The Role of DevOps in Building Cloud Applications

In collaboration with Microsoft. 

Why do so many software projects overrun their budgets and timelines, or even fail altogether? While there are many possible causes, from the technical to the cultural, the most common include inadequate communication, lack of collaboration and difficulty adapting to the specific skills and demands of cloud computing.

For example, imagine a system administrator who has been overseeing an on-prem application, which is now in the process of being moved into Microsoft Azure. At each stage of the app lifecycle, from initial lift-and-shift through modernization, new skills will be needed to navigate the transition and meet all the project requirements. 

Some traditional competencies, applying patches for instance, are no longer as relevant as cloud service providers handle them. But  without a solid DevOps practice in place, a lot can go wrong, including:

  • Departmental silos that result in miscommunications and time-consuming rework or duplication of effort.
  • Software releases that fall behind schedule or suffer from lower quality even when completed.
  • In fact, the 2019 Accelerated State of DevOps Report found that DevOps made a major difference in an organization’s ability to deploy code fast, minimize lead times, avoid change failures and recover services.

DevOps helps solve some of the central problems with cloud application development and management. But what is DevOps, exactly, and how can teams get the most value from it?

Defining DevOps: A movement for better coordination and collaboration

DevOps can seem like a Rorschach Test. Every person who examines it will provide a different definition of what it is. Despite varying perceptions, there are some generally accepted principles of DevOps, as shown in definitions of the term from cloud service providers like Microsoft Azure.

DevOps encompasses:

  • An overarching cultural commitment to unifying development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) for superior collaboration between these teams and the elimination of silos. This component requires effective leadership to bring once-siloed departments together.
  • The widespread implementation of automation, as well as of practices such as continuous integration and continuous delivery (along with native security measures), infrastructure-as-code and Agile methodology.
  • Specific tools that support the more collaborative and continuous workflows in DevOps, including CI/CD platforms and Azure templates for automated deployment, provisioning and configuration of infrastructure.
  • Ongoing measurement of everything (for instance, the KPIs identified in the Accelerate State of DevOps Report, such as deployment frequency and average lead time) to ensure visibility into and refinement of processes. 

Through these principles, DevOps offers substantial value to any organization working its way through the cloud application lifecycle. The main benefits range from more consistent software quality and fewer defects to lower costs and faster time to market.

Greater consistency

Automation is a key tenet of DevOps, and for good reason: It helps remove many of the manual workflows that create bottlenecks during development, deployment and operations. Instead of relying on siloed workflows that are prone to human error, teams can instead automate activities like testing and deployment. Moreover, these workflows can be scaled and managed much more efficiently than before. 

The same infrastructure can be automatically deployed across multiple environments for development, quality assurance and more, plus governance is simplified by DevOps tools for tracking versions and changes. DevOps companies enjoy greater reliability of their IT operations even as they take on ambitious new projects.

Lower costs

DevOps boost agility, enabling teams to respond more quickly to changes in their markets and seize opportunities as they arise. Under a traditional ops model, shepherding just one app through its lifecycle from start to finish can take so long that it’s no longer relevant by the time it’s completed. 

The numerous delays and duplicated work associated with app development. For example, not having a clear picture of  requirements and specifications creates the need to navigate disparate documents. The cost of these inefficiencies adds up as the pace and quality of the project erode. DevOps offers a better blueprint for success.

Superior customer experience

Now that public cloud is an integral part of so much consumer and B2B software, customers have higher expectations for application and user experience. After all, public clouds can deliver many more resources on-demand faster than on-prem infrastructure. This supports use cases like audio/video streaming and conferencing, online backup and more sophisticated web apps.

In this context, it’s crucial for DevOps teams to evaluate KPIs related to customer experience on a regular basis. With the right implementation and tools, DevOps can help greatly with hitting metrics for website load times, conversation rates, dwell time and others relevant to a wide range of industries. Internally, DevOps can also provide a much improved experience for teams that once had to rely on disparate data sources and error-prone manual work to get almost anything done.

Getting more from DevOps in Azure 

Although DevOps can in theory be implemented to support any type of software project, it provides the most ROI in the cloud. Azure provides the infrastructure and tools to maximize the value of DevOps automation.

More specifically, Azure offers (among many other features):

Templates

Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates that can be pulled from the Azure Marketplace or from GitHub repositories. These resources allow for more efficient application provisioning, as well as the deployment of numerous services along with their dependencies. 

For example, virtual machines, databases, and various connections can all be configured with specific input/output parameters within ARM templates. Overall, Azure templates simplify deployment and rollback while providing convenient support for cross-configurations and updates.

ASR/DRaaS

Azure Site Recovery helps ensure that even complex applications in DevOps environments can have their critical workloads recovered with just one click. It’s simple to deploy from the Azure portal, receives automatic updates, eases regulatory compliance and reduces infrastructure costs compared to an on-prem DR solution.

Getting started with ASR can be as simple as replicating a VM(s) to a different Azure region. By using ASR, it’s possible to support high availability via secondary instances of key applications and also make accurate backups of critical data, in addition to having reliable DRaaS during a failure.

Serverless computing

Azure’s serverless offerings come with availability and fault tolerance built in and nothing that needs to be provisioned or managed in a traditional way. As a result, DevOps teams can move more quickly, taking advantage of Azure APIs and using a fully managed platform to build applications for edge, hybrid and cloud environments. 

Where to go next with Azure and DevOps

Microsoft has recognized Softchoice as an Azure Expert Managed Service Provider (MSP) for the delivery of high-fidelity managed services. We offer our Public Cloud Technology Review, which is a planning assessment that answers questions about which workloads to move into Azure, the costs and configurations necessary for running these targets on Azure and the specifics of Azure migrations.

Softchoice Managed Cloud services will also help with Azure cost management, operations, mentorship and support. Set up a conversation with an expert today to get started with our Azure offerings in your DevOps organization.

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