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Plutora Blog - DevOps, Digital Transformation, Software Development

DevOps Toolchain, Clearly Explained: The What, Why, and How

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Thomas Edison once said, “The value of an idea lies in using it.”

Revolutionary companies have their ideas valued when they convert them into products. But the entire conversion process is a thorny path. With DevOps being implemented in many organizations, the DevOps toolchain has made this process much simpler. 

In this article, I’m going to talk about how various DevOps tools have made the software development life cycle manageable. 

Firstly, what’s so cumbersome about the software development life cycle? Let’s have a look.

What Slows Down a Software Development Cycle?

Once you have an idea, you need a plan to get this idea into action. A plan means you need to gather all the requirements from the client, convert these requirements into a techie’s understandable language (specifications), design a model, allocate different tasks to different teams, decide on the release timelines, and have a strong after-product delivery and maintenance plan.

Once you’ve planned it all out, you need to start creating the application. This involves designing the software, developing the code, and testing the developed code.

After that, this developed block of code then goes through the verification phase, where it needs to pass the acceptance tests, integration tests, and security scans.

At this stage, you can finally release the code. Release involves provisioning and deploying applications to make them available for the target audiences.

A good product never just vanishes after providing the application. It needs to be monitored to ensure service uptime and optimal performance. The monitoring phase also involves gathering feedback from the users. This makes room for improvement.

Many of the software development life cycle stages, such as verification, testing, and monitoring don’t require manual effort. Various tools give us the opportunity to automate them with very little human involvement. Automation means less human-caused error and more perfection. But what are these tools? Let’s have a look.

What Is a DevOps Toolchain?

Key DevOps fundamentals revolve around the concepts of continuous integration, continuous delivery, automation, and collaboration. Since DevOps is more of a practice than technology, there’s no single tool that can do justice to all stages of software development. Rather, DevOps forms a series of tools.

There are a number of open-source DevOps tools available. Clubbing them together based on your needs makes a DevOps toolchain. This makes product delivery faster and more efficient. A toolchain is basically a set of various tools that solves a particular problem.

As mentioned above, different tools are used at different stages of the software development cycle.

Collaboration

The greatest catch of the DevOps culture is collaboration and communication between different teams. Different teams like development, testing, and product coordinate and work to automate this entire process. Collaboration tools help teams work together regardless of time zones and locations. Faster communication means faster software releases. A few examples of collaboration tools are Slack, Campfire, and Skype.

Planning

Stakeholders, clients, and employees working with different teams should have common goals. Therefore, transparency among all participants is important. Planning tools provide this transparency. A couple of examples of planning tools are Asana and Clarizen.

Source Control

You need a centralized storage location for all your data, documentation, code, configurations, files, etc. Data from this source control can then further be divided into different branches for teams to work on. Source control tools give you these features to exploit. A few examples of source control tools are Git, Subversion, and SVN.

Issue Tracking

An increase in transparency results in clearer vision, making it easier and faster to track issues. There are issue tracking tools, but there is a condition: all the teams should be using the same tracking tool. A few examples of these issue tracking tools are Jira, ZenDesk, and Backlog.

Configuration Management

Wouldn’t it be perfect if all your system was automatically configured and updated without you having to worry about it? Configuration management tools are meant for that. These tools help manage your infrastructure as code, which then avoids configuration drifts across environments. A few examples of configuration management tools are Ansible, Puppet, and Chef.

Continuous Integration

A good software development cycle gets the code developed in chunks by different teams and then continuously integrates them. The codes might work perfectly fine individually but can create issues when integrated. Continuous integration tools let you detect errors quickly and resolve them faster. A few examples of continuous integration tools are Bamboo, Jenkins, and TeamCity.

Binary Repositories

A product might be getting developed on a daily basis or an hourly basis. The code needs to be flowing smoothly from the developer’s machine to the production environment, thus a repository manager is a good way to bridge this gap. Repositories contain collections of binary software artifacts, metadata, and code. A few examples of binary repositories are Artifactory, Nexus, and Maven.

Monitoring

As the name suggests, monitoring is a must in DevOps for smooth execution. Monitoring tools ensure service uptime and optimal performance. A couple of examples of monitoring tools are BigPanda and Sensu.

Automated Testing

The entire integrated code needs to be tested before passing it to the build. The quicker the feedback loop runs, the quicker you reach your goal. A few examples of automated testing tools are Telerik, QTP, and TestComplete.

Development

Another great concept of DevOps that allows the application deployment to be frequent and reliable is development. Deployment tools let you release your products faster to the market. A few examples of development tools are the Docker toolset, and IBM uDeploy.

Database

Finally, there’s handling the data. Data is valuable for getting insights, and every application development requires a lot of data. Database management tools help you handle cumbersome data with ease. Some examples of database management tools are RazorSQL, TeamDesk, etc.

Now that you know what a DevOps toolchain is, let’s also explore the need for it.

Why Do We Need a DevOps Toolchain?

DevOps culture brings you good results in terms of product delivery and money. Companies require developers with the skills and expertise of using different DevOps tools. Is it worth spending so much on the skilled employees and changing the entire company’s infrastructure? Well let’s have a look.

Faster deployments: Using these tools automates most of the stages of the software development cycle. Agile and rapid product deliveries are the result of using standardized pipelines. Consequently, businesses that innovate faster win the competition.

Fine-tuned incident control: Humans are careless and make reckless mistakes—hence, it’s better to trust tools. Using a standardized pipeline and infrastructure makes various teams respond faster and more effectively during an incident.

Quality assurance: Resolving software defects quickly and certainly with precision is pretty difficult. But DevOps tools make it seem like a walk in the park. The DevOps toolchain brings out the best product with the best quality, as quality is one of the major selling points for most of the products.

Let’s now have a look at how to create a DevOps toolchain.

How Do We Create a DevOps Toolchain?

There are five main aspects of creating a DevOps toolchain.

Acceptance: The first step to making a revolutionary change is accepting that something is wrong and, furthermore, accepting that change is required. If your developments aren’t moved to production quickly, then you most definitely need another toolchain. In other words, you need a toolchain that moves things faster.

Inspiration: There are many companies that have already adopted DevOps and have benefited from it. Techies are always ready to contribute. Read some of their success stories, reach out and connect with them in different tech communities, and learn from them.

Analysis: Analyze your current system, as well as the tools that you’re using. Find out how much time each step takes and what the accuracy is. This will help you identify the loopholes in your current system. You now know what needs to be changed.

Build: Once you know what has to be changed, you can go ahead and start selecting the best tools for your requirements. Build the prototype of your toolchain. This is the time where you put all the theoretical knowledge into practice. Improvise your current metrics using these tools.

Strategy: Businesses these days are very dynamic. The competition demands a scale-up at some point. Hence, your toolchain should be capable of handling unexpected situations. You need to maintain, upgrade, and configure your tools over time. Plan your long-term toolchain support strategy.

To learn about the future of the DevOps toolchain, take a look at this Gartner report: The Future of DevOps Toolchains Will Involve Maximizing Flow in IT Value Streams.

Conclusion

Leave all the boring work like installing, upgrading, configuring, and setting up the infrastructure to the tools in the DevOps toolchain while you concentrate on building and then deploying the product. In this competitive IT industry, it’s important for you to stay up-to-date with the latest products and techniques to deliver the best results. And because DevOps is being implemented almost everywhere, it’s also important for you to understand its toolchain. If you’re ready to take the next step and aiming at delivering high-quality software, Plutora will be your one-stop solution.

Omkar Hiremath Omkar Hiremath

This post was written by Omkar Hiremath. Omkar uses his BA in computer science to share theoretical and demo-based learning on various areas of technology, like ethical hacking, Python, blockchain, and Hadoop.