When you look at many of the most successful companies that rely on IT-powered products and services, a term that you will often see mentioned is ‘DevOps’. This methodology marries ‘Development’ and ‘Operations’, encouraging widespread collaboration. At the same time, it also establishes Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) using increased automation.
Rather than a strictly-defined framework like PRINCE2 or ITIL 4, DevOps is an organic movement: a management methodology that specifies a number of elements essential to a productive and collaborative IT environment. It also continues to evolve as its global practitioner community tackles emerging issues and finds new ways to innovate.
These essential elements go hand in hand with the methodology’s continuous evolution when it comes to ‘DevOps tools’. These are used to facilitate key aspects of DevOps cultures, such as:
- Continuous Integration (CI)
- Continuous Delivery (CD)
Given the global popularity of the DevOps methodology, the sheer number of tools that are out there should come as no surprise. However, there is no ‘best DevOps tool’, so to speak. The reason for this is that the tools are developed for a variety of purposes, with dozens of options available to DevOps teams for most tasks.
Generally, it is a DevOps engineer’s job to choose the most appropriate tool for a given task based on its efficiency, functions, potential for integration, and so on. Eventually, they will create a comprehensive toolbox known as a ‘DevOps toolchain’.
With that in mind, a better question to ask would be…
What are DevOps tools used for?
When looking at what problems can be solved using DevOps tools, a common factor you will witness is ‘automation’. DevOps automation tools are used to automate manual tasks for the sake of optimizing not only efficiency, but also reliability. This is essential for ensuring that all aspects of a DevOps culture can keep up with fast-paced developer environments without having to sacrifice quality.
- DevOps continuous integration tools – ‘Integration’ refers to software developers integrating code into a shared repository. It is a building block for building software, but can be extremely tedious and inefficient as a manual process. A continuously active tool can handle automated building, self-testing, and even reporting. This approach allows integration to occur several times a day, with the verification process ensuring that any issues within code are highlighted immediately. Less time is needed for fixing code as a result, giving developers more time to create new software and features. Examples include Jenkins, Apache Gump, Bamboo, and Go CD
- DevOps continuous deployment tools – ‘Deployment’ refers to releasing software into production. Automated tools can verify and release code quickly, allowing it to go into production right after being committed. A DevOps CD pipeline will generally focus on smaller ‘low risk’ releases, as this makes it easier to adapt projects in response to environmental changes, new client requirements, and so on. The right tool can help make releases fare more predictable, reliable, and frequent, greatly reducing time to market. Examples of automated deployment tools include Jenkins, TeamCity, Octopus Deploy, and ElectricFlow
- DevOps security tools – Like in operations, the speed of most security best practices has also been falling behind those of development teams in recent years. Because of this, security needs to shift left. This led to the creation of ‘Rugged DevOps’, as well as ‘DevSecOps’ and DevSecOps tools. With security embedded in CI and CD pipelines, code can be analyzed and reviewed automatically. This not only greatly speeds up checks designed to help remove vulnerabilities and protect clients, but also makes them more reliable. This is particularly important given the presence of compliance regulations such as the GDPR. Examples include Codacy, Acunetix, Contrast Security, WhiteSource
- DevOps automated testing tools – Being able to quickly test and approve code is essential for maintaining the velocity of an IT pipeline. Speed is almost a given in this day and age, but teams must also invest time in risk management to prioritize the safety and reliability of code. The right tool can fully meet a business’s end-to-end testing requirements. Examples include VFT, Tricentis Tosca, SeaLights, and Testsigma
- DevOps collaboration tools – Collaboration and communication between teams and departments is another crucial element of DevOps. Tools are used to remove the silos preventing the flow of inspiration and expertise. DevOps teams can share work and arrange schedules with ease (which can be of IMMENSE help when experiencing the growing pains of first adopting a DevOps culture). Best of all, many of the most widely used communication tools can be used for free! Popular examples include Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Rational Doors Next Generation (DNG)
- DevOps planning tools – Optimizing clarity within a DevOps culture means ensuring that dependencies, goals, and relationships are clarified for stakeholders and team members. While this certainly helps with ongoing efficiency and collaboration, it also helps highlight the presence of conflicting goals and priorities, as well as bottlenecks that need to be revisited. Popular examples include Jira, Monday, Trello, and Asana
- DevOps source control tools – Tools for source control, also known as ‘version control’, are used to track changes to and collaborate on code. This is crucial for projects that have more than one developer, as well as scaling up existing DevOps pipelines. Different options offer centralized systems for storing and organizing files, easy access to a software repository, and so on. Popular examples include Beanstalk, GitHub, and Kallithea
- DevOps issue tracking tools – These tools are used to track changes in CI and CD pipelines, as well as enable support management. They can often be programmed to send customized notifications regarding certain types of flaws or attacks, along with suggestions for any necessary repair work. Examples include Overops, WhiteSource Bolt, Mantis Bug Tracker, and Zendesk
- DevOps configuration management tools – These are used to systematically manage changes to a system in a way that maintains integrity. As well as tracking and controlling changes, they can also automatically reject or approve and deploy them. Users can also access different or previous versions of a framework. Examples include Puppet Chef, Ansible, CFEngine, Chef, and Puppet
- DevOps database management tools – These tools will help make sure that the database at the heart of your DevOps operation remains stable. As important as they are for sustaining resource access, reducing deployment costs, mitigating risks, enabling secure change management, and so on, database tools have not received as much attention in recent years as others. A database tool can handle processes like database verification, database build automation, and enforced database source control. Popular examples include dbForge Source Control, ApexSQL, MongoDB, and SQLite
- DevOps monitoring tools – As you can likely tell by now, there is a lot to fit into a standard DevOps toolchain. A monitoring tool will provide information from across a DevOps pipeline, supplying metrics on performance, network strength, data aggregation, cross-analysis, or anything else related to continuous integration, deployment, and delivery. This helps DevOps engineers to optimize performance, minimize downtime, and solve ongoing issues. Popular examples include New Relic, AppDynamics, Sensu, Prometheus, BigPanda, and PagerDuty
How do I choose the right DevOps tools?
There is a great deal of competition out there as far as DevOps toolchains are concerned. Indeed, there are even tools that cover several of the functions listed above.
When training for DevOps certification, prospective engineers will study how to select the most effective and appropriate DevOps tools. This is based on the exact requirements of an organization and its DevOps pipeline. Senior DevOps engineers will often also have experience working with multiple applications, as well as frameworks like ITIL and Lean.
While there is the option to hire a freelance DevOps engineer for this purpose, having qualified engineers on hand can lead to much better results. For one, your own DevOps engineers will be better able to assess whether a given tool will suit your specific organizational structure, requirements, goals, and so on. Remember, DevOps is a continuous solution that requires knowledgeable practitioners to generate optimized value.