Defining DevOps

Research and industry surveys clearly show that DevOps is one of the most ill-defined terms in the IT industry today, with definitions ranging from “improved collaboration between development, QA and operations” to “the shifting of operation tasks to the development team”.

Surprisingly however, there is a lot more consensus on what the objectives of DevOps are, so perhaps this could be used as a reliable starting point in the search for a coherent definition. In fact, most people would agree that DevOps has three key objectives:

  • Frequent releases of software to production
  • Increased software quality
  • Reduced production costs

It is a tall order, and one that can only be achieved through automation at three levels: infrastructure, deployment and testing. These are all intertwined and interdependent. Testing automation enables continuous delivery, and infrastructure automation enables the timely provisioning of runtime environments into which the software product is deployed and tested.

This automation effort is therefore what DevOps is all about, so it could be redefined as:

“The process of automating infrastructure provisioning, deployment and testing with the aim to deliver software to production frequently, with fewer defects and utilising fewer resources”

From this perspective, DevOps should not be considered a methodology by itself, but rather an enabling set of tools and practices to achieve Agile software delivery, as defined by the principles in the Agile Manifesto. Unlike other Agile processes like Scrum and XP, which emphasizes the human factor in software development without providing the tools for the job – with mixed results – DevOps clearly focuses on the latter – the tools – to empower Agile teams.

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