How and Why You Should Start Automating DevOps
Integration of DevOps and automation is what leads to a more efficient software development lifecycle. Understand what it is about automating DevOps and how.
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DevOps is not new. Every business in the IT world knows it is the right software development methodology. Indeed, DevOps has enticed the world with its promise of high-quality product delivery at a faster pace. Despite the clear promise of DevOps, many businesses are failing to realize its complete potential. While cultural inertia and skillset sparsity are some of the reasons, the inability to completely automate the DevOps lifecycle remains the greatest impediment for businesses to drive full value from their DevOps investments. Integration of DevOps and automation is what leads to a more efficient software development lifecycle (SDLC). So, let’s understand what it is all about automating DevOps and how you can start automating your DevOps processes.
What Is DevOps Automation?
Automation is the fundamental principle of DevOps. In fact, “automating everything” is the ultimate objective of the DevOps methodology. So, DevOps automation is the process of automating nearly every repetitive and manual task across the DevOps SDLC, from design and development to deployment and release management.
Generally, software development involves many tasks handled by various teams, such as code analysis and unit testing by development teams; functional, performance, and other testing processes by testing teams; and stage-wise deployment and release management by operations teams. DevOps automation tries to automate and streamline all these tasks with no human intervention by leveraging various automation tools or technologies.
Some of the process automation technologies that can be used in the DevOps ecosystem are IT automation and infrastructure automation. On the other hand, Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and Jenkins are some of the popular automation tools leveraged for DevOps automation.
Top 5 Business Benefits of Automating DevOps
Automation is imperative to achieve the DevOps promise of delivering high-quality products at a faster pace. Automation in DevOps makes software development processes simpler, faster, and more efficient, empowering Dev and Ops teams to build, test, deploy, and maintain code faster and with higher quality compared to manual practices.
DevOps automation offers numerous business benefits, here are the top 5:
1. Enhanced Productivity
As almost all the DevOps tasks, like code integration and application deployment are automated, it certainly results in faster software releases, increased time-to-market, and higher productivity. With automation, there is no delay in processes, as in the case of manual processes. Moreover, as human intervention is almost reduced to zero with the use of automation tools, the developers and operations team can now focus on business-critical tasks instead of wasting time on repetitive, low-priority tasks.
2. High Standardization
DevOps automation enables the standardization of DevOps workflows, processes, technologies, and metrics. This, in turn, helps minimize duplications, reduce risks, and provide proper guidelines. Leveraging standardized practices also provides the scope for automating other manual processes, helping your DevOps ecosystem move from automation to orchestration.
3. Increased Flexibility
Automating DevOps provides your DevOps teams with greater flexibility in terms of scope and functionality of the automated process. So, they can now configure and enhance the processes even after changing the tech stack.
4. High Scalability
DevOps automation provides the ability to easily scale the processes as required by simply creating additional processes to meet the increased requirements. Conversely, in a manual environment, any scaling is a challenge, as it is completely constrained by the availability of the team. However, with automation, scaling only depends on the availability of the underlying software or hardware, which is not an issue in the cloud where resources are automatically scaled as per the workloads.
5. High Consistency
As the DevOps processes are highly automated, the end results are highly consistent and predictable. Courtesy of the underlying software automation tool that consistently does the same thing until it is reconfigured to do otherwise. The same is not true for manual processes, where human intervention potentially leads to errors.
Guidelines To Consider Before Automating DevOps
There is no concrete rule book for DevOps automation. The path to automating DevOps is ever-changing. So, there’s a significant scope you may get caught up in the crosshairs of many questions, such as where to get started or which processes can and should be automated when you try to automate DevOps.
Before we look into the DevOps automation best practices, let’s dive deep into some common guidelines to help you decide what and how you automate:
1. Prefer Open Standards
Implement DevOps automation tooling that follows common, open standards and procedures. So, whenever your team or contributors change, you can simplify onboarding and save time on specialized training, without any need to change your tooling. Moreover, as DevOps and deployments are moving to the cloud, community-driven standards for packaging, configuration, runtime, networking, and storage can also be preferred.
2. Leverage Dynamic Variables
Using reusable code helps you significantly decrease the amount of rework and duplication you need to do now and in the future. Leveraging externally-defined variables in your scripts or specialized automation tools is the optimal way to apply automation to various environments without any need to change the code itself.
3. Use Flexible Tooling
Flexible tooling helps you adapt to the changing DevOps ecosystem. Finding a one-size-fits-all tool is not possible always, but using DevOps tools that facilitate flexibility to change technologies helps in reducing rework when you change your objectives or direction. Select a solution that has a wide range of partner integrations that work with any cloud, so you’ll be able to reach your objectives without being constrained by your toolchain.
4. Rely on AI
Leverage data-driven AI algorithms to identify specific patterns within DevOps processes and deal with bottlenecks and challenges. AI-driven DevOps tools can make your work easy when it comes to monitoring development and production.
5. Unify DevOps Toolchain
DevOps toolchain fragmentation and pipeline diversity hamper visibility across the software development lifecycle. High fragmentation across the tools makes it challenging to centrally manage and optimize the performance of the DevOps automation toolchain in real time. So, it’s imperative to unify the visibility of the DevOps lifecycle to measure, benchmark, and improve software delivery and deployment.
DevOps Automation Best Practices
As we have curated all the guidelines you need to get started with DevOps automation, now is the time to know the best practices you need to adopt to leverage the full potential of automation. Here are some of the DevOps automation best practices:
Continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment (CI/CD) go hand in hand with DevOps. The DevOps methodologies, along with the CI/CD pipeline, improve your developer productivity. Though CI/CD and DevOps are not the same, CI/CD is still the key aspect of DevOps automation. So, CI/CD is the first element you need to automate. You can integrate automation across all the aspects of CI/CD, including code commits, builds, and deploying packaged applications in testing or production environments. This helps in agile monitoring, integrations, and testing to deliver and deploy changes to the application faster while maintaining high quality. Moreover, automating CI/CD frees your team from mundane tasks and allows them to focus on learning new things and adding value.
2. Version Controlling
Version control, also known as source control, is an important element of any DevOps strategy, helping teams to manage and track the changes made in the code across the software development lifecycle. Details, such as when the changes were made, what the changes were, who made them, and why the changes were made, will be tracked, preventing concurrent work from conflicting. So, automating version control takes the above-mentioned benefits to the next level. Moreover, version control automation saves time and produces consistent results.
3. Change Controlling
In addition to maintaining your code’s version history, implementing a defined process to roll out application changes helps in scheduling and deploying a change with minimal impact on existing customers. It also helps in maintaining product direction, while reducing the scope of harmful changes to your code.
One of the crucial aspects of change management is defining how a change should be assessed, accepted, and tracked. New change requests must be prioritized as per the existing backlog of scheduled work.
By implementing automation into the DevOps ecosystem, the change management process can be optimized. Automated quality control elements, such as test runs and monitoring alerts, can help your team assess the basic health of changes without extensive manual testing.
4. Configuration Management
To maintain your systems in the optimal state, you must configure the operational systems, software requirements, package dependencies, and system files. However, the traditional process of handling configuration management, manually or with custom scripting, can be complex and expensive. Through automation, configuration management can provision a new server within minutes with less room for manual errors. The automation also helps you in maintaining the server in the desired state, such as a standard operating environment, without the need for provisioning scripts.
5. Infrastructure as Code (IaC)
Embrace Infrastructure as Code as it enables you to provision, configure, and maintain infrastructure components, such as network components, and virtual machines by leveraging pre-defined code. The software-defined approach helps you automatically define, test, and deploy new infrastructure with new configurations when changes are introduced. This helps you avoid manual errors while saving time and money.
6. Continuous Monitoring
Continuous monitoring helps glean operational insights by monitoring the performance and stability of applications and infrastructure throughout the software lifecycle. So, by choosing the right monitoring tools that automatically interpret the raw data and provide correlated insights and actionable intelligence. Automation also enables you to create automated monitoring rules and generate alerts to keep track of infrastructure availability, application performance, and security issues, among others.
7. Log Management
Logs facilitate large amounts of data about critical business components. Application logs, infrastructure logs, and audit logs provide insightful data that helps in identifying issues and tweaking code and infrastructure configurations for improved performance. Through automation, you can easily aggregate and analyze these logs and easily identify errors, monitoring activities, and performance metrics.
Best DevOps Automation Tools To Increase Productivity and Efficiency
When it comes to automation, there are a myriad of software tools available on the market. Both open-source and licensed tools support end-to-end automation of the DevOps pipeline. Though the above-said best practices are imperative to achieve your DevOps automation objectives, teams must leverage the right set of automation tools for increasing productivity and efficiency. Here are some of the best DevOps automation tools that garnered huge popularity in the DevOps ecosystem:
Terraform is an open-source, self-managed Infrastructure-as-Code tool that automates cloud infrastructure deployment, provisioning, and management. Using Terraform, your DevOps teams can easily deploy and provision all your infrastructure on private and public clouds. The tool uses state files to maintain the state of the infrastructure. It develops an execution plan—describing the steps for reaching the desired state—and then executes it to build the described infrastructure. In this manner, the Terraform tool enables the DevOps team to build and change infrastructure effectively without any manual intervention.
Ansible is an agentless configuration management and orchestration tool. It facilitates continuous delivery and allows your DevOps teams to deploy the applications at a fast pace. It automates repetitive tasks across the lifecycle, such as application deployment, intra-service orchestration, and cloud provisioning. As this tool is agentless, it facilitates a faster, more secure, and simple solution for configuration management automation as no agents run in the background. Thus, it empowers DevOps teams to accelerate their productivity and efficiency.
Git is one of the most popular DevOps tools used across the industry. It is a distributed source code management (SCM) tool that enables developers to maintain different versions of source code and easily track the progress of their development tasks. The development team can also revert to the previous version whenever needed. The Git tool can seamlessly integrate with the DevOps workflows using the host repositories, such as Github, where the teams can easily push their work.
Jenkins is one of the best CI/CD automation tools that enables continuous integration and delivery by automating repetitive tasks across the CI/CD pipeline. It is a Java-based, open-source tool, making it compatible with any operating system. Moreover, the tool offers thousands of built-in plugins that help you integrate and automate all the phases within the DevOps software development lifecycle. So, your DevOps teams can automatically commit code to the repository, run test cases, and deploy code to the production environment.
Chef is a configuration management tool for scaling IT operations. This Ruby-based tool ensures that all the infrastructure components, such as databases, load balancers, and web servers, are correctly configured and working as expected. Chef treats infrastructure as code, wherein it uses Cookbooks to store recipes that describe the configuration setup. The infrastructure is coded in a domain-specific language. The high availability and replication features of this tool enable the DevOps teams to adapt and recreate the infrastructure as required if any issues arise. This ensures low downtime and high availability of the systems, improving overall productivity.
Docker is the most popular suite of DevOps tools. It is a Linux-based, open-source platform. The Docker platform facilitates containerized environments, enabling DevOps teams to build and run portable, secure, and distributed applications in a fast and efficient manner. These Docker-based applications are OS-and platform-independent and can be easily integrated with any cloud platform. Moreover, Docker facilitates flexible image management by maintaining a private registry to store and manage images and configure image caches. It also enables you to create your own images and modify the existing ones as per your requirements.
Kubernetes is the best container orchestration tool. It automates the process of managing containers and groups them into logical units. With Kubernetes, you can easily deploy containerized applications to a cluster of computers instead of a single machine, as the tool automates the distribution and scheduling of containers across the cluster.
Puppet is a cross-platform configuration management tool. This open-source tool automates the process of configuring, deploying, and managing servers, making deployment faster and more secure. Using Puppet, your DevOps teams can easily configure each and every host in the infrastructure and dynamically scale the servers up and down. The tool continuously monitors the infrastructure to check whether the configuration is alright or not. In this case, if it is not as expected, Puppet reverts the required configuration on the host.
TeamCity is a continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) tool that automates tasks from the development pipeline to deployment. It facilitates continuous unit testing, code quality analysis, and rapid feedback on every code change, leading to highly productive teamwork. This tool is easy to set up and configure and requires no plugins. On TeamCity, you can run parallel builds simultaneously on different platforms and environments.
Bamboo is a DevOps CI/CD tool that automates everything from building to deployment. The tool comes with many pre-built functionalities, so you need to manage only fewer plugins. This enables you to save a lot of configuration time. Bamboo also allows your DevOps teams to run tests in parallel on your build, saving your team time, as well as configuring multiple branches, writing scripts, and executing them. Moreover, the tool easily integrates with project management platforms, such as Jira and Bitbucket.
Nagios is an open-source infrastructure monitoring tool. It enables DevOps teams to completely monitor the network and infrastructure, helping them identify and address bottlenecks and issues. Nagios also allows the team to track and record the events, interruptions, and failures, helping them identify any potential issues in advance. The tool features a rich set of plugins and a massive community that helps improve its functionality.
Splunk is a log management tool that enables DevOps teams to easily search, analyze, and visualize machine-generated data and logs in real-time and helps drive insightful information. With this tool, your team can quickly gather data from multiple sources. Splunk provides a wider range of functionalities, such as filter capability (to filter logs) and graph generation (to obtain performance feedback and recurring issues). The tool can be easily integrated with project management tools like Jira.
Some other popular DevOps automation tools that deserve mention are:
- Gradle: Automated build tool
- BitBucket: Git-based code and CI/CD tool
- Raygun: Application performance monitoring tool
- Selenium: Automated testing tool
- Snort: Security tool
- Gangila: Distributed monitoring tool
- Buddy: CI/CD tool
- QuerySurge: Automated testing tool
- Vagrant: CI/CD tool
- Graphite: Monitoring tool
How Do I Choose the Right Automation Tool for My Needs?
Though DevOps automation tools can help you achieve the DevOps promise of high-speed delivery, selecting the right set of tools is imperative. With a wide range of open-source and licensed automation tools available on the market, it can be an arduous task for your DevOps team to choose the tools that best suit their business objectives without giving scope for tool sprawl and technical debt. You need a unique approach that helps you select tools that address the unique requirements of your business.
The flexibility of automation tools plays a major role. So, while selecting your DevOps tools, look for those that are flexible enough to scale as per your business requirements. Avoid tools that lock you into a specific methodology. Good DevOps automation tools provide an open-ended framework that enables DevOps teams to start small but eventually scale out to large, complex, multi-region cloud deployments.
Integration is another factor in selecting DevOps automation tools. Select tools that are easily integrated with other tools in your tech stack. Choose tools that are application-agnostic, platform-agnostic, and cloud-agnostic.
Published at DZone with permission of Susmitha Vakkalanka. See the original article here.
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