If you’re reading this you’re probably already familiar with the term DevOps, but for the uninitiated, it’s a combination of two words: “development” and “operations.” Conceptually, it assumes both broad and specific forms. There’s DevOps the philosophy, which seeks to encourage cross-team collaboration, and there’s DevOps the practice, which concerns the tools and processes that improve software development. It’s process that we’re interested in today.
To understand something, it’s often best to break it apart and examine its components. The curious among us do this by nature, and it’s something that helps tech experts excel. The same applies to DevOps. If you want to talk shop with the developers in your organization, you should first understand the stages of the DevOps lifecycle.
The first of the DevOps phases technically consists of two parts: planning code and writing code. Here the project team strategically chips away at the development process until smaller, more manageable development cycles remain.
In the planning phase, the team identifies and digests the business need before gathering feedback from end users so it knows what to improve and, equally importantly, why. It creates a roadmap to track development and ensure key deliverables are met on time, with tools such as Jira assisting sprint planning and issue monitoring.
The code-writing phase then begins. This requires the help of a version control tool, such as Git, which helps developers to track the changes they make to their code. It also helps the team with coding practices, no matter the language, and minimizes the risk of security vulnerabilities.
The integration phase is central to the DevOps lifecycle and might be the most important, with the developers committing the new code to a shared code repository via build tools. Some of the most popular tools include Jenkins, GitHub, and GitLab, though it’s worth doing your research before making a decision, as each tool handles the integration and delivery portions differently.
The source code is changed frequently during this phase — daily or weekly — and every commit is built, which means any bugs are identified quickly.
Code that increases functionality and security is added and continuously tested to reflect the evolving end-user experience, usually in a testing or staging version. One challenge is ensuring the updated code works well with other systems with which it must integrate. The endgame is hopefully a secure, flexible, and user-friendly product.
The code the developers have built and updated is then tested for bugs, unforeseen errors, and other issues, with quality assurers (QAs) using Docker containers to simulate a test environment. Automation is critical here, as it saves the developers the capacity they would otherwise sacrifice with manual testing.
Automated tests that span user interface (UI) testing, load testing, and security scanning are run repeatedly, generating reports that simplify evaluation and highlight areas of risk. And, unfortunately, there is always risk. If the team finds a bug the project returns to the integration phase to be amended (though some teams prefer the testing phase to precede the integration phase).
Testing is ultimately a big step involving various stakeholders, and doing it well is crucial to integrating the product flawlessly. It’s here that the QA team earns its money.
Once the team has tested the new code it must be deployed to the production environment — a tricky process. For always-on apps or live service games, this means that updates need to be pushed in a way that causes minimal disturbance and which, ideally, incurs no downtime. Here the team holds its breath as validated code is unleashed on real users for the first time.
The team must configure and maintain consistency in the product’s functionality at this stage, so configuration management — achieved using a tool such as Chef — is crucial. The code should be deployed accurately on every available server so that scheduled releases aren’t required. If successful, this will hasten the feedback process and allow the developers to fix any issues rapidly.
Now that the software is live with end-users its health must be continuously monitored, as unexpected challenges are abundant in the wild. This phase is therefore about having the right tools (think Splunk) to gather usage data, so recurring system errors can be understood and overcome.
Any significant issues unearthed during monitoring will mean the software must be rerun through all earlier DevOps stages — bliss!
In the feedback phase, the team’s improvements made during the integration and testing phases are analyzed. The aim is to define the impact of the updates on the product, and inviting client feedback is the favored method. A new iteration may then appear as a result of the feedback analysis, which will involve stakeholders such as the product team and management.
Feedback can be obtained freely from sources like social media but can also be harvested in a more controlled manner using polls and focus groups. The goal is the same — to understand users’ experience with the product.
The operations phase is the shortest but by no means unimportant. It is concerned with continuity and enabling the team to work undisturbed. The aim is to automate the process of releasing the product and associated updates.
Bonus — continuous operations
This isn’t quite an eighth stage, but we’ll include it as a bonus ball. Continuous operations is the evolution of shorter development cycles that enable the organization to increase speed and market the product constantly.
Business benefits of the DevOps lifecycle
You now know the seven (and a bit) stages of a healthy DevOps lifecycle. Adhering to these stages can benefit businesses in numerous ways, including:
- Improved customer experience — apps are always on, always improving, and always working at their best
- Digital transformation — organizations can move their operations to the cloud and become digital native without affecting their development processes
- Reduced production costs — a smooth development process allows businesses to cut managerial and overall production costs
- Better products — increased collaboration between devs and IT operations optimizes the feedback process, so product quality improves
- Faster development cycles — development is not linear, so there is no more starting from scratch
At Incredibuild, we love helping companies speed up their development so they can exceed their customers’ expectations with regular new products and improvements.
Learn how we help enterprises such as Microsoft iterate by visiting our dev acceleration page.