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DevOps Pipeline: Concepts & Phases

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In today’s business landscape, accelerating the pace of software development is essential for companies aiming to maintain competitiveness. This article will explore the establishing and management of a DevOps pipeline to optimize your development workflow. By implementing a DevOps approach, engineering teams can enhance their efficiency, minimize risks, and deliver high-quality software at a faster pace.

The DevOps Methodology and Its Benefits

Before examining the process of building the pipeline, it’s essential to get familiar with the DevOps concept and its advantages.

DevOps is a collection of practices, tools, and a cultural ethos emphasizing collaboration between development and operations teams. This approach prioritizes automation, speed, and shared responsibility. Through embracing a DevOps culture, teams can enjoy advantages such as accelerated time-to-market, decreased risk of deployment failures, and enhanced efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

What is a DevOps Pipeline?

Fundamentally, a DevOps pipeline constitutes a sequence of automated procedures and stages facilitating continuous integration, testing, deployment, and software delivery. Through the construction, upkeep, and continual refinement of their DevOps pipelines, companies can reliably and swiftly deliver new features and software updates, surpassing previous efficiency standards.

Achieving this llevel of of automation, agility, and reliability necessitates a deliberate emphasis on DevOps transformation within organizations. This transformation entails consolidating traditionally separate teams, automating manual processes, and selecting appropriate tools. Importantly, this journey is not static; each established framework requires frequent reassessment, maintaining a mindset of continual enhancement.

At the heart of the DevOps philosophy and practices lies the automated DevOps pipeline, which combines tools, processes, and best practices to make everything we discussed a reality. It allows development teams to push code from development all the way to production in a safe manner.

DevOps Pipelines - SKYNET CORP Technology L.L.C
DevOps Pipeline

DevOps Pipeline Key Concepts

The key concepts of the DevOps pipeline include:

  • Continuous integration
  • Continuous delivery
  • Continuous deployment
  • Continuous testing
  • Continuous operations

Continuous Integration

Continuous integration (CI) is the process of continuously integrating code changes from multiple contributors to the same single truth codebase, ideally every day.

Through continuous integration practices, we ensure that all code alterations undergo comprehensive testing, validation, and seamless integration with the existing codebase. This methodology significantly aids in promptly identifying and rectifying bugs, thereby minimizing the likelihood of introducing issues into our production systems at a later stage.

According to this DevOps practice, the developer makes numerous daily modifications to the shared repository’s source code. When even little modifications are made to a bigger codebase, they get to be tested and reported. Continuous integration (CI) aims to provide quick feedback so that any flaws can be found and fixed right away.

To realize continuous integration in practice, we rely on version control systems(VCS) such as Git, code repositories such as GitHub, and build automation tools such as GitHub Actions.

Normally, developers operate on a dedicated branch locally, and upon completion, they push the changes upstream to the code repository. This action initiates a pipeline within the build automation tool, which proceeds to build and test the code. Successful completion of the build and test stages is required before merging the changes into the main branch.

 

Continuous Delivery

Continuous delivery (CD) represents the subsequent phase following the implementation of continuous integration. With code changes integrated and tested, automated actions are executed to ensure that our codebase consistently maintains a deployable status. The primary aim is to eradicate waiting periods associated with testing, hardening, and “code freeze” phases.

Typically, continuous delivery is realized through the utilization of deployment automation tools, rendering deployments predictable, secure, and swift, thereby enabling users to execute them as needed.

Our primary objective is to automatically prepare any code alterations for release into production at any given time. As the code is primed for deployment, all changes are automatically transported to a pre-production environment once they have successfully passed all quality assurance tests and checks.

This facilitates software and product teams in reviewing alterations within an environment nearly identical to production, offering valuable insights into the potential impact of the changes. Consequently, developers can proactively uncover defects, detect issues early, validate updates, and instill confidence in the software development lifecycle.

Continuous Deployment

Continuous deployment marks an advanced phase within the DevOps pipeline, streamlining the release and deployment of software into production environments through complete automation. Building upon continuous integration and continuous delivery, this approach elevates automation by obviating the necessity for manual intervention in deployment processes.

This method expedites the delivery of new features and enhancements to end users, fostering a culture of shared responsibility and accountability among various teams involved in the software release process. As any changes passing through the pipeline are automatically deployed to production, continuous deployment promotes efficiency and agility in software delivery.

Nevertheless, while continuous deployment offers numerous benefits, it may not be ideal for every use case. Factors such as highly regulated industries, complex applications with intricate interdependencies, absence of automated testing, and insufficient team expertise or readiness may warrant caution in adopting this practice.

Consequently, it is imperative to meticulously evaluate and strategize for the specific needs of your organization before embracing continuous deployment. In certain scenarios, a more traditional approach, such as continuous delivery, which maintains human control over deployments, may prove more suitable.

Continuous Testing

Another crucial component of a complete DevOps pipeline is continuous testing. Instead of treating testing as a standalone phase, continuous and automated testing integrates these activities seamlessly into the software release process.

This approach ensures that applications are consistently in a deployable state by employing ongoing automated and manual testing to verify code quality, functionality, and security, offering continuous feedback to development teams.

A significant emphasis on test automation is crucial for establishing a successful pipeline integrated with continuous testing. Test automation facilitates swift test execution, minimizes manual errors, enables QA teams to concentrate on constructing robust tests, and reduces the overall duration of software release cycles.

In addition to standard functional testing, tests should encompass performance and security testing.

Lastly, an essential aspect of continuous testing involves establishing a feedback loop by aggregating test results, performance metrics, and user feedback, and instituting a monitoring process with actionable insights.

 

Continuous Operations

Continuous operations, a fundamental practice within DevOps, prioritizes the stability, performance, and availability of applications and infrastructure environments. Its essence lies in minimizing downtime, mitigating incidents, and ensuring uninterrupted operational functionality.

To achieve this exacting standard, teams must implement comprehensive monitoring, alerting, and observability mechanisms across all system components. This encompasses application and performance monitoring, infrastructure health monitoring, and user experience monitoring.

Another pivotal aspect of continuous operations is incident management and continual improvement. Swift detection and response to incidents, whether through automated or manual means, are imperative. Following each incident, teams conduct blameless post-mortems to refine processes and prevent recurrence.

Continuous operations integrate diverse methodologies and strategies to automate tasks traditionally performed manually. Examples include embracing Infrastructure as Code principles, systematic Configuration Management, implementing automated security and compliance measures, and optimizing application and infrastructure performance and cost.

Continuous Operations

Continuous operations, a fundamental practice within DevOps, prioritizes the stability, performance, and availability of applications and infrastructure environments. Its essence lies in minimizing downtime, mitigating incidents, and ensuring uninterrupted operational functionality.

To achieve this exacting standard, teams must implement comprehensive monitoring, alerting, and observability mechanisms across all system components. This encompasses application and performance monitoring, infrastructure health monitoring, and user experience monitoring.

Another pivotal aspect of continuous operations is incident management and continual improvement. Swift detection and response to incidents, whether through automated or manual means, are imperative. Following each incident, teams conduct blameless post-mortems to refine processes and prevent recurrence.

Continuous operations integrate diverse methodologies and strategies to automate tasks traditionally performed manually. Examples include embracing Infrastructure as Code principles, systematic Configuration Management, implementing automated security and compliance measures, and optimizing application and infrastructure performance and cost.

DevOps Pipeline Stages

Having explored several crucial concepts of the DevOps pipeline, let’s delve into several stages that streamline the software development process.

These DevOps pipeline stages include:

  • Plan
  • Code
  • Build
  • Test
  • Release
  • Monitor
  • Operate

Below you can find a DevOps pipeline diagram.

 

DevOps - Pipelines-01-01

DevOps Pipeline

DevOps is a collection of practices, tools, a cultural ethos emphasizing collaboration between development and operations teams. Prioritizes automation, speed, and shared responsibility.

Plan

The initial stage of every application development process is planning. This encompasses identifying project requirements, determining necessary resources, establishing goals, and outlining the comprehensive scope of the project. Project management tools like Jira or Asana are commonly employed during this phase to facilitate effective organization and coordination.

Code

Typically, the pivotal phase of the entire software development and DevOps pipeline process is coding the application. This entails the development, review, and storage of the source code in a version control system like GitHub, BitBucket, or GitLab.

Build

Once the new code has been stored and integrated with the existing codebase, the next step is to generate all required artifacts and compile the source code into deployable components. This task is accomplished using build automation and CI/CD tools such as Jenkins, GitHub Actions, GitLab CI/CD, CircleCI, among others. (You might want to compare CircleCI vs. Jenkins for more insights).

Test

Testing stands as a crucial stage within the DevOps pipeline, ensuring software quality. During this phase, teams establish a range of automated and manual tests to validate reliability, functionality, and overall quality. The selection of tools depends on the specific code and infrastructure employed, with examples including Selenium, k6, and TestRail.

Release

Following the steps of storing, packaging, and testing our code, the subsequent phase involves deploying a new software release to staging and production environments. As previously mentioned, this step can either be fully automated or necessitate human approval. Generally, the release process is facilitated by CI/CD tools capable of deploying to cloud or on-premises environments, alongside container and orchestration systems like Docker or Kubernetes, and progressive delivery tools such as ArgoCD.

Monitor

Even after deploying the new code, our responsibilities extend to monitoring and maintaining the applications and infrastructure in production continuously. Utilizing our end-to-end monitoring solution, teams collect feedback, analyze metrics, and leverage insights to enhance both applications and environments. Several tools that facilitate this stage include Datadog, Prometheus, Splunk, and the ELK stack, among others.

Operate

The operate stage guarantees the availability and uninterrupted operation of our applications and environments, minimizing downtime. DevOps teams rely on Infrastructure as Code tools like Terraform or Pulumi, configuration management tools such as Ansible or Puppet, and collaborative infrastructure tools like Spacelift to achieve this goal.

 

 

Certainly! Here are some best practices and basic principles for building a successful DevOps pipeline

Embrace a culture of collaboration

Collaboration, open communication, blameless culture, shared responsibility, and teamwork are core components of a successful DevOps practice.

Implement Automation across the Software Development Lifecycle

Strive to automate manual or repetitive tasks across all stages of the software development lifecycle. By harnessing automation, we minimize human errors and free up valuable time for our teams.

Employ CI/CD Pipelines

At this point, you should already recognize the significance of continuous integration and continuous delivery concepts. As a best practice, integrate new code frequently, conduct automatic builds and tests, and deploy with confidence.

Monitor, Analyze Metrics & Iterate

Continuous improvement constitutes another vital component of a thriving DevOps pipeline. To establish a feedback loop enabling experimentation and enhanced performance, it’s crucial to implement a system for monitoring and analyzing performance and security metrics. Utilize these metrics to pinpoint bottlenecks, continually iterate on applications, and optimize workflows.

Store code in Version Control Systems

Application, infrastructure, and automation code ought to be stored and overseen through version control systems, promoting accountability and encouraging collaboration.

 

By adhering to these best practices and principles, organizations can build a robust and efficient DevOps pipeline that accelerates software delivery, enhances quality, and drives business success.

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