Introduction to DevOps: Beginner’s Guide

DevOps might be the most exciting trend in computing because it isn’t really a trend.

In this post, I explore What DevOps is and why acquiring a basic understanding of its tenets is critical for advancing in today’s IT environment. Read along and we’ll explore:

  • Quantification
  • Collaboration
  • Automation

Continuous customer satisfaction is the goal of implementing these tenets. Understanding DevOps is easier than you might think.

What is DevOps?

There is a lot of talk about “DevOps” in the technical community, and for all the talk we have yet to see a single definition agreed upon. One potential reason for the lack of a clear definition could be that no single solution will fit every company. If we look at the different proposed definitions, and the tools being branded as “DevOps tools,” we can start to see that DevOps is all about efficiently providing the customer with the best possible product.

There is no perfect model for the software development life cycle (SDLC). There are, however, a lot of different options for each phase of the SDLC that have been utilized successfully throughout the years.

Every so often a shift in the way we think about phases of the SDLC comes about. An individual or group analyzes years of experiences and distills them into a proposed solution, concept, or philosophy. Concepts like agile development, continuous integration (CI), and continuous delivery (CD) have helped companies move their code into production faster, more reliable, and with less downtime. These solutions support new thinking, offering valuable frameworks used at every development level, from beginners through expert gurus.

DevOps is a philosophy of the efficient development, deployment, and operation, of the highest quality software possible.

DevOps attempts to be one such philosophy. In fact, DevOps builds on these well-established concepts.

Before going further, you should understand how we’re defining DevOps so that we share a common language and vocabulary.

DevOps is a philosophy of the efficient development, deployment, and operation, of the highest quality software possible, which makes DevOps a holistic approach to continuous customer satisfaction. Continuous customer satisfaction (CCS) is related to the ongoing happiness of the largest percentage of your user base possible. This is typically manifested through the fast delivery of newly requested features with the least amount of downtime. There is a trend in DevOps to offer a “continuous everything” tone, and continuous customer satisfaction may seem like another generic addition to the “continuous” family, but it’s actually a pretty powerful concept.

Like many aspects of cloud computing, there are certifications for DevOps. Andrew Templeton, who passed all five AWS exams at one time, has written a post about increasing your odds of passing the difficult AWS DevOps Pro Exam.

Continuous customer satisfaction

Continuous customer satisfaction represents a customer-centric approach to software. Customers who receive the features they want quickly, on a stable, and secure platform is generally satisfied by the overall experience. These “happy” clients are much more likely to become repeat customers and some may go as far as recommending you to other potential customers.

So if your goal is continuous customer satisfaction, then the DevOps philosophy will help you achieve that. Since DevOps is a philosophy of efficient development, deployment, and operation, of the highest quality software possible, it has the intentional result of supporting continuous customer satisfaction.

When DevOps is properly adopted, it supports higher quality, faster lead time — that is, the time it takes a customer’s request to make it into production — greater stability, and increased security.

Because DevOps is philosophy and not a solution, there is no concrete path to follow. This flexibility allows organizations to adopt the philosophy in a way that best supports them. The community around DevOps has proposed a few tenets that further define the philosophy. Here are a few, in no particular order.

Tenets of DevOps:

Below are some of the key features as defined by the DevOps Community:

Quantify

Quantify everything first. You’ll thank me later.

There are metrics to be found at all stages of the DevOps pipeline. It’s important to know which of these metrics is going to be useful to you by reviewing your existing processes. In order to know if your DevOps practices are having a positive impact, you need a good starting point to measure against.

From a business perspective, you should know how often you’re deploying to production. You should know how many of the deployments have resulted in outages or bugs with a measurable impact on the user base.

You should know the average time it takes your team to recover from outages. You should understand, at-a-glance, what your up-time is, and if you’re meeting any SLAs that you may be bound to. There are plenty of additional business level metrics worth tracking, though that’ll be something each company typically clarifies for themselves and their teams.

The technical side of DevOps will value different metrics. Knowing how long your CI process takes is important.  The average response time of your REST services or the number of concurrent users at any given time represents useful data that may change the way developers solve for specific problems.

Knowing how the code is performing on the servers allows your engineers to quantify the impact code changes have on performance. This dovetails into understanding how your production servers are performing, and if you are over or under provisioned. Your operations team should have all the metrics they need to ensure that they are running the most elastic and secure infrastructure possible.

This tenet of “quantify everything” is a bit nebulous, because the volume of data is massive and growing at all different levels. Knowing what to track is crucial to any successful DevOps plan. In fact, if you’re new to DevOps, here are a few key performance indicators you should track, to get you started:

  • Frequency of deployments
  • The frequency of failed deployments
  • Mean time to recovery (MTTR)
  • Mean time to discovery (MTTD)
  • Lead time
  • Uptime
  • Customer complaint volume
  • Service performance

Start by capturing as much info about your current process as possible. Once you feel you have a good handle on your current metrics, you’ll have something to measure your DevOps efforts against.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Once you have a serious understanding of your metrics, the DevOps philosophy becomes increasingly clear. There is a major art opening at a downtown museum and attendance is 5% of projections. Something is wrong.  Imagine a Google Satellite image on your screen. What you see looks like a gray slab. You zoom out and find a building. Zoom out further, and city block becomes apparent. Further and you realize the bridge over a river is blocked by an accident and traffic is stalled. You’ve identified the problem and understand which parties must cooperate for an effective solution. The police should work with fire in clearing the accident and caring for any potentially injured parties. The city road teams must inspect the bridge for further damage, in case structural damages occurred. The art opening should expand hours or re-schedule. The DevOps philosophy supports this type of analysis, discovery, collaborative action.

Collaborate

Cultural Change, in this case, means breaking down silos.

The second component we’ll discuss is cultural change. This means, at a minimum, inter-departmental team collaboration is required. Depending on your experiences in tech this may sound obvious, or impossible. There has long been a culture of silos in which each team functions as a separate entity, and acts with little to no collaboration with other teams.

Breaking down silos requires uniting every team that has a role in the SDLC early, and often. The collaboration should promote shortened and enhanced feedback loops. Once your teams are working together towards a common goal, they need to ensure that information moves to the individuals that need it, as quickly as possible.

The act of breaking down silos is more than just putting disparate teams into the same room. It requires cross-disciplinary training and evaluating the best uses of available skills. This might mean, that instead of having your QA teamwork in isolation testing new features, that the QA team also advises engineers on ways of writing better, more comprehensive tests.

The same may apply to operations, their roles might shift from the classic, “this is our sandbox, and we choose who gets to play here,” to more of a collaborative and/or oversight role. With the cloud offering ever more in the way of SaaS and PaaS, the traditional boundaries between developers and operations is quickly fading. All this applies to security teams as well.

Automation

It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

Automation provides a level of consistency and efficiency that can’t happen manually. Everything that can reasonably be automated should be. This isn’t new, CI and CD have been preaching this for a long time. However, operations teams only recently started using the levels of automation that development teams traditionally have.

In addition to automating the CI and CD pipelines, operations must automate server setup and configuration. True automation requires all servers performing the same functions (that is to say a web server, database server, etc) run the same version of all required software. These servers must share the exact configuration in the same reproducible ways.

Automation begins to simplify things like upgrading a software dependency due to a bug, or security vulnerability. Consider something like the Heartbleed bug that impacted so many servers a couple years back as an example. If you were an operations person in charge of patching hundreds or thousands of servers, and you didn’t have some level of automation, you’d be stressed out. This may have been the type of event that would cause you to consider looking for a new job. However, if you could just point Ansible toward your servers, and run a playbook to upgrade the version of OpenSSL, this kind of all-day nightmare would take you five minutes to fix.


Quantify, collaborate and automate, these components are not an exhaustive list, rather a good starting point for “Going DevOps.”  Remember that DevOps is the philosophy of the efficient development, deployment, and operation, of the highest quality software possible, and when done correctly, it can greatly improve the overall quality, stability and security of your code.

This article provides an overview of DevOps thinking and action. Cloud Academy and I have just produced an Introduction to DevOps course that presents 10 lessons for 1 hour of video content. It is a non-technical review of the philosophy and the agreed-upon tenants of DevOps. If you enjoyed this post, I think you’ll engage with my course.
Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 4.09.17 PM
Vineet Badola, a regular Cloud Academy blog contributor, wrote an article last year titled Cloud DevOps: improve your application development life cycle and it offers a different take on the above DevOps themes. There are a million ways to learn and I suggest continuous training with Cloud Academy. They offer a free 7-day trial subscription where you can explore DevOps video courses, learning paths, and hands-on labs. They present quiz questions for deeper learning of exam study.

Cloud Academy’s learning paths provide a place to start and a clear direction to specific goals. We have a DevOps Engineer Professional Certification for AWS learning path that features 7 video courses for over 12 hours of content. It presents 2 hands-on labs and a quiz for practical application and testing knowledge. Try it out and let us know what you think.
Cloud Academy DevOps Learning path

Avatar

Written by

Ben Lambert

Ben is a software engineer with years of experience building web and mobile apps. He learned about DevOps some time ago, and hasn’t stopped talking about it since. In addition to DevOps, he’s passionate about information security, as well as virtual and augmented reality systems. When he’s not working he’s hiking, camping, or creating video games.

Related Posts

Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— August 13, 2019

Content Roadmap: AZ-500, ITIL 4, MS-100, Google Cloud Associate Engineer, and More

Last month, Cloud Academy joined forces with QA, the UK’s largest B2B skills provider, and it put us in an excellent position to solve a massive skills gap problem. As a result of this collaboration, you will see our training library grow with additions from QA’s massive catalog of 500+...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • content roadmap
  • Google Cloud Platform
Avatar
Adam Hawkins
— August 9, 2019

DevSecOps: How to Secure DevOps Environments

Security has been a friction point when discussing DevOps. This stems from the assumption that DevOps teams move too fast to handle security concerns. This makes sense if Information Security (InfoSec) is separate from the DevOps value stream, or if development velocity exceeds the band...

Read more
  • AWS
  • cloud security
  • DevOps
  • DevSecOps
  • Security
Avatar
Stefano Giacone
— August 8, 2019

Test Your Cloud Knowledge on AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud Platform

Cloud skills are in demand | In today's digital era, employers are constantly seeking skilled professionals with working knowledge of AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. According to the 2019 Trends in Cloud Transformation report by 451 Research: Business and IT transformations re...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Cloud skills
  • Google Cloud
  • Microsoft Azure
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— August 7, 2019

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

If you want to deliver digital services of any kind, you’ll need to estimate all types of resources, not the least of which are CPU, memory, storage, and network connectivity. Which resources you choose for your delivery —  cloud-based or local — is up to you. But you’ll definitely want...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud Platform
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— August 6, 2019

Google Cloud vs AWS: A Comparison (or can they be compared?)

The "Google Cloud vs AWS" argument used to be a common discussion among our members, but is this still really a thing? You may already know that there are three major players in the public cloud platforms arena: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP)...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Kubernetes
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— July 29, 2019

Deployment Orchestration with AWS Elastic Beanstalk

If you're responsible for the development and deployment of web applications within your AWS environment for your organization, then it's likely you've heard of AWS Elastic Beanstalk. If you are new to this service, or simply need to know a bit more about the service and the benefits th...

Read more
  • AWS
  • elastic beanstalk
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— July 26, 2019

How to Use & Install the AWS CLI

What is the AWS CLI? | The AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) is for managing your AWS services from a terminal session on your own client, allowing you to control and configure multiple AWS services and implement a level of automation. If you’ve been using AWS for some time and feel...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS CLI
  • Command line interface
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 22, 2019

Cloud Academy’s Blog Digest: July 2019

July has been a very exciting month for us at Cloud Academy. On July 10, we officially joined forces with QA, the UK’s largest B2B skills provider (read the announcement). Over the coming weeks, you will see additions from QA’s massive catalog of 500+ certification courses and 1500+ ins...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Cloud Academy
  • Cybersecurity
  • DevOps
  • Kubernetes
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— July 18, 2019

AWS Fundamentals: Understanding Compute, Storage, Database, Networking & Security

If you are just starting out on your journey toward mastering AWS cloud computing, then your first stop should be to understand the AWS fundamentals. This will enable you to get a solid foundation to then expand your knowledge across the entire AWS service catalog.   It can be both d...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Compute
  • Database
  • fundamentals
  • networking
  • Security
  • Storage
Avatar
Adam Hawkins
— July 17, 2019

How to Become a DevOps Engineer

The DevOps Handbook introduces DevOps as a framework for improving the process for converting a business hypothesis into a technology-enabled service that delivers value to the customer. This process is called the value stream. Accelerate finds that applying DevOps principles of flow, f...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
  • DevOps
  • DevOps Foundation Certification
  • Engineer
  • Kubernetes
Avatar
Vineet Badola
— July 15, 2019

AWS AMI Virtualization Types: HVM vs PV (Paravirtual VS Hardware VM)

Amazon Machine Images (AWS AMI) offers two types of virtualization: Paravirtual (PV) and Hardware Virtual Machine (HVM). Each solution offers its own advantages. When we’re using AWS, it’s easy for someone — almost without thinking —  to choose which AMI flavor seems best when spinning...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Hardware Virtual Machine
  • Paravirtual
  • Virtualization
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— July 2, 2019

AWS Machine Learning Services

The speed at which machine learning (ML) is evolving within the cloud industry is exponentially growing, and public cloud providers such as AWS are releasing more and more services and feature updates to run in parallel with the trend and demand of this technology within organizations t...

Read more
  • Amazon Machine Learning
  • AWS
  • AWS re:Invent
  • Machine Learning