DevOps in 2023: automation and specialisation

DevOps in 2023: automation and specialisation 

1 February 2023

Kilian Niemegeerts

The modern workplace is ever evolving, and that includes the roles of IT professionals. As DevOps continues to gain traction, a lot of companies are putting more and more strain on developers and their already busy schedules. This threatens to bottleneck the software delivery process, which defeats the purpose of working with DevOps in the first place.

We sat down with Kilian Niemegeerts to discuss which aspects of DevOps you should emphasise in 2023. If you ask us, it’s better to focus on automation and use specialists instead of dropping everything in your developers’ laps. This isn’t something new, but we think it’s important to highlight the foundations in a DevOps year that is more about evolution than revolution.

Jack of all trades, master of none

DevOps’ surge in popularity is significantly impacting developers and their workloads. Developers already tend to have a heavy workload, and the way that some companies look at DevOps is making things worse.

“We’re seeing a “shift left” where developers suddenly have to do security, testing, infrastructure, monitoring, automation, and other tasks they have not received adequate training for,” says Kilian. “This turns highly skilled developers into a generic version of what a DevOps engineer should be, meaning they can do a bit of everything, but nothing quite as good as a specialist.”

“Instead, we think that organisations should focus on two aspects: automation and specialisation. For us, DevOps is not about pushing a development and operations team together and hoping for the best. It’s about increasing transparency and potential for developers while they do what they do best, by optimising the software delivery process and eliminating bottlenecks.” We’ll explain his argument by looking at the testing, security, and infrastructure aspects of an organisation’s operations.

Testing: continuous feedback

One of the clearest examples of increasing transparency is the testing part of development. Continuous feedback is a key aspect of DevOps, which is why testing is so important: it allows developers to see the consequences of their code changes. In most organisations, however, developers are separated from the user acceptance and production environments.

This can lead to some serious issues, as Kilian points out. “Just because something works in the development environment, doesn’t mean that it will fare as well in a live production situation. We sometimes see situations where users trigger a scenario that developers and testers didn’t even think of. Of course, there is also the added complexity of handling production loads, which stress tests can’t always accurately represent.”

That’s where automation comes in. Thanks to automated testing, specialists can write and check up on a much higher number of tests, since they can be executed simultaneously without costly human intervention. You can compare this to how a six-lane superhighway handles the same amount of traffic a lot smoother compared to a road with a single lane.

Security: code analysis

The importance of hiring a security specialist cannot be overstated. Kilian explains: “With their in-depth knowledge, they can help ensure that your systems are secure and up to date with the latest best practices and industry standards. They can also provide ongoing maintenance, testing and auditing of the system to identify any potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Compared to a regular developer, their expertise offers an added layer of protection.”

Automation can also help upgrade your organisation’s security. With Security as Code (SaC), you can ensure that every line of code is automatically checked for compliance. In this case, your security policies will be rolled out to the production environment together with your platform. Otherwise, you risk being exposed due to hastily coded functionalities if there are pressing deadlines.

Another option is to use dedicated tools that continuously analyse the current production environment. These tools will remove any non-compliant code as soon as your policies are updated, or vulnerabilities are detected. However, Kilian is quick to point out that this second measure can have a severe impact: “Just think of a webshop going offline abruptly because of critical code that is suddenly marked as non-compliant. That’s why we only see these measures at organisations with the highest possible security requirements, such as banks and other financial institutions.”

Infrastructure: platform teams

If you ask Kilian, the configuration and maintenance of your systems should be automated as well. “This still has to gain widespread traction, but concepts like Infrastructure as Code (IaC) are paving the road towards more transparency and reliability. We’re also noticing a shift from looking at infrastructure as a separate entity to so-called platform engineers and platform teams.”

A platform team is made up of specialists in their domain: security, testing, infrastructure, monitoring, and in some cases networking. These specialists are then detached to help teams of developers with specific questions or issues related to their field of expertise.

Doing DevOps, the right way

For us, platform teams are much closer to what DevOps should look like than just mixing developers with the operations team. Instead of having multiple smaller teams work according to their own testing and security standards, a dedicated team of experts will let you standardise a company-wide approach. Meanwhile, automation will help you remove any bottlenecks from the process.

“There is no use in “doing DevOps” and wanting to increase the frequency of your releases if your developers still have to wait days or even weeks for tests to come back, code integrity to be verified, or infrastructure to be set up,” Kilian points out.

In short: if you truly want to leverage the power of DevOps, don’t let your developers do everything or just throw teams together because it seems like a good idea. Invest in automation tools, let the experts do their jobs, and you’ll see that both developers and operations will work more efficiently, and with more ease of mind.

In need of a DevOps partner that doesn’t shy away from thinking outside of the box? At FlowFactor, we have a proven track record of guiding organisations throughout DevOps transformations at any scale. Contact us today to discuss the possibilities.

If you’d like to learn more about our view on the future of DevOps, check out our dedicated article on DevOps tech trends in 2023.

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