DevOps’ adoption rate has been growing steadily, with the latest report showing a jump from 10% to 17% in a single year.
One of the major challenges to DevOps adoption, however, is consolidating software and operation engineering units.
We turned to DevOps Lead and Evangelist of the top-rated Software Product Development and Cloud Engineering company Kanda Software, Nick Biryukov, for his expert insights into the best DevOps tools and best practices to help businesses make a smooth transition or improve their existing processes.
What is DevOps?
DevOps is an amalgamation of practices, tools and philosophies that aim to increase a business's capacity to deliver products and services at a higher clip.
The main DevOps goals are usually categorized into four main areas:
This is where the best DevOps tools come into play. They are the execution vessels of the DevOps philosophy, making it possible for companies to implement these value-adding processes.
Here are some interesting DevOps insights from Veritis:
- 200x deployment frequency of firms with DevOps compared to those without
- 24x frequency of faster recovery from failure and minimized downtime
- 22% minimized time on unplanned work and rework
- 440x faster lead time for changes
As it is becoming very apparent, DevOps are having a significant impact on both productivity and team culture.
Agile implementation allows monitoring while alerting the user, enabling them to prevent most of the failures before they even happen.
Let’s have a closer look at the tools that make this possible:
What Are DevOps Tools?
DevOps tools are instruments that facilitate the effective communication and sharing of project resources, data and information between the development, operations and IT teams.
The development process is a long, multi-step operation that involves many people.
As you can imagine, no single product can miraculously bridge the communication and collaboration gap between the different teams.
What usually happens when you’re introducing the DevOps approach, is attaching a dedicated DevOps role to each product team.
It provides a common baseline to quickly and efficiently build a Dev-Ops bridge and boost automation adoption.
Apart from the team management aspect of things, there is also a specific suite of tools that is necessary for achieving smooth implementation.
Different tools address different areas of the process assisting in areas such as:
- Monitoring and Alerts
- Security and Compliance
In What Technology Areas Can DevOps Practices Be Applied?
Once DevOps practices matured and proved their efficiency, they became widely adopted and applied in many technology areas such as Engineering Domains:
- NetDev (DevOps for Networking engineers)
- SRE (DevOps for Systems Engineers)
- SecTestOps (DevOps for Security/Compliance engineers)
The Agile manifesto points out the value of individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
Perhaps, the most important thing about DevOps, is that it brought together business visionaries and engineers, combining their skills and experience to define a new agile way of doing things.
The essence of DevOps tools is one of a community driven by the desire to resolve traditional challenges in modern ways.
Best Practices In Using DevOps Tools
DevOps tools cover a variety of areas in the development process. As you can imagine, there needs to be a set of practices that indicates ownership, usability and rulesets.
Kanda Software’s Nick Biryukov highlights that strategic implementation and use of these tools will determine their effectiveness.
He recommends these best practices to help you understand where they sit and how to optimize their role within your organization:
Best Practice #1: Service Portfolio
As we have already established, there’s a variety of DevOps tools. To differentiate the good tools from the best DevOps tools understand:
- Where are they stored?
- Who has access?
- What are the best practices for using them?
According to Nick, maintaining a centralized hub for these tools ensures that there is clarity and transparency. A single place where teams can share and make the most of the tools.
Best Practice #2: Automate Testing
Testing is an integral part of development. In order to achieve maximum results, testing should happen during or even before development, depending on the application/service requirements.
It should be continuous and frequent, but not time-consuming or manual. In order to speed up the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) there is a line-up of appropriate automation tools to choose from.
For sensitive apps where a lot of users can be affected, one of the well-known strategies is Test-Driven Development (TDD).
Behaviour-Driven Development (BDD) is also very popular. It allows the use of literal primitives to quickly build a test by non-technical team members without using programming at all.
Best Practice #3: Continuous Deployment
The idea is simple: instead of displaying the entire code in one go, it is deployed in chunks, once it has been cleared from the test cases in QA and UAT.
The best part about this process is that it requires little to no human input. The tools are responsible for automating the process and deploying the code.
The benefits are clear. By segmenting both the testing and deployment, the process becomes faster and more efficient.
According to Nick, finding yourself on the wrong side of a manual deployment can be devastating for your company. Here are some examples:
- Amazon - Only a few years back, a typo by an Amazon employee during a manual deployment was responsible for bringing down a lot of servers and a huge chunk of the Internet. According to analysis by Cyence, the 4-hour meltdown caused S&P 500 companies to lose around $150 million. Here is the incident explained by Amazon.
- Knight Capital - Probably the most notorious example of the horrors of manual deployment, Knight Capital lost $440 million in 2012 due to such an error. The legend still lives on and it’s one of the reasons DevOps have become a necessity.
5 Best DevOps Tools On The Market
Though they use dozens of tools to streamline their processes and optimize performance, Nick Biryukov recommends these five as the most efficient in helping businesses transition to or improve their DevOps processes:
DevOps Tool #1: Jenkins
Jenkins is the most popular open-source continuous integration server. It automates the entire building process of a software project.
What makes this DevOp tool stand out is the Pipeline feature. It automatically transfers code into the repository, initiates testing, and generates reports.
Its most notable benefits are:
- Highly customizable
- Provides instant feedback
- Automates most tasks in SDLC allowing team members to increase their output
- Easy installation
- Easy distribution of work across multiple machines and platforms
Jenkins is one of the first tools forged during the DevOps growth.
It’s a universal automation framework applicable for a variety of use cases starting from Build-Test-Deploy pipelines to repeating by schedule tasks or event-triggered actions.
The reason behind its popularity is the number of integrations developed by the DevOps community. Jenkins provides great API opportunities that enable easy integrations with numerous platforms, tools and environments.
DevOps Tool #2: Docker
Docker is a relatively new, yet revolutionary toolset that allows teams to securely package, deploy and run applications regardless of the infrastructure.
This is also known as containerization.
Docker provides the team with the ability to run isolated containers in a secure way, limiting system resources, providing virtual network interface and storage, all in one command.
Here are the advantages that have made Docker one of the most popular tools in the market:
- Portability - once you have tested an application, you can rest assured that transferring it to another system will yield the same results and performance.
- Scalability - Docker allows you to quickly create new containers in order to address the needs of new applications.
- Isolation - Using Docker ensures you have clear segregation of resources and applications, with one not interfering with the others.
Docker was the first tool on the market to significantly reduce workflow complexity of wrapping isolated environments with a simple build procedure.
It allows users to transfer those environments through the Docker Hub, and elegantly deploy it across the Win, Mac and Linux platforms.
According to Nick, the key to Docker success is the comprehensiveness of its learning curve to developers.
The love of the Dev community showcases the role of Docker in the DevOps evolution – it was the point in the story where Dev and Ops had access to an “interface” that works equally well for both sides.
DevOps Tool #3: Ansible
Ansible is an open-source DevOps tool specializing in:
- Software provisioning
- Configuration management
- Application deployment
- Delegating infrastructure as code
Ansible is characterized by the simplicity of its make-up and the potential of its power. It mainly automates IT-related challenges.
Here are the main luxuries afforded by Ansible:
- It’s free
- Extremely easy to set up and operate
- Very powerful - addresses very complex IT problems
- Agentless - it doesn’t need agents to work which means less management and less maintenance
Ansible is very popular amongst the DevOps community as it can save you a lot of time in performing highly repetitive tasks on your infrastructure.
Ansible is not a “first-wave” DevOps tool. It was first launched when Chef, Puppet and Salt-stack started to address complexity of infrastructure automation at scale.
One of the core advantages of Ansible is its human-readable configuration format – it was the first tool that used YAML format.
Another advantage is an excellent modular design of the application written in Python that due to its simplicity has enabled Ansible to spread widely across DevOps community as a replacement for BASH.
It works for Dev and Ops simultaneously. As result, its rapidly decreasing learning curve allowed users to set it up and take their first steps within hours rather than days.
DevOps Tool #4: Puppet
Puppet is another open-source system that helps with configuration management, centralization and automation.
It makes your infrastructure actionable, scalable and intelligent. Here are the three main functionalities that make Puppet popular:
- It defines specific configurations for every host, and it uninterruptedly runs checks to ensure everything is running smoothly
- It provides dynamic scaling of machines
- It gives total access and power to the user over all configured machines, so one change is automatically bred across all of them
According to Nick, Puppet brings with it some powerful benefits:
- It allows teams to release new features to market more frequently
- The responsibility for software delivery is evenly distributed between IT operations, software development, QA and product owners, creating a healthier working environment
- Puppet possesses an extensive, user-created and maintained wiki with countless pages of documentation and comprehensive resources for both languages and resource types
DevOps practices matured in waves. Each of them summarized the previous experience and reassessed the “old” agenda.
Puppet was one of the first DevOps tools on the market, however, by constantly reassessing the DevOps culture and processes, it managed to keep adding value and new features.
With an excellent modular design, Puppet quickly became an effective tool that solved repeating operations tasks, eliminating the human error factor. Before the “Container” world, it was often used as a part of deployment pipelines with Jenkins or other automation frameworks.
DevOps Tool #5: Kubernetes
Kubernetes is the most popular and prolific open-source container orchestration tool in the market.
It was billed as the ‘future of cloud computing’ for its revolutionary ability to automate computer application deployment, scaling and management.
Nick highlights these advantages of Kubernetes:
- Productivity: Kubernetes boasts a vast line-up of tools in its ecosystem which essentially condense release cycles, streamline engineering workflows and substantially better software quality.
- Stability: Kubernetes offers users peace of mind and a tool that is both reliable and trustworthy.
- Adaptability: Kubernetes has the impressive ability to scale up or down, depending on the needs of your application. It adapts according to workload and uses resources appropriately.
How Do You Choose The Best DevOps Tools For Your Business?
To choose the right tools for your business, you need to ask the right questions.
Question #1: Do I Need DevOps Tools?
Following a trend, because it’s current and popular can lead to problems rather than solutions for your company.
“Before choosing the best DevOps tools, you need to build a business case for why you need them,” says Nick.
Wanting to optimize operations and processes for speed is not a substantial enough reason to dive into DevOps.
You need to be able to clearly identify the business benefits associated with these optimizations.
Question #2: What Do DevOps Mean For Your Organization?
DevOps is a broad business approach, a mindset and a theory that preaches automation, agile methods and collaboration.
According to Nick, in order to start using the practice, you need to identify which of those aspects apply to the wants, needs, goals and strategy of your business.
If you can answer that question clearly and precisely, it will create internal transparency and clarity. Team members will be able to understand and subscribe to the introduction of DevOps.
Question #3: Do You Have A Plan?
Planning is integral to DevOps success. Involved teams need to identify metrics, constraints and objectives.
By doing so, it becomes much easier to assess the needs of the team and the necessary tools that will be needed in order to address the pain points.
A practical implementation of DevOps practices is a serious challenge for any company.
On one hand, DevOps is just a set of tools. On the other hand, added value can only be realized when complemented with a clear Agile business vision and management readiness to give decision-making process to internal teams.
An absence of a vision will lead to not only significant errors but also additional costs associated with labor and technology maintenance.
Takeaways on The Best DevOps Tools
Your company is in an advantageous position to choose from a wide array of tools that address different parts of the process.
From development and testing to deployment and monitoring, these tools can significantly add value to the company.
The value is two-fold: it enhances productivity but most importantly, it creates a healthier, more progressive company culture.
Choosing the best DevOps tools is not like picking products off the shelf. It needs time and meticulous preparation.
Each company needs to tailor the DevOps tool suite to its own industry, teams and objectives.
We hope our best DevOps tools handbook has helped you find what you’re looking for.