of the code for the project. In this phase, the requirements of the project are laid out and agreed upon. Many teams are involved in this stage - developers, operators, product designers, and executives. The needs of the entire organization from the project are conveyed and translated into coding requirements. Then the code itself is written by the developers.
This stage is extremely important, as it lays the foundation for the entire project. However, these decisions aren’t set in stone. Development is a continuous process. As requirements for the project change, the teams reconvene to reevaluate how to make coding changes. Even when the code is in production, operating challenges may require more development. Keeping up communication between developers and operators is key.
The best practices, tools, and possible automation for this phase depend on your development setup. For the most part, you’ll just be relying on your normal development practices. However, there are some things you should consider to take full advantage of the DevOps lifecycle. For example:
- Review previous incident retrospectives to identify potential operations issues early
- Build incident response processes like automated runbooks alongside the code they support
- Integrate monitoring tools into your code as you build it
By anticipating the needs of future steps in the lifecycle, you can make your development more ready and robust. Once the code is ready for deployment, you can move on to other steps. There are a few things to take care of before deployment, though.
No code is an island. At the integration stage, developers and operators work together to make sure the new code is compatible with the existing code base. In modern development practices, many organizations often use containers and microservices to break their code down into smaller functional components. Integrating third party services into the application is also common.
With this complex structure, it’s likely that bugs will be exposed during integration. This stage is important to help catch these bugs. This stage could involve many different development teams, as you need to understand the code that the new code will integrate into. Working through the different integrations can benefit greatly from tooling and automation. These tools can stage interactions to test for errors. Once you’ve handled the main challenges of integration, you can start testing in full.
Testing is an essential part of the DevOps lifecycle. Testing helps your code become more reliable and allows for faster future deployment. This is another process that continues into operation of the code. It’s handled by developers, operators, and any additional teams that work on testing, such as QA teams or SREs.
To make continuous testing easier, use tools and automation. You’ll want to run through a series of tests to ensure each new change hasn’t introduced new bugs. This becomes very labour intensive without automated testing. These tools simulate usage of your service to see what issues arise. Testing will never be finished, but the next stages can begin concurrently.
Once your new project is running in production, monitoring is what allows you to make informed decisions and respond to incidents. Although you monitor your service in use, you have to consider monitoring before deployment. Early in the development stage, you should ensure that the code you’re producing can be accessed by your monitoring tools. They should be able to report on whether your service is still responding quickly and accurately.
Monitoring data should be available to all areas of the organisation. Every team can benefit from understanding the health of services. You might also have teams that focus particularly on monitoring, such as NOCs. Best practices like golden signals and building SLOs help you focus on just the metrics that reflect user happiness. You should have your target metrics and goals set up before you deploy. When the code is deployed, make sure your monitoring practices are still accounting for everything.
Feedback is a very general process, but an important one. All of the processes in DevOps are based around learning and continuous improvement. Each stage involves making changes, seeing the results of those changes, and making further changes based on this feedback. Therefore it is critical to set up infrastructure for this learning to be communicated back to those making the actual code changes.
Setting up feedback infrastructure may seem simple, but the number of involved stakeholders make it complex. You have to look at what you’ve learned in many contexts, such as business success, product design, operational challenges, and user experience. Experts in all these areas should be consulted. Communication tools can be helpful, especially when processing feedback from emergency situations. Having good incident response procedures makes these channels effective. Make sure that people are ready to communicate whenever anything goes wrong.
Your feedback channels also need feedback. As your project proceeds, make sure you’re still accounting for all stakeholders. For example, as your project is deployed, you’ll have to start considering how customers are using the services, in other words interacting with the code in production. Track follow-up actions to ensure your learning is actually having an effect. Like many of these stages, feedback is never a finished process. Make sure you’re ready to learn from feedback before you proceed to deployment. Cycle times will vary and the feedback loop may start out slow, but it should speed up as teams become familiar with how it works and how to efficiently communicate both up and down the chain.
Deployment is the stage that everything has been building towards. This is where the project that the teams have been working on is actually made available to users. However, this also isn’t a one-and-done process. DevOps advocates continuous deployment, where small updates to the service are constantly pushed out. As feedback comes in from other stages in the DevOps lifecycle, changes need to be quickly deployed to users in response.
There are many best practices and tools that can help with deployment. Container orchestration allows you to automate deploying new chunks of code. These incremental changes reduce the risk of major deployment issues, increasing reliability. The operations team leads deployment, but remains in contact with developers in case things need to change. Once your project is deployed, you can move on to the final stage of the DevOps lifecycle, operations.
Operations is the final stage of the lifecycle, where you maintain your project after it’s running in the hands of end-users. It lasts for the entire time the project is part of the service. The operations team holds the main responsibility for keeping the service healthy. They work in conjunction with teams focused on monitoring and incident response. Operators stay in communication with development teams during regular daily operations. Lessons learned during this phase need to feed back into ongoing development. This loop is the most essential piece of the DevOps lifecycle.
Many tools and best practices can help maintain your code. Incident response is essential; no matter how well you’ve implemented these stages, some amount of failure is inevitable. Some important parts of incident response involve:
- Creating and automating runbooks
- Understanding the impact of incidents with SLOs and classification systems
- Making fair on-call schedules
- Making and reviewing incident retrospectives to learn the most you can from each incident.
Making sure your code stays operational even when things go wrong is the challenge of operations. Keep the lifecycle flowing by keeping your code running.
Blameless can help with these incident response tasks, communications, and more. It serves as a hub for the learning you need and is a catalyst that brings the entire DevOps lifecycle together and humming along. Well, that’s the ultimate goal. To find out