DevOps is a software development strategy that bridges the gap between developers and IT staff. With DevOps, organizations can release small features very quickly and incorporate feedback received from customers quickly into their production pipeline.
DevOps engineers understand the software development lifecycle and the various automation tools used to develop continuous integration / continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines.
DevOps engineers work with developers and IT staff to oversee software releases. They might be developers with knowledge of deployment and network operations, or system administrators interested in scripting and coding, and they rely on development to make testing and deployment smarter and more effective.
In this article you will learn the following:
What Does a DevOps Engineer Do?
Typically, DevOps engineers have both software development and operations skills. DevOps responsibilities vary from company to company, but in general, their main occupations are:
- Building and improve a CI/CD pipeline—the goal of a DevOps engineer is to plan and implement the fastest and safest way to bring code from a developer’s laptop to production, avoiding bugs and operational issues that will affect users. A key objective is to automate the deployment process to make deployments as painless as possible, both for developers and for end users.
- Maintaining cloud infrastructure—cloud computing is built on shared pools of resources and higher level services that can help set up complex computing configurations quickly and efficiently. Cloud infrastructure at large enterprises typically includes a virtual private cloud (VPC), load balancer, security components, databases or data services, and various types of compute instances.
- Configuration management—without configuration management tools like Puppet and Chef, DevOps engineers can’t manage enterprise-scale infrastructure in the cloud. You can use these tools to define the software and features required for each server and deploy infrastructure automatically based on configuration files (this is known as Infrastructure as Code, or IaC).
- Monitoring—DevOps engineers aim to minimize errors and bugs for customers, achieve high reliability for production systems, and identify anything that could be causing production problems as soon as possible. Monitoring is crucial for achieving this, and is especially important in continuous delivery / continuous deployment environments, in which organizations deploy code to production daily, hourly, or even multiple times per hour.
Skill Set Required to Become a DevOps Engineer
While advanceds coding skills are not essential for many DevOps roles, it can definitely help you get ahead. Learning some programming languages commonly used in an enterprise environment, such as Python or Java, can turn a network or IT specialist into a real DevOps engineer. You can save the organization time and resources by directly going into code, debugging as needed, fixing build and deployment errors, and avoiding the development lifecycle that bounces between development and operations.
Most of the processes in a DevOps environment, such as server provisioning, application installation and configuration, are automated. DevOps engineers take responsibility for keeping things running smoothly. Programming skills are important for building and operating tools that automate these processes.
Virtualization and Cloud
Virtualization refers to virtual instances of computer systems running on layers abstracted from the physical hardware. Virtualization allows large systems to be partitioned into smaller systems, allowing many users or applications with different requirements to use a server.
Virtualization is very important in DevOps, because if you can virtualize hardware and clone existing systems, development, IT and testing teams can work together more effectively. It becomes possible to provision standardized environments for dev, test, and production systems.
Virtualization is a core mechanism behind public, private and hybrid clouds. A hybrid cloud is a common configuration that integrates between internal data centers and public cloud resources. By virtualizing computing resources, it is possible to more easily transition them from the data center to the cloud—for example, when moving applications from dev/test to production.
Of the many DevOps automation tools available, the most popular DevOps tools are Puppet, Kubernetes, and Jenkins. The DevOps process requires automating everything from code generation to build, test, and deployment. Testing is also automated, using a variety of tools, providing continuous feedback to development teams.
In an agile work process, organizations follow a step-by-step iterative development process, with an inseparable link between test and development. DevOps goes a step further. Testers not only check that functionality is working properly, they also need to test operations, performance, security, and more.
Testing happens at every stage of the software development lifecycle, from planning through to coding, merging into the main branch, building software, releasing, deployment, operation, and monitoring. DevOps engineers perform testing activities themselves, and support full time testers by giving them the automated tools and infrastructure they need.
What Tools Does a DevOps Engineer Use?
DevOps engineers rely on multiple software tools to get their jobs done effectively. Below we list the main categories and the most popular tools in each category.
- Process automation tools (Jenkins, Bamboo, etc.)—allow DevOps engineers to customize and automate delivery pipelines.
- Source control (Git)—source control tools track the progress of development work, provide a version history, and create version “branches”. Code in branches is frequently merged with the “main branch”, which is eventually promoted to production.
- Code repository (Github, Bitbucket, etc.)—a code repository integrates the source control software into the DevOps process.
- Containerization—containerization (using tools like Docker and Kubernetes) puts your application and all related configuration files and libraries, regardless of dependencies, into a container that can run independently on a physical machine. Managing containerized applications is an important part of the day-to-day responsibility of a DevOps engineer, so knowledge of container principles and Docker is critical, and familiarity with enterprise Kubernetes is essential for large organizations.
- Serverless software: many DevOps teams rely on serverless infrastructure, which makes it possible to deploy code in any language and scale it as needed, without maintaining actual servers. This is very useful for deploying CI/CD pipelines and microservices applications. The AWS serverless ecosystem is today considered to be the most mature, and DevOps engineers are familiar with tools like Amazon Lambda.
- Configuration Management (Puppet Enterprise, Ansible, Chef, etc.)—configuration management tools allow DevOps engineers to configure, manage and automatically deploy infrastructure as code (IaC).
- Monitoring software (Nagios, Datadog, etc.)—monitoring software help DevOps teams track infrastructure, identify issues and find quick solutions for problems.
- Project management solutions (Jira, Trello, etc.)—commonly used by DevOps teams to manage project items and provide documentation of the work process. DevOps engineers use these solutions to track the progress of their teams, keep everyone on time, and identify issues with the process or workflow.
DevOps engineers are a crucial role in the modern digital enterprise. In this article we reviewed the roles of a DevOps engineer, including the CI/CD pipeline, maintenance of cloud infrastructure, monitoring and configuration management, and the variety of technical skills required for the job, including programming knowledge, cloud computing, automation and software testing.
A DevOps engineer is a challenging position, but can be highly rewarding. Further down the line, it can lead you on a promising career path to roles like DevOps team leader, head of infrastructure, head of IT, or even Chief Information Office (CIO).