DevOps, a clipped compound of software development and information technology operations, is a software development philosophy that emphasizes collaboration between developers, testers, and IT staff through all phases of the software development life cycle using practices and tools that increases a company’s ability to deliver at a fast pace.
The specifics of a given DevOps implementation may vary, but the goal is always the integration of teams that were once mutually exclusive. To facilitate this, these teams utilize two things:
- Automated processes for tasks that used to be slow and cumbersome when manually executed
- A technology stack consisting of tools that speed up operations and allows individuals greater independence (such as engineers deploying code)
Because of task automation and individual independence, with regards to completing products, the turnaround time required to deliver an application is much shorter than it used to be.
Why is it important to have the right DevOps tools?
One of the goals of the DevOps movement is to adapt continuity, and doing so requires the correct tools. These tools, by automating many of the processes that once required manual intervention (including code deployment and infrastructure updates) and enabling smaller groups (and even individuals) to carry out tasks without direct coordination with others, result in shorter periods of time before software deploys to production environments.
Helpful Tools Used by DevOps Teams
GitHub is one of the most popular online version control systems. It provides code repositories that can be accessed at any time from any location (since it doesn’t rely on a centralized version control server). GitHub also integrates well with a host of other tools (including, but not limited to, Slack, JIRA, and Heroku). This tool can serve as an easy way for teams to collaborate, share code, and track bugs.
In addition to being a solid choice for code storage and version control, GitHub facilitates the independence of developers while still ensuring that individual developers don’t produce output that is completely isolated and incompatible with other apps. Developers can fork (or copy) the appropriate files, send pull requests, and merge new changes as appropriate.
Docker is a Linux-based tool that allows you to deploy your applications in a container running on the host’s operating system. Docker packages your application (along with its dependencies) into a standardized unit that can run, unmodified, anywhere. While doing this isn’t particularly new, what Docker does well is:
- Make the software packaging process easy.
- Supply lightweight containers that are highly performant.
- Create containers capable of holding individual pieces of functionality that can be linked together to form a full application. Meaning updates to parts of the application can be easily made without impacting other areas.
- Provide the rich Docker Hub ecosystem, which contains an abundance of ready-to-use content.
Docker helps streamline your development process by allowing you to build once, run anywhere.
Configuration Management Systems
The following three tools, Chef, Puppet, and SaltStack, are configuration management systems. While the specifics of each tool vary, each one, generally speaking, make it easier to configure and maintain the large number of servers comprising your infrastructure. However, don’t discount these tools even if your company is smaller; automation makes things run smoother regardless of the size of your infrastructure.
Using Chef requires a master server, a workstation to control the master server, and client agents on the nodes you’re managing; to install, Chef ships with a knife tool that uses SSH for deployment. Afterward, managed nodes use certificates to authenticate themselves with the master server.
Configuring Chef requires knowledge of Git and Ruby, though the Chef ecosystem contains a large collection of modules and configuration recipes that you can use or modify. Deployment, however, requires the client agents to “check in” regularly with the master server, since Chef doesn’t come with a mechanism to “push” changes out to the individual nodes.
Of the three configuration management tools mentioned in this blog post, Puppet is the most complete in terms of the actions, modules, and user interfaces it offers. It’s a mature, stable option that runs on pretty much every operating system. The setup is relatively simple, since you only have to install master server and client agents on each component that the master server manages. You can then make changes using a straightforward command-line interface, and these changes are propagated in one of two ways:
- When the client agents “check in” with the master server
- When the master computer issues a push that triggers modifications on the client agents
Additionally, Puppet comes with well-developed reporting tools, so it’s easy for you to gather information about the state and status of your infrastructure.
SaltStack, while not as established as Chef and Puppet, is a good option if you’re looking for something fast and simple. It is a command-line based tool that “pushes” configuration changes out to the nodes it manages. Salt’s biggest advantages are its scalability and resiliency. Because you can have multiple levels of masters, you can create a tiered arrangement where upstream masters can control downstream masters, leading to even distribution of heavy loads and increasing redundancy.
The pace with which software is updated and released is increasing, and this has been facilitated by the rising number of companies adopting DevOps practices. Their accomplishments stem partly from the tools they use, all of which are designed to eliminate friction when it comes to shipping code to production environments. To maintain your competitive advantage in an increasingly crowded marketplace, consider using one or more of these tools with your DevOps teams.
For additional information on how Rigor can help your company streamline its software delivery process,
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