It’s common practice in most organisations for Development and Operations teams to work separately as siloed teams, often at odds with each other. This approach usually means that code can take weeks to be deployed, resulting in delayed product updates and prolonged release cycles - and that’s without any problems occurring. To try to curb the inefficiencies of this approach, development and operations professionals devised the ‘DevOps’ model.
In this blog, we unpack what DevOps is, how it works in tandem with the cloud, and the benefits it can provide for businesses. We then explore the top six cloud DevOps best practices and how you can start implementing them within your teams to start streamlining productivity and improving delivery.
What is ‘DevOps’ and how does it relate to the cloud?
DevOps is an approach to software development with a set of practices that aim to unify the Development and Operations functions of a business through increased collaboration, with the ultimate goal of shortening the software development lifecycle. Underpinned by continuous integration and continuous development, and stemming from agile project management, DevOps practices exist to streamline code updates and increase product delivery speed, all while improving quality throughout the development and deployment process.
Rapid delivery of value and customer satisfaction are core values of the DevOps methodology and cloud technology offers the capabilities that enable these, such as automated resource provisioning and scaling to accommodate rapid application changes. As such, DevOps and the cloud go hand-in-hand, and you can optimise your cloud-based environment through a DevOps approach.
However, because DevOps practices rely on agility and flexibility, it’s best to adopt a hybrid cloud environment where a wider range of services and tools are available to you, letting you choose the best solution for your needs at any given point in your development cycle. This way, you can leverage the vast capabilities of multi-cloud platforms, in conjunction with DevOps practices, to streamline integrations, delivery, testing and monitoring. This will ultimately enhance your teams’ agility, shorten your product’s time to market, and reduce operating costs in the long term.
Key benefits of adopting a DevOps model
While both migrating to the cloud and adopting a DevOps approach require an initial upfront investment of money and time, they are both well worth the investment. Here are some of the benefits of implementing the DevOps model in your own business, assuming you’ve already made the move to the cloud.
Better team collaboration and communication: By creating cross-functional teams and shared processes between Development and Operations, DevOps enables improved and continuous communication, greater process visibility, and maximum transparency between the two departments.
Improved consistency and reliability: DevOps practices rely on automation tools to achieve consistency and reliability across processes. By automating processes, human error is eliminated, and developers can produce more consistent, reliable and secure code.
Timeous issue detection: Relating to automation, by automating testing and continuously refining code, the DevOps process enables teams to identify and address flaws earlier on in the development lifecycle.
Shorter time to market: Thanks to the shorter production cycles that result from DevOps practices, businesses can release their products to market much faster than usual.
Cloud DevOps best practices to follow
With the benefits of using DevOps and the cloud in mind, here are the top six cloud DevOps best practices your teams should follow.
1. Go for cloud-agnostic
As mentioned, a hybrid cloud approach, or alternatively, a multi-cloud approach, is the best option for getting the most out of your DevOps-enabled software development lifecycle. When choosing a cloud provider, look out for one with a cloud-agnostic platform and service offering, so that you can implement a hybrid or multi-cloud environment with ease and enjoy the flexibility of configuring your virtual and physical environments in a way that best suits your needs and goals.
With a cloud-agnostic solution, your on-premises and cloud-based resources are seamlessly supported and easily accessible, and can be maintained, improved and optimised through your DevOps development process, hassle-free. Additionally, with a cloud-agostic storage solution, your on-premises and cloud-based storage can integrate with ease, making deployment and maintenance across your environment more streamlined.
2. Include automation
Enabling faster, more reliable, accurate and consistent processes, automation is a key component to successful DevOps practices. To leverage the full benefits of DevOps, your cloud environment needs end-to-end automation capabilities, including the automatic provisioning of virtual machines, network configurations and resource/application monitoring.
Automation should also extend to your performance testing, as automated testing lets you regularly test your applications without wasting your team’s time on repetitive testing tasks. With automated performance testing, you can notice problems before your users do and amend them quickly, thanks to the speed and agility of the DevOps process. This is particularly useful when rolling out patches or if your cloud environment has recently undergone updates.
3. Keep security top of mind
When adopting any new process or approach, it’s easy to lose focus on security. However, cloud technology does come with sophisticated security features, including identity and access management, and 24/7 security monitoring. However, with a hybrid approach, identity and access management policies need to be consistently maintained across environments, as one cloud’s security capabilities won’t extend to another, so security needs to extend to all your DevOps tools and process, as well.
You should also bolster your overall environment security with multi-factor authentication and role-based access controls, and ensure that security forms part of your automated testing so that continuous deployment procedures are consistently monitored.
It’s worth noting here that DevSecOps, the next iteration of DevOps, is an up-and-coming approach that encourages security to become part of the overall development process alongside Development and Operations. If you have the time, resources and team capacity, it may be worth taking more of a DevSecOps approach and thoroughly implementing security processes into your overall development cycle.
4. Use containers in your architecture
The use of containers is one of the best practices to include in your cloud DevOps strategy. Containers essentially allow you to compartmentalise your applications and distribute them across microservices. The benefit of this is that you can work on certain elements of your applications without worrying about any impact on other parts of the application. This simplifies updates and makes orchestrating tasks and deployments effortless.
Containers are also platform- and language-agnostic, and as such, can support multiple frameworks, lending themselves well to more flexible development. This flexibility, paired with the portability of containers makes them a useful tool to integrate into your DevOps process while enabling more efficient application management.
5. Remember to test, test, test
Relating to automation testing discussed above, continuously testing your code should form part of your DevOps practice. Continuous testing is a rudimentary step in continuous integration, as through ongoing testing, you can identify and address poor-performing applications before they cause serious problems. It also enables you to keep your resources in check and prevent wastage, which is especially important when leveraging the cloud.
Testing is also necessary for effective monitoring and logging, which are useful practices for evaluating the efficiency of your DevOps practice. DevOps tools like AWS CloudWatch are useful for analysing data and creating insights to better log and monitor applications, which in turn help you to gauge system performance and operational health, and optimise resources as part of your continuous integration.
Continuous testing is also more effective with the cloud because you can scale resources up to run full-scale application tests before deploying, and then scale them down for ongoing testing after deployment, all without worrying about commissioning and maintaining hardware and servers to do so.
6. Leverage a team of experts
The shift to DevOps is not just a technical one, but a cultural one, too. With any instance of change, teams need to be guided through the adjustment and equipped with the know-how to embrace the change. This is where the expertise of DevOps experts can help. DevOps success takes specialised development and deployment knowledge and experience, as well as good communication, operational and interpersonal skills. While the soft skills can be taught and developed in your teams, dedicated DevOps knowledge needs to be brought in and shared. This is why it’s necessary to recruit qualified DevOps experts to help your teams learn the methodology and put it into practice.
Working closely with your teams, these experts can start leveraging containers and microservices, automate workflows, monitor system performance and speed up code deployment straight from the get-go, while giving your teams the tools they need to unlock their full potential through DevOps. So while your teams are being trained in the ways of DevOps, your systems and procedures are already being adapted accordingly, creating a holistic shift to DevOps that accounts for both technical and cultural requirements.
Summary: Get the most out of your cloud architecture with BSO
Your development and operations teams are capable of achieving great things, but not while they’re being challenged by siloed systems and approaches and inefficient communication. By embracing the DevOps model and bearing these cloud DevOps best practices in mind, your business will see faster product delivery, improved code quality, highly stable environments that are also flexible, and increased team collaboration and communication. This will result in more productive teams and happier customers overall.
To help you get started on your journey, it’s worth tapping into the capabilities of an expert cloud hosting provider on cutting-edge of development technology and practices like DevOps. BSO offers unparalleled network connectivity infrastructure that spans over 40 cloud on-ramps, 33 countries and 240 points of presence. Our experts know how to deliver a fast, reliable and robust IaaS platform solution that caters to your business needs, including both off-the-shelf and bespoke cloud solutions.
No matter your industry or your teams’ capabilities, our team of cloud, DevOps and networking experts collaborate with you to create an optimal cloud experience that ensures your environment and practices are set up for success. Download our handy guide to creating a DevOps hybrid cloud strategy, or reach out to us to discuss your cloud and DevOps needs.
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