A Beginner's Guide to DevOps

Why DevOps is a whole new way of doing IT

Digital is the new kingmaker for businesses, institutions, and movements — and the game is becoming exponentially more complex. The Digital Filipino spends more time on their mobile screens than on TV. Their connected devices generate more data, introduce them to more content, and connect them to more people faster than ever before.

“What’s not growing exponentially is our ability as individuals,” said Alistair Israel, AMIHAN’s Enterprise Architect and co-founder of Yehey.com, one of the nation’s pioneering web portals. “That is, unless we start being smarter about how we do things.”

Established institutions find themselves in a dilemma: how does one adapt and innovate when they are held back by systems, processes, cultural inertia, and not to mention all the security risks that come with the Internet? That challenge demands more than just the latest gadgets and buzzwords — it requires an entirely new way of doing things.

What is DevOps?

Let’s start with what DevOps isn’t. DevOps is not a tool or technology. It’s not a task to be delegated to a role or a team. It’s not a methodology with specific steps to roll out of the box.

Above all, DevOps is a culture that dissolves the boundaries between development and IT operations. At the core of many organizations’ inability to innovate is a disconnect between the people who develop new technology and those who manage and operationalize those IT systems. This results in slow release of new features and many missed opportunities to improve or identify new opportunities.

In a DevOps organization, developers and IT administrators work as one team and are involved in all stages of process: from defining new products, to designing and developing the technology, all the way to deployment. This allows developers to create new things with a better understanding of how they affect current systems; at the same time, it allows administrators to quickly communicate what needs to improve or change in future releases.

What makes DevOps possible?

If it sounds like a common sense way of doing things, that’s because it kind of is. So why doesn’t every company work this way?

DevOps wasn’t always possible. Not too long ago, you needed to buy, manage, and maintain your own servers yourself and by hand. That required a lot of specialized manpower, and gave birth to IT operations as a separate team. At the same time, varying hardware and software environments spelled potential compatibility issues that made it difficult to push out new software quickly.

But cloud computing and its related developments have paved the way for the DevOps movement to emerge. Rather than procuring and maintaining their own hardware, companies can now rent space on Google, Amazon and Microsoft’s data centers. These cloud providers manage and automate the more menial steps of setting up and managing infrastructure, thus freeing up time for innovation, problem-solving, and communication.

The cloud also gave birth to cloud-native tools, practices, and architectural elements that further narrow the gap between development and operations:

  • Containers allow apps to be packaged with their own unique operating environments, thus eliminating compatibility issues;
  • Cloud federation allows companies to grow or shrink their infrastructure instantly in response to changes in demand;
  • Microservices allow developers to create or modify small parts of a larger service independently, without adversely affecting the entire system. These services can also be distributed and moved across multiple servers as needed.

Together, these breakthroughs allow companies to organize around small teams that are involved from conceptualization all the way to the release of a new feature.

Facebook, a DevOps pioneer that releases new updates every week to billions of users, is known for its famous mantra: “Move fast and break things.” But in 2014, they changed it to “Move fast with stable infra.” This phrase captures the core idea behind DevOps: that by automating and simplifying the relationship between services and infrastructure, a culture of innovation can take root.

How can DevOps transform my company?

“DevOps is the start of a new culture,” said Israel. “It’s a command decision: we won’t deliver software every 4 months. We will do it as fast as we can, but with security and privacy. The end goal is continuous improvement.”

In 2012, ING had 4 software deployments a year and a mobile app rated 1 out of 5 stars. By 2014, after committing to DevOps, their app went up to 4 stars and the frequency of deployments went up to 18,000 per month. In the same span of time, their number of network outages per year went from over 30 to zero.

“Shipping cadence defines your company,” said Israel. “Even your support becomes instant. When a customer tells you they’re experiencing an error, the customer support team is now empowered to get that technical issue fixed in real time.”

On the other side, BPI’s recent system error is an example of something that is completely avoidable in a DevOps environment. When an internal glitch occurred, the bank shut down their entire online banking system for several days and took over a week to resolve the issue. A cloud-native company built on DevOps culture may have resolved it in minutes without halting operations.

“When your business is about the IT system, it’s not a business,” said Israel. By simplifying infrastructure and dissolving boundaries between operations and development, DevOps eliminates the distractions and unites everyone around a common goal: to serve the customer in the best way possible.

How do I start?

To start moving to a DevOps environment, sign up for a demo of our cloud-native infrastructure solution, Amihan Cloud Blocks.