Tuesday, 11th December 2018

How DevOps in the cloud can safeguard you against disruption

DevOps practices and cloud technologies are now typical across organisations. Cloud technology provides several benefits including on-demand provisioning, scalability and an OpEx cost model. DevOps is the process of bringing your Development and Operations teams together. Agile development and DevOps practices are now essential for attracting the best talent, decreasing deployment times, increasing deployment frequency, reducing failback rates and improving the overall stability of your solution. By Paul Hatcher, Director of Professional Services, Europe, Tech Data.

When it comes to leveraging cloud technology, businesses are in the enviable position of being able to take advantage of public Cloud environments to develop and deploy applications. This allows them to stay lean and flexible, limiting capital expenditure whilst allowing for scalability. Many enterprise businesses find this transition difficult to make alone because of legacy complexities in their IT infrastructure, industry regulations or simply their internal organisational structure. This is where a good IT provider can step in and guide an organisation to create the desired business outcome.

DevOps in the cloud is about marrying the principles of DevOps with the advantages of the cloud. The main benefit of DevOps in the cloud is agility. It removes one of the biggest obstacles to a good DevOps strategy, so that once you have a good strategy in place your code moves quicker from development to production; your users get features faster; and your environment is more stable and faster to recover because your Operations team are more available to focus on these priorities.

By employing these technologies and working practices, enterprise businesses are less likely to be victims of disruption in their industry. Indeed, there is every likelihood that they will be the disruptors.

Why and how to make a success of DevOps in the Cloud.

The primary notion of DevOps is to get the Development and Operations teams working together in sync, giving them shared goals and responsibilities. Development teams should not lose sight of their changes once they go ‘over the wall’. Similarly, Operations should be focused on providing the tools Development need to get new features to production faster.

With this in mind, businesses deploying DevOps in the cloud should focus on their DevOps strategy and identify how cloud can help them achieve their goals faster. For instance, there will inevitably be bottlenecks in the environment between your Development and Operations processes and its highly likely that cloud services can help reduce these by ensuring that the code your team is working on and the environment that it applies is consistent at all times.

One of the prime motivators for DevOps is to reduce the time to production and rollback time. Cloud environments enable this in several ways. Firstly, think of each time your application either succeeds and is promoted to the next environment or fails and rolls back, in every environment you have different configurations linked to that specific version of the code you’ve built. Building or replacing your environments at each successful deployment or rollback is not part of an agile DevOps strategy. However, if you are not working in a cloud environment, your dependency on a fixed environment necessitates this constant building or replacing your environments with each deployment. With deployment in the cloud, you can treat your servers like cattle, not pets. Cloud gives you the flexibility to spin up a clean environment every time, without the remnants of old configurations inhibiting your application, effectively killing off any sick members of the herd and promoting agility.

In conjunction with this you can deploy containerisation. Using software such as Docker or Red Hat Atomic, containerisation allows entire platforms to be wrapped into a container and deployed as a service in a single step. In cloud environments, containerisation allows for much faster scalability, deployment of new environments and redeployment of existing ones, all of which contribute to achieving the primary goals of faster time to production and rollback time. If your environment is more monolithic, it will first be necessary to break-up this environment and transition it to microservices container based runtimes. Fortunately, software such as Tech Data’s Talos can automate this process, often resulting in a reduction of up to 75% in the migration time. For those applications not easily containerised, it may be necessary for you to then refactor the code, redesigning stateful applications to be stateless. This can be a daunting task and you may need to seek expert advice, such as that from a Tech Data consultant, but it is necessary to migrate from monolithic middleware to a cloud-based environment.

Businesses should also look to make the most of automation in their system development life cycle (SDLC). Ideally, you would automate all the SDLC. If you’re using a sophisticated level of scripting or require high levels of personalisation then this may seem impossible, but there are plenty of tools – such as Ansible, Chef, SALT, Talos from Tech Data or Puppet to name a few – that will help you achieve this and have plenty of support in the marketplace.

To disrupt or be disrupted, that is the question…

Regardless of the size or nature of your business, the goal of your DevOps strategy will always be greater agility and the cloud provides the perfect environment within which to achieve that. Undoubtedly, enterprise businesses with large monolithic environments have work to do, but solutions exist that can ease some of this pain and expert help is on hand to show the way. Those businesses that do transition to the cloud can reap the benefits of faster production and rollback times, ultimately allowing them to innovate faster and get new features to their customers quicker, making it much more likely that they are the disruptor, not the disrupted.

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