IT teams

Stable, reliable IT teams that respond to customer needs   

The adoption of technology and agile frameworks are a must for companies that want to be and stay competitive successfully in a market that is increasingly specialized and focused on the personalization of the customer experience, so frameworks such as DevOps should be considered if you are looking to delve into practices and tools so that software development service teams gain the ability to better respond to customer needs, increase confidence and stability in the applications they create, and achieve time-to-market . opportunely.

How does DevOps influence the application life cycle to accelerate the response time of organizations in the market in which they participate? 

DevOps is understood as the union of people, processes and products to achieve the delivery of continuous value to the business through generic stages that lead to good DevOps practice, these stages are: planning, development that includes the coding phases, compilation, testing, release and delivery, finally operation and monitoring. Each phase builds on the others. In companies where the DevOps culture was truly internalized, each role is involved in each phase.

DevOps Planning Stage: 

In the planning phase, teams ideate, define, and describe features and functionalities of applications and systems. They track progress at low and high levels of granularity, from single-product tasks to tasks that span multiple products and/or applications and systems. Creating pending tasks, tracking bugs. All this through managing agile software development with frameworks such as Scrum, the use of Kanban and visualizing progress with dashboards are some of the ways in which DevOps teams plan with agility  and visibility. 

DevOps Development Stage: 

Development includes all aspects of coding , writing, testing , reviewing, and integrating code by team members, as well as creating that code into build artifacts that can be deployed to various development environments. development and testing until production delivery. For this purpose, version control tools are used , such as  Git , which is widely adopted and free, creating the branches or “branch” necessary to collaborate on the code and work in parallel. DevOps is highly linked to automation, so highly productive tools are used for development that automate manual steps, and iterate in small increments through automated testing and  continuous code integration .

A rule for automation: if a process within the development cycle is performed manually more than three times in a month then it is a candidate for automation.

Continuous integration (CI) together with continuous delivery (CD) are the set of good habits that high-performance development teams adopt to transform ideas into consumable products for an end user. These habits are both the automated processes and the team group behaviors necessary for this purpose. 

CI/CD Deployment Benefits:  

  • Developers can detect code integration issues on an ongoing basis, largely avoiding conflicts around release dates.
  • Constant availability of a test version for Demos or even to be re-released in production.
  • Continuous testing: immediate execution of automated tests. 

In essence, a pipeline is a digital assembly line that helps visualize the software creation process just as Henry Ford did in 1913 with assembly lines to create mass automobiles.

In CI/CD when we talk about pipelines we refer to the series of steps necessary to take an idea from its conception to becoming an installed application, a deployed web page or a mobile application downloaded on a user’s smartphone.

If development teams are just starting to practice DevOps, many of these steps are still manual. For example, the developer who compiles the product in their environment which is manually pushed to production or the person on the quality team who performs manual testing. The IT operations team that creates virtual machines by hand despite being steps that seem short and with minimal human effort, however, in the long term, have a very high cost: knowledge (experts) is created that is not always transmitted to other team members, on the other hand, time is spent on repetitive tasks that leave little time for creativity, innovation and strategy.

To better understand CI/CD let’s divide it into: CI Pipeline and CD Pipeline.

CI Pipeline is the process of automating code building and testing whenever a team member commits changes to  version control. CI checks in changes to a shared version control repository after each small task is completed. Commit code triggers an automated build system to get the latest code from the shared repository and build, test, and commit the entire  main or trunk branch .

CI emerged as a procedure because software developers often work in isolation, they need to integrate their changes with the rest of the team’s code base. Waiting days or weeks to integrate code creates many integration conflicts or merges , difficult to fix errors and duplicate efforts. CI requires that the development team’s code be merged into a continuously shared version control branch to avoid these problems.

Static code analysis or automatic code review tools help us fail fast, it is a good practice in the compilation stage to find potential problems and bugs in the newly created code. Some suggested tools are: Resharper, Sonarqube and Coverity for this purpose.

CI/CD allows us to have a constant flow, testing is no exception, this is how we have the practice of continuous testing (CT) or continuous testing that allows us to achieve robust systems through automated tests to avoid technical debt as much as possible. Tools like Apache JMeter, Taurus, and BlazeMeter help in executing automated tests. To reinforce the habit of creating tests during the software development cycle, there is Test Driven Development (TDD) where before coding, test units are created that will test the developed code.

During each stage of the DevOps cycle we find different types of tests to be carried out and that are viable for automation, such as unit tests, integration tests, user acceptance tests, performance and load tests, security and vulnerability tests (pentest). mention a few. This is why DevOps has now become DevSecOps, integrating security throughout the software development cycle.

Additionally, to achieve the required automation, the selection of an appropriate development environment is required. The goal is for developers to spend the majority of their time on development tasks with business value, such as editing and debugging code. Having the right set of tools can make the difference between maximum productivity and sub-optimal performance. Integrated development environments (IDEs) have evolved greatly. Today, developers have the ability to perform almost all of their DevOps tasks within a single user experience allowing them to execute all phases of the software lifecycle.

The coordination of the automated processes we described above is known as “ orchestration .” Currently, you come across a variety of orchestration tools on the market such as Jenkins, GoCD, GitLab, BitBucket Pipelines, Jira Software, and Azure Devops of which several are free.

In each of the CI/CD stages, these orchestrators integrate with other tools through their APIs (application programming interface) or CLIs (command line interfaces). It is this integration that produces the feeling of having a workflow just like assembly lines do in factories.

Orchestrators allow developers to have a visual representation of the flow and detect problems in it to prevent them from progressing to later stages.

It is important to choose an orchestrator that promotes the “Pipeline-as-Code” concept. It is about representing the pipelines in code so that they can be stored in our versioning tool and modified by team members when necessary and serve as living documentation. 

Delivery Stage: 

Delivery is the process of deploying applications to production environments reliably and periodically through continuous delivery. The delivery phase also includes the implementation and configuration of the infrastructure that constitutes those environments in which the applications will run. These environments typically use   infrastructure as code (IaC),  containers, and microservices technologies.

Infrastructure as code is the use of Cloud era technologies to build and manage dynamic infrastructure, through the use of tools and software development services that manage the infrastructure itself as software. Platforms such as AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Platform have automated processes that offer users tools to provision infrastructure and that link to CI/CD pipelines, especially for testing stages throughout the DevOps cycle. An example of this type of tools is Terraform, Azure Resource Manager from Azure, CloudFormation from AWS.

Continuous delivery (CD) is the process of testing, configuring, and deploying from a build to a production environment. Continuous integration  starts the CD process. Without CDs, software release cycles were previously a bottleneck for applications and operations teams. Manual processes led to unreliable releases that produced delays and errors.

Automated release delivery enables a “fast fail” approach to validation, where tests where errors occur are run first and longer running tests are only produced after faster ones complete successfully.

To implement an automated CD pipeline or delivery scripts, you need to use tools such as Chef, Puppet or Ansible to deploy your artifacts in the intended environment. Considering database upgrades at this stage is good practice. Depending on the environment to which the deployment is carried out, the execution of automated tests can be chained to the CD pipeline to increase the quality of the product to be deployed.

When the level of technological and team maturity increases, releases in production are carried out more frequently (2 weeks to less than 2 months) and without interruption of service, this is actually called “ continuous delivery”. If the delivery of IT equipment is longer than 2 months, important business opportunities are surely being lost to the competition.

Agile Testing: collaborative work that helps reduce the Time-to-Market of software products. 

Operation and monitoring 

The operations phase involves  maintaining, monitoring, and troubleshooting applications in production environments, typically hosted on public and hybrid clouds. In adopting DevOps practices, teams work to ensure system reliability, high availability, and achieve zero downtime while strengthening security and monitoring.

In a DevOps practice, teams employ secure deployment practices to identify issues before they impact the customer experience and quickly mitigate issues when they occur. This through the increase of feedback cycles at different levels of monitoring:

  • Business Monitoring: Business KPIs.
  • Application Monitoring: Instrumentation embedded in applications.
  • Server monitoring: CPU performance, memory, hard disk space.
  • Network Monitoring. Bandwidth, latency, performance, network errors.

Maintaining this vigilance requires metrics, actionable alerts, and complete visibility into applications and their dependencies to proactively recognize business impacts. This is why “instrumentation” is defined as the ability to design software so that it is monitorable.

For example: if you add logs to applications and centralize them in the same point to be analyzed with tools like Splunk and GrayLog.

To monitor the infrastructure, tools such as AWS Cloud Watch, DataDog, Prometheus and dashboard visualization tools such as Grafana and Kibana.

The use of a change management tool to visualize, manage and audit these changes such as Fresh Service or Service Now or with a Kanban board. To begin with, it is advisable to manage the changes that occur in the productive environment.

Once we know all this, what next? Where to start? We need to know and evaluate what stage of the DevOps journey our custom software development company area is in and define the steps to advance it.

Evaluate your company’s Technological Maturity Model, where at least 3 areas are considered:

  • culture (people).
  • processes.
  • technology.
  • and at what level of compliance is found in each of them.

Creating strategies to advance and mature in each area and at the different levels of each one. Adopting new processes, working on people’s culture of innovation and implementing tools that allow the management and automation of processes.

DevSecOps process for software development and secure infrastructure.

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