The landscape of technology, particularly in the expansive realm of software development, is best imagined as shifting sands within an hourglass. Every grain is perfectly preserved within its environment but caught in temporary stillness until it is ultimately displaced. In the race to maintain relevance and productivity, development or engineering teams must collaborate to create and nurture software applications in the scope of their lifecycle — much like raising a child. The shared responsibility of raising and nurturing a child applies in the tech world as developers must pay special attention to the most granular details of the project for progress to occur. Developers must be able to focus on features of their applications that encourage continuous improvement, working under principles and processes of the Agile movement of the early 2000s. Spawned from similar concepts, DevOps expanded the potential for Agile workflows by focusing on bridging the gap between development and operations.
DevOps vs. Agile
DevOps is a conceptual approach consisting of procedures and beliefs aligned with agile practices. Agile embraces four core values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan.
Using this approach, DevOps extends the reach of this collaborative culture to include the developers who write the code and the operations who run the application in a production environment. The common thread between DevOps and agile is the collaborative culture and shared responsibility of building, testing, and releasing application software.
DevOps Roles and Responsibilities
On a high level, DevOps responsibilities span the lifecycle of an application, emphasizing continuous integration (or improvement) and delivery. Those who practice DevOps in a focused way, also labeled "DevOps engineers," should have a general understanding of agile methodology and practices, standard tooling, and deployment practices. Some examples of skills and tooling that are essential to know include automation tools (Jenkins, CircleCI), source code management (Git), repository hosting (Github, Bitbucket), containerization software (Docker, Kubernetes), monitoring (Prometheus, Splunk), project management (Jira, Monday), among others.
A dedicated DevOps engineer's specific duties and workflow vary by the organization based on need, which can be vast. There is usually a combination of responsibilities surrounding infrastructure provisioning and management, system administration, and security. The DevOps engineer as a dedicated role can be invaluable to organizations seeking to coalesce and embrace a culture of cross-collaboration. The position is vital when there is too much division between teams to operate as effectively as possible.
Organizations may carve out space to appropriately incorporate DevOps methodologies, like a dedicated team of IT professionals who specialize in providing cohesion between the units assigned to parts of the application lifecycle. The term "DevOps engineer" is somewhat controversial as DevOps cannot be relegated to a single person or team because agile is not a role or title within an organization. However, a department specializing in incorporating DevOps practices can be beneficial to organizations looking to scale their teams and maintain efficiency. Depending on the organization's needs, there are many approaches to including such a team.
Several DevOps organizational models can be used to bring in a dedicated team. As an organization scales and grows, the engineering team should adjust the DevOps approach to maintain efficiency. Incorporating DevOps means a dedicated team to carry out DevOps practices will only sometimes be necessary. The DevOps engineer learns and utilizes the most effective tooling to carry about DevOps principles and practices only until the duties become absorbed by high-performing teams.
At whatever capacity, organizations that utilize a dedicated team focused on promoting DevOps culture and practices benefit in a number of ways, including;
- Faster delivery through automated processes
- More scalability and availability
- Better resource utilization, cost reduction
- Increased innovation and collaboration
- More stable environments
- Minimized incidents, rapid response to failures with a continuous feedback loop
- More deployments