Top 7 Essential Skills for DevOps Engineers

Top 7 Essential Skills for DevOps Engineers
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Introduction

In the age where the majority of businesses and services are now utilizing the power of the cloud to cater to customers, it is no surprise that DevOps engineers are in demand now more than ever. From setting up the entire environment infrastructures in the cloud or on-premise to automation of processes, the responsibilities of a DevOps engineer are quite vast and have a lot of areas to cover. You may be in a position where you’re just starting out your career in DevOps or maybe you already have experience but want to dig deeper as well as further improve your skills.

In this article, we will be going through the 7 essential skills you need to equip yourself in order to become a great DevOps engineer in 2022. This should help you understand the key role of DevOps as well as point you to different technologies that you need to focus on learning. We’re not going to bombard you with hundreds of different pathways but rather give you a higher vantage point of what you need to focus on.

The Path

Being a DevOps engineer requires proficiency in many different tools. Let’s go through each of the 7 major categories each DevOps engineer should be skilled at.

1. Linux Operating System

First on our list, would be the Linux Operating System. The majority of the servers either in the cloud or bare-metal, are powered by a distribution of Linux. From top companies to mobile devices, Linux has been the go-to operating system to host production-grade servers. The reason is simple. It's free, has a small footprint, a gigantic community, and its stability and security are far ahead of any other operating system to date. Since DevOps commonly deals with handling different kinds of servers, chances are the majority of them would be running in Linux.

Here are the main topics that you’ll need to learn in this category:

  • Bash scripting
  • Cronjobs or Crontab (Task scheduler)
  • Networking (Firewall and connectivity)
  • Basic file system and navigation
  • File and content search
  • SSH and storage

If you don’t have an idea of what some of these are it’s OK! Anything unknown at this moment can definitely be learned. If you’re new and want to get started with learning the Linux Operating System, KodeKloud has a great beginner course, it covers Linux basics and has labs that you can access from your browser that will allow you to quickly absorb and learn. If you’re more on the seasoned side and want to further improve or validate your skills in the subject, you can opt to get the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator Certification. This certificate is globally recognized and will be a great addition to your career as a DevOps engineer. KodeKloud also offers an amazing preparation course that can help you nail this certification with flying colors. If you're not sure which one you should start with, you can refer to the Linux learning path to help you understand the order to take these courses.

2. Programming Language

Part of your task as a DevOps engineer would be creating a lot of different scripts. It can be from simple monitoring or reporting web applications, to CronJobs and even as advanced as automating your server infrastructure. That’s why learning a programming language is not only beneficial in DevOps but is also necessary. In the DevOps community, there are two at the top of the list, Go and Python programming language.

Golang or Go is an open-source programming language supported by Google. Its syntax is simple and clean making it easier to learn for beginners. One of the main functions of Go is concurrency and automated garbage collection. Concurrency is the ability to process lines of code in parallel and in a multi-threaded fashion. Python also is able to attain concurrency but it’s through the use of other libraries. Go achieves concurrency natively making it faster and the automated garbage collection ensures lightweight and stability. The reason that you might want to learn the Go language as well is that the different tools being used in DevOps are commonly written in Go, and having the ability to understand how these tools work under the hood will allow you to troubleshoot faster and maybe even add more features on your tools. If you’re someone who’s interested in learning to Go, you can check out the KodeKloud Go course here.

Python has been around for many years now and it’s one of the most versatile languages to date. It’s easy to learn due to its syntax and there’s a lot you can do with it. Here’s a summary of what you can do with Python:

  • Web Development
  • Scripting
  • Software automation and testing
  • Machine Learning
  • Data analytics

Now, of course, it is not required to learn all of these. What you should focus on as a DevOps engineer is scripting, software automation and testing, and lastly web development. These are the areas where DevOps would be more likely to be working since DevOps engineers focus more on the infrastructure rather than the application itself.

Now, you don’t have to be a software engineer to be able to get started with learning Python. Getting certified in Python is not required but will definitely take you far and will open opportunities in your DevOps career. Not only that your profile will have a more stellar effect on job recruiters. But also, validating that your python skills are up to the global standards set by the Python Institute.

If you want to get started learning Python, KodeKloud has courses that will help you prepare for both the PCEP – Certified Entry-Level Python Programmer and PCAP – Certified Associate in Python Programming certification.

It will be beneficial to learn both of these programming languages, if you not sure which one to start first don't worry! KodeKloud has got you covered. You can follow the KodeKloud programming learning path and get started adding programming to your set of skills!

3. GIT Versioning

GIT is a version control software that’s commonly used to store and keep track of any changes to your source code. In DevOps, you’ll mostly be working with application code repositories, script files, and infrastructure manifest or definition files. All of which would be stored in git repositories. This allows you to maintain and monitor any changes that have been made and also easily revert back to any version in case of issues. This makes the application or infrastructure more stable and able to recover from crashes.

You don’t need to have advanced knowledge in GIT but just enough for you to be able to pull and push to the repository, and also be able to fix merge conflicts. Learning GIT is a must for any position that’s IT-related and that includes DevOps engineers. The popular repositories in this aspect are GitHub and GitLab both have great different features further empowering your repositories to even handle the deployment of your applications.

If you're someone who’s not yet familiar with the subject or just wants to refresh their knowledge in GIT, KodeKloud has an amazing beginner course that includes everything you need to learn to get started with using GIT in your workflow.

4. CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) Tools

CI/CD tools are used to automate the interaction from the software developer pushing code to your repository, to the deployment of the said code changes to their respective environments. This in turn speeds up the process of delivering software to your end-users. In DevOps, where automation is key to every process, learning CI/CD tools is a must. Here’s a list of the top 5 widely used CI/CD tools in the DevOps community.

  • Jenkins - is an open-source automation server. It helps automate the parts of software development related to building, testing, and deploying, facilitating continuous integration and continuous delivery.
  • GitLab - a central DevOps platform. It helps you automate the builds, integration, and verification of your code.
  • CircleCI - a CI/CD tool that supports rapid software development and publishing. It allows automation across the user’s pipeline, from code building, and testing to deployment.
  • TeamCity - This is a CI/CD server offering from JetBrains, makers of heavily robust IDE such as PyCharm and PHPStorm.
  • Bamboo - is a continuous integration build server from Atlassian which performs an automatic build, test, and release in a single place.

You don’t have to learn all of the tools listed here as this usually depends on many factors. One is that the company may already have an existing infrastructure built on one of these CI/CD tools. It’s beneficial to at least have some basic idea on all of them. However, if you’re just starting out there’s nothing wrong with going for the most prominent tool which is Jenkins.

Jenkins has been around for a long time and also has a large community behind it. The huge library of plugins provides answers to most of the features you’re looking for in CI/CD as well as problems you will encounter as a DevOps engineer. KodeKloud has a complete Jenkins course. it covers everything you need to know to get started with the most popular CI/CD tool.

5. Infrastructure-as-code (IaC)

Infrastructure as code is an approach in an infrastructure management where your software infrastructure is defined or created through the use of manifest files. Gone are the days when IT Administrators or DevOps engineers set up servers by manually installing packages or applications in order for the server to be provisioned. Instead, with IaC, we define each attribute or property of how we want the server to be in a small text file, and then the software able to read this file is the one that automatically springs up a server based on the values declared.

This allows servers to be set up in seconds. It also allows hundreds or even thousands of servers provisioned in a short amount of time from a single manifest file ensuring these servers are of the same exact copy and behavior.

Here are the top 5 most popular IAC tools:

  • Terraform - is one of the widely used IAC tools. It’s supported by top cloud providers such as AWS, GCP, and Azure.
  • Ansible - open-source software provisioning, configuration management, and application-deployment tool enabling infrastructure as code
  • Chef - is an IAC automation tool written and built on the Ruby language
  • Puppet - One of the earlier IAC tools developed
  • AWS CloudFormation - Is an AWS IAC service offering

For this category, you don’t have to gain expertise in all of these, but it will be helpful if you at least are able to cover the basics for each one. This way, it will be easier for you to adapt to any tools that you come across as this may become different depending on what’s currently being used by your company. The great thing about these tools is that they’re easy to learn since they all follow the core concept of IAC. If you wish to learn the basics you can refer to these great courses from KodeKloud:

If you wish to gain a deeper knowledge of these tools or are interested in getting certified, Terraform and Ansible have certifications available. Go the extra mile and further validate your skills. These courses from KodeKloud can help you prepare for the certification:

Now, that's a lot of tools to learn in this category. It might be confusing for someone starting out which tool to learn first, fortunately, KodeKloud already prepared a great IaC learning path so you just need to focus on learning.

6. Containers and Container Orchestration

Software containerization is now becoming the mainstream method of how we build and deploy applications. It allows your software to be packaged with all the dependencies required for it to run. It’s isolated enough that it’s secure, lightweight, and has high-speed performance. It can easily be transferred from one server to the next and it ranges from small to big applications, and even entire operating systems. Software containers are not entirely new and have been around for many years. There are many containerization tools out in the market and one of which is the most popular is Docker.

Understanding how containers work and how they are built is a very integral skill for DevOps engineers. Since the majority of software applications are now served in containers, it is highly likely that containers will be a part of the entire DevOps infrastructure in your company. If you want to get started with learning Docker, check out KodeKloud Docker Training Course for the Absolute Beginner. If you’re already familiar with Docker and want to delve into advanced topics and get certified in the process, you can check out KodeKloud Docker Certified Associate Exam Course. These courses will prepare you for everything you need to know in order to be an expert with containers.

Container Orchestration is the automated process of managing and running your container services or applications. It deals with deployment, load balancing, and scaling enhancing your software infrastructure to have high availability, resilience, and the ability to recover from any crashes or failure. One of the popular tools for orchestrating your containers is Kubernetes.

In itself, Kubernetes has a lot of features to offer and can be quite complex once you get into the advanced features. Once you have gained proficiency with using containerization tools like Docker, you should be able to get a grasp quickly of what Kubernetes is all about. If you want to get started learning Kubernetes, you can check out KodeKloud Kubernetes for the Absolute Beginners – Hands-on.

There are also Kubernetes certifications you can acquire from the Linux Foundation, Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD), Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA), and Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKS). Obtaining these certifications can definitely validate your skills and amplify your credentials opening more opportunities in the DevOps field. If you’re interested in getting any of these certifications you can check out the preparation courses below:

7. Cloud Platforms

Businesses have been moving towards cloud platforms for some time now. Cloud platforms answer most if not all of the issues of on-premise infrastructure. This includes the high cost for hardware, scalability challenges, and thorough maintenance further adding up the charges. With cloud platforms, most of these high overhead problems are maintained by the actual provider, leaving the business to focus on the application and data itself. The pay-as-you-use model with these cloud platforms allows companies to scale up their services as well as scale down as needed to attain cost-efficiency while providing great quality software.

As DevOps engineers, you’ll most likely be working with cloud providers to build the foundation for your infrastructure. Having the knowledge and the skills necessary to develop, manage, and utilize the different services offered by the cloud platforms, is also a very important skill to have. Learning cloud platforms is all about gaining proficiency and familiarity with the different services within its platform. This in turn gives you the ability to determine the exact service that will be suitable to solve a particular requirement cost-efficiently.

In this category, here are the most popular cloud platforms that you should add to your skill set as a DevOps engineer:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
  • Microsoft Azure

If you’re already working as a DevOps engineer chances are that the company you’re working for already has an infrastructure running on either one of these platforms, it’s also a possibility to have multi-cloud platforms. The best approach would be to further gain knowledge of what's already available or being used by your company.

If you’re just starting out, you can choose any of them. But what is recommended is to gain enough (just to cover the basics) knowledge in all of them as all these cloud platforms offer foundational certifications to help you get started then just later decide which cloud platform you’d like to gain mastery on. This gives you the flexibility to work in any cloud platform further amplifying your credibility as a DevOps engineer.

Here’s a list of foundational/fundamental certifications you can obtain from these cloud platforms:

  • Google Cloud Digital Leader
  • AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals

Special Mentions

Once you have gained proficiency in the major categories in this article. I would recommend focusing on improving on these next.

  • Package Managers for popular programming languages - This ties in building containers as it requires being able to understand how each application written in different languages is built. Having a bit of knowledge in these allows you to be able to quickly build applications in containers ready for production.
    • PyPi for Python
    • Maven or Gradle for Java
    • Composer for PHP
    • NPM for Javascript
  • Web Servers - As more services are served in web applications either in mobile form or computer, a DevOps engineer may be required to set up web servers and apply the proper configuration.
    • Nginx
    • Apache
    • NodeJS
  • Communication skills both written and verbal - This skill will be very valuable, especially in job interviews. DevOps engineers would sometimes be required to perform some kind of reporting, maybe a performance report or a cost-analysis report. Being able to convey this complex, jargon-heavy information in a format that’s easy to understand by your non-technical managers or supervisors can be one of the challenges you’d have to face.

Conclusion

No doubt from this article alone you can see why DevOps engineers are highly paid and highly sought after. The sheer amount of technical prowess they deal with on a daily basis speaks volumes about the value they add to any company.

This article should provide you with the guidance you’ll need to get started if you aim for a career in DevOps. If you are in the industry already, this could also serve as a checklist of what you’ll need to work on next to further improve your skills. As with any goal, determination, discipline, and persistence are key. Pair that also with the right people and resources to help you advance in your journey, and you too can become a great DevOps engineer.