What Is DevOps?

To remain competitive in today’s dynamic world, companies expect developers to deliver high-quality software quickly and efficiently while also ensuring that it is secure and reliable. To achieve this, developers have embraced DevOps practices such as collaboration and automation.

In this article, we'll discuss what DevOps is, its benefits, and responsibilities.

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a set of practices that combines software development and IT operations to shorten the systems development life cycle while delivering features, fixes, and updates frequently in close alignment with business objectives. It involves collaboration between teams that historically functioned in relative siloes, such as developers and operations professionals. 

DevOps is a set of practices that combines software development and IT operations to shorten the systems development life cycle while delivering features, fixes, and updates frequently in close alignment with business objectives.

DevOps aims to increase the speed and efficiency of software delivery while improving the reliability and security of the software being delivered. This is achieved through the use of automation, continuous integration and delivery, and close collaboration between development and operations teams.

Problems Solved by DevOps

At its core, DevOps is a set of procedures meant to make the process of developing and releasing applications efficient and fast. But this sounds pretty abstract. Let's ignore the technical aspects for now. Instead, let's take a look at the human aspect of developing and releasing apps. It will be easier to understand DevOps if we first look at the problems that it tries to solve.

Let's start by taking a look at an app on our phones. For example, let's consider the YouTube app that lets us easily watch any video we want. How does it end up on our phones?

The first step is pretty easy to imagine: a bunch of people write some code for it. They use a programming language to implement all the features that this should have. But, before this app lands on the Google Play Store or Apple's App Store, it has to go through many steps.

First of all, all that code is just a collection of lines of text. And our phone can't just execute that text as it is. That code must be transformed into something our phone can understand and run. Also, we can't just turn any code into an application and deliver it to our customers.

What if that code has errors? What if it crashes our servers? So, in a nutshell, the code has to be reviewed, transformed into an executable program, tested, and then packaged and delivered to the app store so that our users can download it to their phones.

What is DevOps?

Now, let's rewind and simplify. We can split this into just two stages.

First, developers write code. This is the development stage, the "Dev" part of this "DevOps" word. Next comes the Operations stage, the "Ops" part of "DevOps".

So what is this "Operations" thing? Simply put, the operations team makes sure that this app has all it needs to work in the real world. For example, the app might need access to servers to store login details in a database, remember our favorite videos, and so on. They ensure all this infrastructure exists and works properly to support this app.

It is between these two stages, development and operations, that a lot of problems can appear. Let's take a look at just a few.

Let's say that our developers did a great job and delivered some well-written code. However, when the Operations team tests this app, it crashes their servers. This doesn't necessarily mean the code is bad. It's just that the developers are focused on their side of things, the code itself.

They might have no idea about the exact configuration of the servers that will support this app. So, in a sense, they write code blindly. They aren't sure how to optimize that code for those specific servers. This is a good example of how a DevOps team can step in and solve this problem.

For instance, the person responsible for DevOps could do something very simple here. They could review that code and leave a comment like this: "Great job devs! You rock! We just need a small change on line 127: we should lower the size of allocated memory in this variable to ensure it works well with our current servers."

And just like that, the problem is avoided. The devs make the change, the DevOps team then approves the code, and the app now plays well with those servers we have. This is one of the responsibilities of a DevOps engineer. In a way, they're a bridge between the Development and Operations stages.

But now, let's continue and take a look at an even bigger problem. The code for an application changes very often. Developers constantly add, remove, and modify code. This way, they can add new features, fix stuff, improve performance, and so on. 

Now imagine we have 30 developers working in our company. Every 10 minutes, we get some updated code. Every 10 minutes, we need to review the code, build the app, do some basic tests on our servers, and so on. Imagine having to write some 20 commands to go through these steps every 10 minutes, again and again and again. It would become frustrating pretty fast. Developers would have to wait until we can confirm their code is working well to continue, which would add up to a lot of wasted time for everyone.

Now, we can finally jump to what DevOps is at its core.

Think of the situations we just discussed. Do we really need a person to step in every time the code of our application changes? Can't computers do this? Can't a computer look at that code and do general tests to ensure it's valid? Can't a computer take that code and compile it, transform it into an app that can run on a phone? Can't it also test that this app works well with our servers? Of course, it can!

Isometric devops illustration
Credits: Freepik

A DevOps team can automate all of these steps. Now, developers can see the results of their work faster. They push some new code, and in a few minutes, they get some results. Maybe some tests fail, but now they quickly see what they must correct. Or everything works just fine; they're happy with the result and can continue adding even more features. No one has to wait for someone else anymore.

This process brings a lot of benefits to both the employees and the users of our app. The employees can do their work without wasting time doing what computers can do automatically for them. And the users can get their updated apps even faster, getting new features, fixes, or whatever they've been waiting for.

If you have ever watched a documentary about how cars are made, you have seen the production lines they have. The car body is moved around from robot to robot. One robot may paint it, then it's moved to the next robot that inserts the windshield, another that adds the chairs, and so on.

Piece by piece, step by step, it's automatically built into a functional car. Well, a DevOps engineer does the same thing for software. They build this whole production line to ensure that code is automatically processed step-by-step. And gradually, this code is compiled, tested, packaged, and finally shipped to the customers that use it.

Responsibilities of DevOps Teams

Now, we can finally paint a clearer picture and draw some conclusions about DevOps:

  1. The DevOps team improves collaboration between Development and Operations. Or, in simpler terms, between those who write code and those who build the infrastructure where that code will run: the servers, the cloud services, etc.
  2. The DevOps team builds a production line for software. They do this by ensuring that anything that does not need human intervention is automated. Step-by-step, code is gradually transformed from simple text to a fully functional application that can be delivered (also automatically) to the users that need it.
  3. The DevOps team also has other responsibilities to ensure that the app was launched successfully and continues to work correctly. For example, they can set up ways to continuously monitor this application's performance in the real world. This way, they can automatically get alerts in case of serious errors, which will help fix them faster.

All of these things allow a company to build software fast, test often, and ship the final software product more efficiently.

DevOps Resources


Hopefully, this paints a clearer picture of the responsibilities of a DevOps engineer. If you want to take a look at the technical side of things and what kind of tools are often used in DevOps, check out this DevOps Learning Path to get started with DevOps.

DevOps Pre-Requisite Course | KodeKloud
The course you must go through before any DevOps or Cloud Courses

We hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below.