What Is DevOps And Why It’s Important

By Natalie Bluhm Posted June 12, 2018

What is DevOps and Why It's Important

What is DevOps and Why It’s Important

A recent survey from Suse reveals that 86% of IT leaders (1400 surveyed) see DevOps as part of their future IT strategy, and 77% plan to incorporate DevOps methodology into their application development and delivery. So, what is DevOps, and why do organizations want to utilize it? These are great questions, and the answers are long ones. So let’s dive into what is DevOps and why it’s important.

If you ask a group of engineers and IT leaders what is DevOps, you’ll find that DevOps has a variety of definitions. However, we would loosely suggest that it can be thought of as a culture that has strongly influenced a method for delivering software and applications to market. It is an extension of the Agile method that integrates development (dev) and operations (ops) in the software development and deployment process. This is different from previous methods, like Waterfall and Agile, that keep these separate. However, removing the separation between Dev and Ops teams (and other teams as well) has enabled organizations to increase their frequency of delivering products to market that more closely align to customer desires.

To fully appreciate what is DevOps and why it’s important, let’s go over the two traditional methods that paved the way for DevOps: Waterfall and Agile.  

The Waterfall Software Development Method

The Waterfall method takes a methodical, sequential approach to developing software. In the beginning, the Waterfall approach starts with extensive planning and design. Then, the development team codes the software. When the development team is finished, another team tests it, and once testing is complete the software is handed off to operations to deploy.  At the end, a fully finished piece of software is delivered. However, requirements can change in the middle of the development process, and this method doesn’t take this into consideration. So, what ends up happening is either unwanted software is delivered or time and money is spent to change the plans. Additionally, the Waterfall method focuses solely on delivering working software, and it doesn’t consider how the software will work in a live production environment. So how does the Agile method fit in?

Developing Software with the Agile Method

While the Waterfall approach doesn’t work well with change, the Agile method does. This is because the focus is placed on delivering small iterations of software instead of a whole product. This makes it much easier to adjust the software when requirements change. One of the reasons this works is because an Agile team is cross-functional and is made up of  one team member from planning, another from coding, another from testing and so on. They all work together to produce the software iteration they are working on. This makes it easier to spot bugs, modify the code to meet new requirements, and more. While Agile’s iterative, cross-functional approach has helped many companies deliver higher quality software, it is not without its downfalls. Deadlines are often missed, sometimes completed pieces of the software don’t work with each other, and occasionally new software features break older functions. Furthermore, similar to the Waterfall approach, the Agile method also focuses on just creating working software, and it doesn’t consider how the live production environment will affect the software and vice versa, how the software will impact the live environment.  

Dev and Ops are Stronger Together

In both of these traditional methods, not including operations into the software development process leads to problems and discord between the development team and the operations team. This is because when something goes wrong, it’s hard to distinguish if the problem lies in the code or in the deployment. What ends up happening is a bunch of finger pointing between the two departments. Eventually, people in the software development space got frustrated with this wall between development and operations. So, a new approach emerged that removed the wall between the Dev and the Ops teams, and thus, DevOps was born.

A Closer Look at What is DevOps and Why It’s Important

So what is DevOps anyway? DevOps uses Agile practices, but like the comic to the right demonstrates, the separation between development teams and operation teams is removed. So, a cross-functional dev team will work with the ops team to produce an iteration of software.  

The development team will work with the operations team in order to have a clear understanding of the systems used in the environment. As a result, they won’t be focused on just creating working software, but will create software that can meet the specifications of the systems it will be deployed on. Likewise, operations will work with the development team so that they have a clear understanding of the software. Operations will be able to channel their knowledge of the software into creating an environment that can support the application. The outcome of this collaboration between dev and ops teams has led to faster software release cycles, and higher software quality and security. For example, environments that leverage DevOps practices experience the following:

  • 46x more frequent code deployments
  • 440x faster lead time from commit to deploy (aka going from code commit to code successfully running in production)
  • 96x faster restoring service when an unplanned outage occurs  
  • 5x lower change failure rate (When a change is made to an application/service, it rarely leads to a degraded service, outage, rollback etc.)

  From The 2017 State of DevOps Report  

With benefits like these, it’s not surprising that many organizations have plans to incorporate DevOps into their IT and software development strategies.

Challenges with DevOps

However, DevOps is still fairly new, so one of the main challenges is finding the right tools to use in a DevOps environment. Organizations have been able to find good tools for source code management, monitoring, infrastructure and configuration automation, and more, but identity management has been one area that has had few options. With no identity management in place, managing SSH keys is a nightmare, onboarding and offboarding is insecure and can take weeks, and engineers end up with too many credentials. Legacy identity management solutions don’t work well in a DevOps setup because they weren’t built for the heterogeneous environments many DevOps organizations tend to favor. Further, on-prem, legacy IAM solutions aren’t built with a microservices architecture which is critical to the DevOps approach.

The good news is a cloud identity management solution, called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®, is helping DevOps organizations automate their identity management.

Automating DevOps Identity Management with JumpCloud

JumpCloud supports virtually all IT resources regardless of protocol, platform, provider, or location, so organizations are free to use the solutions that work best for them. Additionally, JumpCloud’s multi-protocol approach and ability to integrate with almost any IT resource enables DevOps engineers and IT admins to do the following:

Now organizations can leverage the speed and precision that comes with DevOps while utilizing secure, efficient identity management.

Find Out More About DevOps and Identity Management

Read Tamr’s case study to find out how Tamr was able to tame their DevOps environment by centralizing user access to about 300 remote servers. They were also able to cut down onboarding from a week to a few hours by implementing JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service. If you would like to learn more about DevOps and identity management, consider watching the webinar below.

Have more questions about what is DevOps and why it’s important? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us, and if you’re curious about how to use JumpCloud to optimize your entire IT environment, sign up for a free account. The entire platform is available, and your first ten users are free forever.

Natalie Bluhm

Natalie is a writer for JumpCloud, an Identity and Access Management solution designed for the cloud era. Natalie graduated with a degree in professional and technical writing, and she loves learning about cloud infrastructure, identity security, and IT protocols.

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