DevOps (Development and Operations) is often considered a methodology, a cultural philosophy, and a set of practices and tools that improve software products' delivery while ensuring higher quality and speed.
As a job function, DevOps is still in its nascent years but has been showing great results. In addition to improving collaboration across development and IT teams, DevOps also enhances reliability, scalability, security, and speed throughout the entire process of software development.
Keep reading to find out more about the main tasks and skills a DevOps engineer has and how it's a challenging and motivating job.
What is DevOps?
DevOps refers to the practices that aim to create, test and release faster, more efficient, and trustworthy software. The name itself is a combination of the word "development" plus "operations", which already suggests that DevOps' responsibilities act in the gap between these two. DevOps models ensure quality and security by automating processes that were typically slower and manual.
As the Internet emerged, software and the digitalization of services became a growing part of our reality in every industry; consequently, DevOps has become more necessary than ever once it can enhance operational efficiencies regarding online services and applications. A reliable and fast software supports a business and - as a valuable component - determines how customers interact with a particular company.
More than just a job position, DevOps is often considered a mindset or a method. Meaning, if the developers try to follow the DevOps principles (like having an end-to-end responsibility, seeking endless ways to improve, automating each possible task, and focusing on the project's end goal), then that's the critical success key to a fast and high-quality product.
Wait... But if DevOps can be considered a mindset, what is a DevOps engineer? Continue reading to find out!
Whats is a DevOps Engineer?
With an excellent and in-depth knowledge of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), the DevOps engineer ensures each phase's success by supervising the code releases and deployments, as well as maintenance and updates. Moreover, DevOps engineers are also concerned about the automation and combination of processes. A good understanding of automation tools contributes to digital pipelines development. Therefore, this job function is often considered the bridge between developers, system operators and other IT staff.
Further, a DevOps engineer's background can vary greatly. It is most commonly someone who has gained experience as a developer, a system administrator or has shown a particular interest in network operations and the deployment phase.
More importantly, a DevOps engineer has outstanding knowledge and years of experience working in different technical environments. Ideally, these engineers have admirable competencies in different SDLC phases and a holistic view of the software's IT infrastructure. Their vast experience and specialized skills help identify what can be improved or modified, ensuring high software quality.
What does a DevOps Engineer do?
When working in a dynamic environment, systems administrators, developers and programmers work simultaneously on the same software product, having individual goals and tasks within each team. However, someone needs to glue those pieces together and ensure they are aligned. That someone refers to the DevOps engineer, who seeks to reduce complexity by having a cross-functional problem-solving duty.
By implementing DevOps practices, organizations become more agile and able to innovate. Streamlining and automating the product's development and infrastructure management processes lead to rapid delivery and continuous updates that improve performance. Overall, DevOps jobs and responsibilities may include:
- Driving, monitoring/reporting, system security, reliability, scalability, and performance;
- Manage testing protocols and benchmarking;
- Coding and scripting to combine application elements (e.g., libraries and APIs);
- Provide Software Development Kits (SDKs);
- Development of an appropriate deployment model according to the software project;
- Automation and orchestration of processes across all teams involved in the product's development;
- Establish CI/CD pipelines and release planning;
- Ensure post-release product performance, stability and reliability.
As we can observe, a DevOps engineer's job is highly focused on automation and maintenance of products. Software's complexity lies not only on authoring it but also in constant supervision to ensure that the software will work and have the desired performance across various platforms/operating systems.
The implementation of CI (Continuous Integration) and CD (Continuous Development) pipelines is one of DevOps' most prominent marks that optimizes release cycles. These pipelines allow for a continuous feedback loop, making updates and deployment in a faster and smoother way.
Thanks to the DevOps' work, development and IT functions are more aligned, enhancing the software product's quality. Another great plus is that DevOps can save time by automating processes, increasing productivity by focusing on other tasks. Moreover, post-launching updates become faster and more efficient.
What are the main DevOps tools?
DevOps tools can vary significantly according to the specific tasks an engineer is performing. Familiarity with a vast set of tools allows DevOps engineers and teams to improve and provide agile solutions.
First, a good understanding of programming languages, such as Python, Ruby, or Java, is required. Even though software developers are the ones responsible for working on the product's code, working with these languages can contribute to building plugins and automating tasks.
Secondly, DevOps engineers (or teams) should also be comfortable using automation tools, enabling customization and automation throughout the delivery pipeline. In this case, proficiency in installing and configuring server operating systems (such as Ubuntu and CentOS) and open sources within these systems (like Bamboo, Nagios, and Jenkins) can be extremely beneficial.
Third, to keep track of the development work and progress, source code management tools (e.g., Git and Raygun) are advantageous. These DevOps tools help ensure the project is coordinated, with good speed, and preserve data integrity. Using GitHub or Bitbucket can provide the right code repository for a source code management to integrate DevOps processes.
Moreover, good knowledge of containerization software (e.g. Docker) is essential for a DevOps job. It configures libraries and files into an operating environment that runs on its own across various machines.
Further, configuration management tools (e.g. Puppet Enterprise and Ansible), contribute to managing and configuring the software infrastructure.
Finally, additional knowledge of databases (such as PostgreSQL and MongoDB) should also be valued. By integrating databases in DevOps processes, the delivery of the database's changes become faster (meaning that developers do not have to wait as much). Consequently, the IT ecosystem becomes more efficient and agile.
These are some of the prominent DevOps' tools engineers and teams might work with. However, as previously mentioned, the job function's responsibilities can vary a lot. Plus, considering the fast pace of technological advancements, it is vital to keep an open eye (and an open mind) for the new tools that can be learned and integrated into DevOps.
Is DevOps engineer a good job?
Whether or not a DevOps engineer is a good job depends a lot on each person's profile. It might not be for everyone, but for those who enjoy having the big picture, then the challenge becomes exciting. Each phase's success passes through the DevOps engineer, who continuously seeks to ensure high-quality performance of a product, not only during its development but also after launching. Overall, these engineers aim to transform and improve how the different parts of a software product work together.
As a job function, DevOps is still very recent. As said before, most DevOps originally come from a development or system administration background. To enter this area, it is essential to be willing to learn new tools and technologies, as well as to acquire an agile ability to go from development to testing and system administration.
A DevOps engineer can be a great job because once it includes having a cross-train understanding of how everything processes and evolves when developing software. In fact, this is precisely what makes it fascinating: the opportunity, despite the many years of experience, to keep learning and be pushed out of the comfort zone. DevOps has a holistic and perfectionist approach from step one to post-launching.
What soft skills does a DevOps engineer have?
As just said, DevOps is a job function that matches a specific profile and personality. A good understanding of relevant tools is indeed correlated with its success. However, having a holistic vision of each step of the project and its processes also requires other non-technical skills.
Since DevOps is often considered the bridge between development and operations teams, one of the most valuable skills is excellent communication and cooperation. It must ensure everyone's work is aligned and cross-functionality. Good communication and collaboration can spare an enormous amount of time and lead to higher-quality products. Further, clear communication is also vital when discussing business goals with stakeholders since it gives confidence that all sides aim for the same direction.
Given this job's nature, ideally, a DevOps engineer is naturally curious and continuously willing to learn and improve. Moreover, self-motivation, as well as the ability to motivate others, can help the teams stay focused and more committed to the product's success.
The work of a DevOps engineer is far from boring. Continuous integration and delivery allow for faster and better processes, which in turn lead to successful software products. The ability to provide constant updates and innovations results in higher customer satisfaction, which is advantageous for every organization.
Moreover, DevOps work is also precious at an internal level since it improves cross-functionality, communication and motivation in every team and phase toward the same goal.
An exceptional DevOps engineer should have a vast and knowledgable technical skillset to automate and orchestrate processes across all teams involved in the product's development and to establish CI/CD pipelines. Some of the main tools include Git, Docker, Jenkins, and so on. In addition to technical skills, this job function requires continuous willingness to learn, cooperate, and motivate teams.