5 Tips to Take Your DevOps Pipeline to the Next Level

Eddie Segal Developer Tips, Tricks & Resources

DevOps can successfully remove the bottlenecks created by waterfall methodology by improving development productivity through encouraging collaboration,continuous feedback loops, and automating processes. 

Collaboration. Feedback. Automation. These are the main building blocks of DevOps operations. However, not all DevOps implementations are successful. Why? Building blocks are not enough. You need to take these building blocks and design a DevOps pipeline that suits your needs.

In this article, you will learn the four key stages of every DevOps pipeline and five pro tips to take your DevOps pipeline to the next level.  

Introduction to DevOps and the CI/CD Pipeline

DevOps is a software development methodology used in the software development lifecycle (SDLC). In this method, development and operations work together as one team. It incorporates agile practices and the automation of many manual processes. This helps teams produce software more efficiently than traditional methods.

One of the key tools of a DevOps strategy is the continuous integration / continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline. DevOps teams use CI/CD to standardize and automate the steps of the SDLC. It enables all team members to work simultaneously to speed up the SDLC.

Stages of a DevOps Pipeline

Pipelines can vary according to the needs of individual teams but most contain the following basic stages.

Develop

In the development stage, developers write new code. As developers complete features, they can push code to version control systems. From there, teams can access code for integration testing and code reviews.

During this phase, all developers are working from the most recent version of a single source code to ensure the new code is compatible and work is not duplicated. It is also a good place to use code profilers like Prefix, a free dynamic code profiler, to make sure it’s the best possible code before committing it. 

Build

In the build stage, pipelines analyze submitted code and perform basic compatibility tests. As long as code passes these basic checks, you can create the new build and move on to the next phase—testing.

Test

During the testing phase, teams run the latest build against functional, unit, and security tests. If checkers (human or software) find issues, developers must work to resolve the issues. The build is also reverted to the last known passing build. This ensures that you can deliver a “ready” product with minimal notice. One easy way to go beyond functional testing in this stage without a lot of resources is by implementing a full lifecycle APM tool like Retrace as part of the process to run in non-production. 

Deploy

In the deployment stage, you deploy finished iterations of software to an environment. You can use these environments for additional testing or production. This stage may also include a variety of rollout or update processes.

Sometimes pipelines end at the delivery phase. Code remains as a packaged product but is not deployed. In these cases, teams or customers can confirm product specs or time releases.

5 Tips to Take Your DevOps Pipeline to the Next Level

When setting up a DevOps pipeline there are a variety of tools you can include. Beyond customizing these tools, there are several best practices you can incorporate to ensure that your pipelines perform optimally.

1. Focus on Team Management

A pipeline is a tool meant to assist DevOps teams, not replace them. Make sure to design your pipeline to support team workflows and practices. Your configurations and tooling should not slow down team members. Configurations also should not require them to adapt processes unnecessarily.

Instead, it should provide team members with greater visibility into SDLC processes. You should design pipelines to ease collaboration with all relevant team members notified of issues or concerns. Pipelines should also make it easy for team members to identify and respond to issues.

2. Build Once

In your pipeline, you should build images the minimal possible number of times. This does not mean that you should not submit code multiple times. Instead, it means you should build once developers have submitted their code and promote that build through the rest of the pipeline.

Promoting your build helps avoid some of the inconsistencies that can occur when you rebuild and ensures that you are performing tests on the exact same build throughout. This helps guarantee that your testing is as valid and reliable as possible. Once you build your code, you should store it in your artifact repository so you can access the code as needed.

3. Maintain Continuity

DevOps is a continuous process. Code is continually refined. Processes are continuously monitored for performance or security concerns. Deliverable products are always available. The automation involved in DevOps processes makes this continuity easier to achieve. You can create a variety of scripts and alerts to handle routine processes and analyses.

4. Adopt Microservices

Consider adopting microservices to ensure that your pipeline is as agile as possible. Microservices enable you to isolate the various components of your applications and tools. This creates modularity that grants greater availability and flexibility. It can also make pipelines easier to maintain.

It is easiest to adopt microservices if you are building a pipeline from scratch. Yet, adoption is not impossible if you are already working with a legacy pipeline. The easiest way to upgrade your pipeline is to begin replacing tools piecemeal. Any tools that are already available as microservices you can convert. Then as you retire legacy tooling, you can adopt updated tools.

5. Decouple Deployments

Some pipelines choose to separate deployment and delivery processes. This may mean integrating a manual step between the two processes. Or, making deployments completely manual.

Pausing the automation process after delivery enables you to perform double checks. You can also add approval steps that would not otherwise be possible. You can also more easily perform more complex releases. For example, A/B test deployments, in which you test two variations of a product. Or, blue/green deployments, in which you roll out upgrades and gradually shift users over.

Conclusion

Every work methodology has its pain points. When using the waterfall model, it is bottlenecks you should worry about mostly. However, when you move to agile methodologies like DevOps and it’s new friend DevSecOps, you will discover a whole new world of challenges. 

For some, designing a DevOps pipeline that works is an easy task, but management is difficult. For others, taking a group of unrelated people and turning them into an agile team is not a challenge, but they fail at creating DevOps pipelines that suit their needs. 

To truly leverage DevOps, you need to make the most of every component of your operation. From team management to designing agile pipelines, through the adoption of technologies like microservices. You need to constantly assess your situation and adapt, adapt, adapt. 

Application performance management tools, such as Stackify Retrace, provide continuous application improvement for DevOps teams.  By using Retrace to automate your SDLC, move beyond pass/fail testing to shorten delivery time and simplify your automation chain.  Try your two week trial of Retrace today.

About Eddie Segal

Eddie is an electronics engineer with a Master’s Degree from Be’er Sheva University, a big data and web analytics specialist, and also a technology writer. He covers subjects ranging from cloud computing to agile development to cybersecurity and deep learning.