If you're learning about software development (or pursuing a career as a Software Developer), you've probably heard about DevOps — but what is it exactly?
DevOps combines the words "development" and "operations," and it refers to a collaborative approach to building applications. The goal of DevOps is to produce better, more reliable software products.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at DevOps, why it matters, DevOps career opportunities, and more. Use the table contents below to jump to a specific section.
- Who works on DevOps?
- How does DevOps work?
- DevOps practices
- Why is DevOps important?
- What problems does DevOps solve?
- What are the benefits of DevOps?
- What are the challenges of DevOps?
- A closer look at DevOps jobs
- DevOps programming languages
- Getting started in DevOps
Who works on DevOps?
DevOps isn't a programming language or technical concept. It's a culture and philosophy that takes teams and departments that have traditionally been isolated and enables them to coordinate and collaborate.
For example, development and operations teams have often worked separately. Once a product made it through development and was deployed, it'd be handed off to operations, who would then deal with any issues, updates, and overall support.
This left the operations team at a disadvantage since they weren't involved with the product's development. Similarly, this also left the development team without the operations team's valuable insights and perspectives.
Bringing these teams together allows a better product to be released more quickly, with smaller updates along the way rather than large, jarring updates.
Other teams, like quality engineering and security, can and should also be included in coordination efforts.
How does DevOps work?
DevOps influences the application lifecycle. It typically has four phases, which work in a loop.
Each phase depends on the other phases, and they aren't role-specific. That means that each person on the team is involved in multiple phases of the lifecycle (or possibly all of them). The four phases are:
- Plan: This is when DevOps teams define the features and capabilities of the applications and systems they're working on. They decide how to track progress and bugs and break the work into small, manageable pieces.
- Develop: This is when the coding happens, including writing, testing, reviewing, and integration. The goal is to work rapidly without sacrificing quality and stability. To facilitate development, DevOps teams use productivity tools and automation.
- Deliver: Delivery is when the application is moved into a production environment. The DevOps team determines a release schedule and uses automation to move applications from one stage to another.
- Operate. This involves maintaining, monitoring, and troubleshooting applications once they go live. Teams work to minimize downtime while also keeping an eye on security and compliance. The goal in the operating phase is to catch any issues before they impact customers and implement solutions. This leads back to the planning phase, and the cycle continues.
DevOps also incorporates several practices. These include:
- Continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD)
- Monitoring and logging
- Communication and collaboration
Let's take a closer look at each of these practices.
Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD)
Continuous integration is a software development practice where developers merge their code changes into a central repository, which ensures there aren't too many branches of an app in development.
Continuous delivery means that changes to an application are automatically tested for bugs and uploaded to a repository where they can be deployed by the operations team.
This practice structures an application as a collection of smaller services. These services are easy to maintain, testable, independently deployable, and owned by a small team.
Monitoring and logging
This involves tracking metrics and keeping logs to see how the application performs. This data is analyzed to find the root causes of problems and unexpected changes. Active monitoring allows engineers to be proactive about any issues, which helps minimize downtime.
Communication and collaboration
For DevOps to be successful, everyone involved has to be committed to sharing information. This might be done through chat, project tracking systems, or wikis.
Why is DevOps important?
Technology has transformed our lives. Businesses rely on rolling out reliable applications that satisfy customer needs quickly. Businesses that fall behind risk becoming obsolete. DevOps allows businesses and organizations to:
- Be responsive
- Develop products quickly
- Improve those products
Including automation in DevOps planning frees up developers and engineers to focus on other tasks rather than being bogged down with tedious, manual work.
DevOps is important because it allows organizations to develop better products faster. This saves money and allows more creative freedom for developers and engineers.
What problems does DevOps solve?
DevOps solves problems around latency and productivity in software development. Latency is lag time. When departments are isolated, it takes time to hand projects back and forth between development and operations.
As we explained, traditionally, developers would develop the app and hand it to the operations team to get it ready for release. If there were issues, operations would send the app back to developers and wait for the app to be fixed.
In a DevOps environment, these two teams are coordinated and collaborative, so fixing bugs and other issues is quick and seamless.
What are the benefits of DevOps?
DevOps offers several benefits to organizations:
- Speed: DevOps increases the frequency of releases so you can improve your product quickly. The sooner a product is updated, the happier your customers will be.
- Adaptability: Technology and consumer expectations are constantly changing. DevOps allows you to pivot easily to incorporate different features and move in different directions without disrupting the entire development process.
- Reliability: Having more people involved in the entire process ensures a higher quality product. CI/CD is an important DevOps practice that helps teams roll out changes in a controlled way and avoid configuration drift, which is when configuration deviates over time. All of that results in a more stable, more reliable product.
- Improved collaboration. DevOps is a change to the culture of a company, emphasizing accountability and ownership. Teams are expected to collaborate and are given the tools to do so. DevOps teams share responsibilities and workflows, which saves time and reduces inefficiencies.
What are the challenges of DevOps?
While DevOps can help organizations, it also has its challenges. They include:
- Implementing expensive tools and platforms
- Learning new tools
- Updating old infrastructure
- Integrating tools across different departments
- Reviewing current processes to make them more efficient
- Resistance to change
- Merging two cultures (development and operations) can be challenging
- Moving at a faster pace can make it difficult to maintain security and compliance
All of these issues can be overcome with planning, implementing DevOps over time, seeking input from team members, and dedicating time and resources to security and compliance throughout the DevOps lifecycle.
A closer look at DevOps jobs
Some IT professionals specialize in DevOps. They help implement the tools and platforms involved in DevOps and help organizations shift to DevOps if they haven't already. These professionals are in high demand.
DevOps positions have a variety of names, but in general, people working in DevOps would either be a DevOps Engineer or a DevOps Manager. DevOps Managers have more responsibility and experience and are expected to manage teams. You'd typically start as a DevOps Engineer and then progress into a management role as you gain experience.
Here are some of the skills required to succeed in a DevOps career:
- Knowledge of a wide range of tools used in software development.
- An understanding of Agile software development.
- Experience with data management.
- An understanding of cloud architecture, which is often used in DevOps.
- An ability to work as part of a team and lead a team as needed.
- Proficiency in automation.
- Proficiency with one or more programming languages.
- An understanding of quality assurance.
- An ability to troubleshoot.
- A willingness to talk with customers and incorporate their feedback.
- An understanding of security best practices.
Due to the complexity of DevOps, it's not unusual to start your career in another position and develop your expertise in DevOps over time. It might be through learning on the job, taking on additional responsibilities, working toward certifications, or pursuing a degree in DevOps.
DevOps programming languages
DevOps requires proficiency with at least one, but ideally multiple programming languages. Here are some to consider:
- Perl. Perl is a programming language developed in 1987. It has a large, active developer community. Perl is considered easier to learn and faster than C and C++. It can also handle sophisticated programming.
- Ruby. Ruby is an intuitive, easy-to-learn programming language. It's open-source, has an active community, and is often implemented with the Ruby on Rails framework.
- Python. Python is another popular programming language. It's a popular choice for a first programming language as it has a large community behind it, excellent documentation, and a wide variety of libraries and packages.
- Bash/Shell. The command line and the shell make up a text-based interface that developers use to communicate more effectively with computers. It allows for collaborative programming, enables file navigation, runs programming files, and installs developer tools.
- SQL. SQL is a relational data management language. It's easy to learn, quick, and efficient.
- C++. C++ is another popular programming language that's fast and flexible. It's used in software and game development, virtual reality, robotics, and scientific computing.
Getting started in DevOps
To learn more about DevOps, check out our Intro to DevOps course. Or, you can gain the required knowledge and skills on your own.
People working in DevOps are highly experienced. They typically start as Systems Administrators or developers. You can learn the skills needed for one of these career options individually or take a series of courses that'll equip you with everything you need to know with one of our Career Paths.
One option for getting started is our Front-End Engineer Career Path. Front-End Engineers focus on making websites and applications attractive and user-friendly. In this Career Path, you'll learn how to use the languages and tools required for modern front-end web development.
Similarly, our Back-End Engineer Career Path focuses on the behind-the-scenes aspects of applications. You'll start by learning how to program servers and client-side interfaces, then progress to designing databases. The course also covers personalization and security.
Our Full-Stack Engineer Career Path teaches you development from start to finish. This will give you a firm foundation for starting your career and progressing into DevOps.
Our Computer Science Career Path also provides you with a strong foundation. It teaches you the ins and outs of Python, how to problem solve and write clean code, how databases work, and more.
In each of our Career Paths, you'll use your new knowledge and skills to build projects you can feature in your portfolio. We'll also help you prepare for interviews, provide a certification you can include in your resume, and more.
After building your skills, your next step is to secure a position in an organization that uses DevOps. This will allow you to gain experience in how DevOps works and pursue opportunities to advance.
You may also want to pursue certifications. For example, AWS, or Amazon Web Services, offers an AWS Certified DevOps Engineer certification for DevOps Engineers with two or more years of experience.
You could also pursue a Kubernetes certification like Certified Kubernetes Administrator or Certified Kubernetes Application Developer. Kubernetes is a popular DevOps tool. Microsoft also offers an Azure DevOps certification.