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The Evolution of DevOps

Written By Keith Kuchler, vice president of engineering, SolarWinds

Most companies today, no matter their size, would not achieve optimal velocity and higher code quality without utilizing DevOps practices. By now, we know DevOps is not merely a change of processes brought into IT and dev teams; instead, it's a cultural shift that must take place across the organization, bringing all teams together to drive more rapid innovation in products and services, which results in overall speed of delivery and growth for the company. A DevOps culture does more than just improve technology use; it enables organizations to reinvent their use of technology and processes, enabling them to transition the view within their company from a cost center to an agile driver of business growth. Where did this phenomenon originate, and where is it headed next?

DevOps - Early Stages and Rise to Prominence in the Enterprise

In its early days, DevOps rose to prominence behind the scenes, organically instead of via top-down company initiatives. Early industry SaaS companies set the DevOps stage, releasing software quickly after thoroughly ‘studying' its performance as a gauge of overall stability and quality; if outages prevented a user from checking out via their e-commerce services, it would be addressed prior to reaching customers in production. If code changes were needed to address negatively impacted customers, an elegant continuous delivery pipeline would enable addressing them rapidly. As another example, Netflix popularized the notion of "fail faster" in production and Quality Engineering (QE), in an attempt to find and address problems more quickly. 

As notions of embracing failure (rather than fearing it) and strong continuous delivery principles became adopted more broadly across organizations, the culture within the organization morphed. This newly-found workplace culture enabled engineers to reinvent their use of technology and become a growth driver for the business. At the same time, DevOps began to measure success not only by meeting service-level agreements (SLAs), but by delighting users with constant improvement with more predictable quality, and trusting that end users would in turn reward them with more business.

Overcoming Challenges

Despite its many benefits, DevOps comes with its own host of challenges. Challenges can range from lack of proper practices with development to lack of application and infrastructure monitoring. Today, apps are largely built as service-oriented, microservice architectures, which adds complexity to operating and monitoring. Microservices are designed to solve a single issue or a small set of related needs, not multiple disparate issues. While this is helpful in creating a more performant and resilient application infrastructure, the increased number of microservices creates more opportunities for communication challenges and decreases visibility unless proper observability tactics have been adopted.

Additionally, other technologies such as Lambda functions and service meshes, as well as running services in multiple service providers, complicates achieving holistic observability. Visibility of communication patterns and infrastructure density across each application stack is critical to running a successful application infrastructure.

Together, these factors have caused roles and responsibilities within the team to blend. Previously, separate teams focused on performance and saturation testing, development, QA, ops, and so on, but this has all since changed. The intense focus on repeatable automation and monitoring frees up time from repeatable tasks, allowing engineers to focus on the evolving landscape of technologies, which is part of the job that many people love most, according to a recent SolarWinds survey of developers, web product managers (WPMs), and DevOps teams, SolarWinds® Cloud Confessions: The Trouble with Troubleshooting.

The Future of DevOps

In today's DevOps environments, due to many of these cultural and procedural adaptations, many technology professionals have been able to focus on mastering operating distributed containerized workloads at scale in production. This increased deployment of containerized microservices is leading to implementation of service mesh architectures to assist in managing and monitoring. Moving forward, engineers will increasingly need to develop a strong understanding of service meshes as the choices of technologies available to assist them in solving problems and running production instances is growing at an amazing pace.

The continued adoption of serverless computing for specific use cases will also grow in the near term as it provides many benefits.

Conclusion

With a DevOps culture, continuous integration and deployment to production needs to be in mere minutes. In order to decrease risk of defects escaping into production, well-defined Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) processes-powered by automation application infrastructure monitoring-must be used vigilantly. The disciplined focus on speed and quality will enable the business to become more predictable and adapt to interruptions more smoothly. By understanding the core tenets of DevOps and leveraging technologies like containers and microservices in production, engineering teams will be able to lead their organizations through a digital transformation as well as impact strategic decisions.

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About the Author

Keith Kuchler 

Kuchler joined SolarWinds in 2017 after spending 20 years innovating through development of on-prem and SaaS software solutions for a Fortune 500® company and a startup. Today Keith is the vice president of engineering, leading SolarWinds' highly-distributed engineering teams for the company's SaaS portfolio of DevOps solutions including Pingdom®, AppOpticsTM, Loggly®, and PapertrailTM. He is responsible for global transformation of the SolarWinds® DevOps portfolio. He and his team focus on research, development, strategy, and service delivery (DevOps/SRE) through innovation and adoption of emerging technologies to optimize costs, speed, and service reliability. Kuchler is specifically intrigued with how technology is an enabler to accelerating positive change for humans (including SolarWinds customers). 

Published Wednesday, May 01, 2019 7:27 AM by David Marshall
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