What is DevOps?
In the first post of this series, my colleague Jim Hirschauer defined what DevOps means and how it impacts organizations. He concluded DevOps is defined as “A software development method that stresses communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and information technology professionals with the goal of automating as much as possible different operational processes.”
I like to think DevOps can be explained simply as operations working together with engineers to get things done faster in an automated and repeatable way.
From developer to operations – one and the same?
As a developer I have always dabbled lightly in operations. I always wanted to focus on making my code great and let an operations team worry about setting up the production infrastructure. It used to be easy! I could just ftp my files to production, and voila! My app was live and it was time for a beer. Real applications are much more complex. As I evolved my skillset I started to do more and expand my operations knowledge.
When I was young you actually had to build a server from scratch, buy power and connectivity in a data center, and manually plug a machine into the network. After wearing the operations hat for a few years I have learned many operations tasks are mundane, manual, and often have to be done at two in the morning once something has gone wrong. DevOps is predicated on the idea that all elements of technology infrastructure can be controlled through code. With the rise of the cloud it can all be done in real-time via a web service.
When you are responsible for large distributed applications the operations complexity grows quickly.
- How do you provision virtual machines?
- How do you configure network devices and servers?
- How do you deploy applications?
- How do you collect and aggregate logs?
- How do you monitor services?
- How do you monitor network performance?
- How do you monitor application performance?
- How do you alert and remediate when there are problems?
Combining the power of developers and operations
The focus on the developer/operations collaboration enables a new approach to managing the complexity of real world operations. I believe the operations complexity breaks down into a few main categories: infrastructure automation, configuration management, deployment automation, log management, performance management, and monitoring. Below are some tools I have used to help solve these tasks.
Infrastructure automation solves the problem of having to be physically present in a data center to provision hardware and make network changes. The benefits of using cloud services is that costs scale linearly with demand and you can provision automatically as needed without having to pay for hardware up front.
- Amazon Web Services
- Windows Azure
- RackSpace Cloud
- HP Cloud
- OpenShift by RedHat
- Ubuntu Cloud
- Citrix CloudPlatform
Configuration management solves the problem of having to manually install and configure packages once the hardware is in place. The benefit of using configuration automation solutions is that servers are deployed exactly the same way every time. If you need to make a change across ten thousand servers you only need to make the change in one place.
There are other vendor-specific DevOps tools as well:
- Amazon’s OpsWorks and CloudFormation
- Ubuntu’s JuJu
Deployment automation solves the problem of deploying an application with an automated and repeatable process.
Log management solves the problem of aggregating, storing, and analyzing all logs in one place.
Performance management is about ensuring your network and application are performing as expected and providing intelligence when you encounter problems.
Monitoring and alerting are a crucial piece to managing operations and making sure people are notified when infrastructure and related services go down.
In my next post of this series we will dive into each of these categories and explore the best tools available in the devops space. As always, please feel free to comment if you think I have missed something or if you have a request for content in an upcoming post.