Agile and DevOps may sound like two different practices of software development. But in reality, they are force multipliers for each other and also work best in complementing each other for the maximum impact. The definition, ideas, and jargon may make them sound a bit different at times but a closer analysis of each will quickly reveal the common bloodline between the two. Together they maximize adaptability to change, deliver great results and minimize wasteful development practices. In this article, we will see how DevOps is transforming Agile software development.
In 2008, Patrick DuBois and Andrew Clay Schafer made this connection between Development and operation practices which were separate concepts at the time and later Patrick coined the term “DevOps”. DevOps brings speed to the Agile practices and Agile brings adaptability to change. Together they drive customer satisfaction, growth, and a great user experience.
Agile as a concept works at its best when we are dealing with small-size teams which can work in close proximity to each other. Scaling Agile to large-scale organizations has its own challenges which require certain additional development practices to be adapted for scaling the Agile culture to scale it.
DevOps as a culture on the other hand is built for scale and has been field-tested for a while in and around that.
As per the 14th State of the Agile report, a majority of the companies survey has already started to make a shift to the DevOps in an Agile software development team. A significant portion of the respondent also found the transformation to be very important and relevant.
What is Agile?
Changing requirements are a nemesis to any software project. The project team picks up the requirements, analyzes and designs the solution, implementation is halfway through and BOOM!… the requirements changed. Start all over again.
Agile tries to address the problem of adaptability to changing requirements by not doing big plans and designs upfront but rather in small increments and short cycles of analysis, design, implementation, and testing to deliver value without overshooting the cost for adapting to changing scope. The teams are kept small in size and the iterations are kept small which makes calibration and changing fast and effortless.
The Agile Manifesto consists of 12 Agile principles put together by the stalwarts of software development. It tries to resolve some of the biting problems of the time. At its heart, the Agile manifesto is based on the following values:
- Prefer individuals and interactions between them over tools and processes
- Working software should be preferred over documentation
- Collaboration with customer for better feedback should be preferred over contracts
- Respond to change rather than follow a fixed plan
The 12 principles of Agile which were jotted down in the snowbird summit became the guidelines for the Agile software development paradigm.
Agile software development is an umbrella term that we use to designate a set of practices that gives us better adaptability to changing scope of the project. But within Agile, there are different schools of practices [ methods ] which has slightly different and often competing views of things
Kent Beck developed Xtreme Programming [ XP ] had a view somewhat in line with > Requirements gathering isn’t a phase that produces a static document, but an activity producing detail, just before it is needed, throughout development.
Mike Cohn developed scrum which is more about the way we execute than anything else, scrum do not involve any big design or plan but rather happens in incremental short, and well-defined steps
Mary and Tom Poppendieck are attributed to the development of Lean revolves around the idea of reducing wasteful products or by-products from the development process. This should eventually lead up to a more efficient development process.
What is DevOps?
Historically the development, operations, quality, and security teams have worked in silos and this needs to change for faster adaptability to change and faster feedback. This has been the driving force behind DevOps which is a set of practices that ties the independent sets of executions into a continuous flow of steps which allows for better change management for the project and also faster feedback. The loop symbolized the continuous nature of the development process.
In an interview published by JAVA magazine in 2015, Patrick DeBois mentioned that before DevOps came into existence it was difficult to have an overview or a complete picture of what is actually happening within the development and the deployment process. Debugging, monitoring and profiling used to be a lot harder to execute. Due to the lack of insight into the overall process of building the system and deployment, it was hard for the engineering and the operations team to resolve the issues early on. This made Patrick believe that there has to be a way to combine the two separate disciples together and make things better for everyone. This is when Patrick DeBois coined the word ‘DevOps’.
Continuous improvement is the foundation stone for building good products and there is nothing like prompt and early feedback, this is exactly what DevOps brings to the table.
DevOps is not just a set of practices or tools but rather has a cultural tone to it. It is the way people in the organizations think or collaborate and the way organizations like to approach their solutions engineering process.
Collaboration is at the heart of DevOps, different teams, practices, and processes come together. As a result, a merger of process, priorities, expertise, and corners is typical in this scenario. They work together for the planning, execution, and feedback from the issues. It introduces a different dimension to the problem-solving ability of the team and the organization as a whole.
DevOps teams tend to shorten the release cadence and the feedback cycle. This helps in adapting to change and catering to issues much faster. In the pre-DevOps era, Risk Management was a complex process because project teams uncovered challenges and issues in the process very late. This changed with the DevOps culture which works on the fundamentals of an incremental process.
Benefits of the DevOps Culture
Continuous learning and innovation are two of the most critical outcomes of the DevOps culture. The feedback cycle also leads to a growth mindset at an organizational scale.
Better governance, security, compliance, and innovation are the cornerstones of a thriving DevOps culture. Accountability, quality, and performance are some of the outcomes which have obvious benefits to the overall success of the project. DevOps process results in faster development, better feedback to build mature products, and elevated customer satisfaction.
Finally, it also has a positive business impact due to:
- Faster time to market because last-minute surprises are minimized and less rework
- Adaptability to market and competition
- Reduced recovery time
It is not just enough to build the DevOps culture in the organization. However, is also the practices that need to be in place and baked into the development lifecycle of the product.
1. Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery [CI/CD]
The idea of continuous integration and continuous delivery is arguably the most prominent pillars of the DevOps practices. The idea of continuous integration revolves around the concept of automating the workflow of development to delivery from code check-in to production or staging. This brings down the cost of the change and also quick feedback to minimize the last-minute reworks. This also brings down the risk and makes updates pretty seamless.
2. Version Control
The idea of version control helps to maintain revisions and versions of the work artifacts. This makes managing rollbacks, merges, and conflicts like a breeze. The version control is possibly the most prominent collaboration tool that is currently in the state of practice. As a result, dividing the work while connected by distinct projects becomes easy.
3. Agile Software Development
DevOps and Agile go hand in hand to deal with today’s fast paces software development. Small upfront design, short iterative steps, and constant feedback allows for easy integration of updates and changes in requirements. Makes learning and adapting to change easy. In fact, DevOps culture and practices are the major support systems for the Agile development team.
Software in today’s world is a living and breathing system. It is alive. Monitoring tools and techniques allows for logging, analysis, profiling, and visualizing the entire software, databases and data flow for the entire end-to-end workflow. DevOps allows us to generate meaningful and actionable insights along with alerts in a real-time fashion.
Security is an integral part of the DevOps culture and practice. It is almost impossible to add security as an ad hoc increment to the existing system. Hence, we need to start from day one. So, security has a major impact on the analysis, design, implementation, and testing of any modern system. It needs special handling and checking at many places. DevOps is the perfect candidate to make policy enforcements automated and error-free.
6. Infrastructure Management
The severs, routers, domain name servers, load balancers need to be managed, provisioned, and monitored to keep the infrastructure in place. For the software to do its job and also reduce the risk in deploying new features and improvements. We use configuration management tools to monitor and track infrastructure state and avoid drifts before it turns into a disaster.
Agile and DevOps belong together as partners. It bring about the cultural change which has taken the software industry by storm. Once organizations understand the core values, principles, and practices then they can leverage the full potential of an effective Agile DevOps integration in combination.
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