One of DevOps’ most central elements is that it is part of a continuous process. Rather than implementing a set framework or a waterfall project management-style fixed path, DevOps advocates permanent cultural changes that can take varying forms across different organizations and sectors.
However, while DevOps is not quite a step-by-step guide to managing IT services, there are still several key aspects of the methodology that are universally applicable. These include the DevOps Principles that can be found wherever the methodology is employed.
What are the principles of DevOps?
The principles of DevOps can best be described as guidelines that qualified DevOps engineers can implement across DevOps cultures and lifecycles. They also have a strong presence in DevOps training syllabuses, including those offered by the DevOps Institute.
So, what are the principles of DevOps, and what do DevOps practitioners need to keep in mind when applying them?
To succeed in the digital and IT sphere, you must accept that it is constantly evolving. The most successful DevOps businesses in the world keep a constant eye on changing technology, software, legislation, and, most importantly, client expectations; all with the purpose of optimizing continuous integration (CI), continuous deployment (CD), cost-effectiveness, and everything else that ultimately generates or maintains value. As such, the idea of ‘continuous improvement’ forms one of the most basic principles of DevOps.
Of course, implementing change within an organization is never straightforward. This also leads to another aspect of succeeding in DevOps: the ability to learn from failure. DevOps teams are encouraged to experiment constantly, with many famous DevOps-powered organizations regularly setting time aside for this exact purpose. It creates opportunities to fail, but also to learn and to keep ahead of the competition by ensuring that all attempts to evolve deliver benefits in one form or another.
The core DevOps principle of continuous improvement reflects that, while evolution is crucial, it is not straightforward. DevOps cultures foster learning environments where team members feel empowered to experiment while also acknowledging that though failures will occur, they can be turned into opportunities to keep empowering evolution.
Maintain a customer focus
Focusing on how to meet the needs of customers, clients, and stakeholders governs innovation, expenditure, and virtually all other efforts within a DevOps pipeline. With limited time and resources, a business must ultimately focus on what it can do to achieve long-term goals and optimize business value. Regardless of what competitors are up to, if potential changes to digital and IT management practices have little tangible value to offer, teams cannot afford to adopt them. Indeed, it is not uncommon for DevOps teams to behave like ‘lean startups’, constantly monitoring for customer requirements while remaining aware of the bottom line.
A large part of this targeted approach relies on the performance data generated by automated processes, as well as feedback from customers. This feeds back to one of the most basic ideas behind DevOps: not working in silos and instead taking notice of activities and results throughout the development and operations lifecycles.
Work with a clear goal in mind
The idea of working with a clear long-term goal in mind is one of the biggest points that differentiate DevOps’ guiding principles from those found in waterfall models. DevOps engineers are trained to consider the big picture, such as how IT strategies align with corporate objectives, rather than focusing rigidly on individual functions and projects. Essentially, this DevOps principle is all about perspective.
So, how do DevOps engineers work according to this principle? Defining performance targets is key, but that does not necessarily mean sticking rigidly to a plan. By also focusing on the core principle of continuous improvement, teams give themselves more of a chance to meet and surpass their targets.
Performance is a key term here, as measuring the success of DevOps is not all about profit. For example, part of reaching any long-term goal in IT involves optimizing metrics such as error rates, mean time to recovery, and so on. In other words, as far as DevOps is concerned, having a ‘goal’ means making sure that every aspect of the lifecycle is aligned appropriately.
End to end responsibility
One of the most basic characteristics of DevOps is the marriage between software development (Dev) and operations (Ops). Rather than having divided teams that complete their work before passing it along, DevOps teams are built vertically; that is, they utilize engineers with a diverse set of skills and backgrounds.
Most importantly, these groups are made fully responsible for what they create, from the design stage all the way through to deployment and maintenance. For example, developers and coders will be inclined to offer ongoing support for product performance and will take greater consideration of priorities held by operations team staff such as system administrators. This method enhances the awareness that team members have of differing interests and priorities, reducing the number of errors that typically result from a more siloed approach.
Crucially, it also helps to keep the rate of development under control. When developers are left in their own teams, they will often end up focusing on release rates above all else. However, while this will drive the creation of new features and services, it can also leave operations staff extremely overworked and unable to keep up. By sharing responsibilities, team members will remain aware of how their own actions impact others, and can amend their practices accordingly.
Balanced and collaborative teams
As we mentioned previously, DevOps teams are cross-functional; that is, team members have varying specialties that fall under the banner of what constitutes a ‘DevOps engineer’.
However, despite the focus on shared responsibility and collaboration, this does not mean that functional roles become any less important. Indeed, working within a DevOps team often gives specialists more opportunities to develop their own skills while simultaneously improving their ability to collaborate with others.
An important thing to keep in mind here is that, while the idea of constant communication and the sharing of ideas, insight, and expertise may seem like a no-brainer, it does not happen automatically. Adopting DevOps’ core principles typically requires a significant shift in the cultural mindset of a company; one that must be driven by the example of executives and senior DevOps engineers.
Anyone with even a basic understanding of DevOps must’ve known this was coming sooner or later!
When it comes to DevOps cultures, automation is essential. DevOps engineers will automate whatever processes they can, including provisioning, building, testing, deployment, compliance checks, and security assessments. This not only helps to eliminate wastage but also increases efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It also enhances the reliability of processes such as security and testing, which are famous for creating bottlenecks in more traditional IT service pipelines.
Empowering automation relates to the first principle we mentioned: continuous improvement. Typically, greater automation will be empowered by investment in cloud infrastructure, as this helps to optimize the flexibility and scalability of automated processes. Automated testing and data collection also empower teams to respond more quickly to feedback, as well as performance issues.
How to adopt the principles of DevOps
At the start of this article, we mentioned the fact that DevOps principles can best be described as guidelines. DevOps is a way of working rather than a set of instructions, and its implementation will often differ across the businesses that practice it. With this in mind, the best way to utilize the principles of DevOps is to make sure you have qualified and experienced DevOps engineers on staff.
There are numerous routes to becoming a DevOps engineer. Many practitioners even disagree with the term itself, as it hides the fact that when a business will rarely need a ‘DevOps engineer’, as opposed to a specific type of specialist who happens to know how to implement DevOps principles and practices.
So, assuming that you have qualified specialists on staff, what’s next? The answer is to invest in DevOps training. While the methodology is not fixed, per se, there are practitioner organizations such as the DevOps Institute that specialize in upskilling both students and practitioners.
Good e-Learning is an award-winning online training provider, as well as a Trusted Education Partner for the DevOps Institute. We offer a number of fully accredited courses on DevOps, DevSecOps, and Site Reliability Engineering (SRE). Students have access to instructor-led videos, regular knowledge checks, free downloadable resources, and other training assets, as well as FREE exam vouchers.