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DevOps in the cloud: software engineering at high-altitude
The world used to be simpler: there were developers and there were techies who made things work but the cloud environment is different
The software application development story does not of course stop with programmers. Quite apart from the fact that there are end users, customers and operators (or call them what you will) at the final section of the app food chain; there is the requirement analysis stage before development ... and the testing (and even regression and penetration testing) stages that must take place during the first elements of project iteration.
We must also pay lip service (or more appropriately, reverence) to the fundamentally crucial "operations" layer, which oversees maintenance, monitoring and management as well as application performance to tune the engine once it’s running.
Throwing it over the wall...
The traditional problem with operations is that developers are often said to get their software “build” to a serviceable enough level and then (as the expression goes) just “throw it over the wall to operations”. The operations team is then left holding the baby and fails to get the ongoing support it needs.
So this perennially recurring issue has ultimately led to the rise of so-called DevOps, a hybrid function described by a correspondingly hybrid term to denote a role that embraces and caters for the interdependence of these disciplines and their symbiotic reliance upon one another.
With relation to cloud computing, DevOps takes on special significance as not only are applications over the wall, but one might argue that the entire IT infrastructure is permanently over the wall and ‘one virtualised step further away’ from the desktop from the start. As such, OpenStack has reportedly taken steps to extend the design process overseeing application builds so that data centre infrastructure and operations considerations become a more natural part of the total application lifecycle management process.
Release management specialist Serena Software’s David Hurwitz talks volubly on this subject and says that DevOps crosses over with the cloud because running services on demand necessitates having a 24x7 process management mentality in place from first base.
“For web-based organisations that deliver everything to customers via the Internet, this approach is second nature to them. However, for companies with private or hybrid cloud strategies in place, bridging the gap between the development team and the operations function can be more difficult. However, with better integration and process management, services can be delivered back out to the organisation in faster time, which should be IT's ultimate goal,” said Hurwitz.
The fact is that when we get to the cloud, linking development and operations involves looking at the whole process for deploying services out to the business – and this can include new software, updating applications or spinning up new virtual machines that meet business demands. Hurwitz suggests that each of these requests can therefore cross over between internal development and ITSM resources, external service providers or a mix of these.
Automation equals DevOps power
"DevOps is not just a technology problem - first and foremost, it demand closer working bonds being formed across teams to facilitate better understanding of common goals. What can help achieve this, alongside greater collaboration, is better ‘automation’ of work from demand through to deployment. This also helps organisations improve visibility of their requests and how they are being managed,” he added.
So are cloud-based application automation controls a gateway to hosted DevOps nirvana, or is this still only just part of the story?