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Getting started with DevOps Observability

Susmitha Vakkalanka
Susmitha Vakkalanka
Published on
March 1, 2023

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What is observability in DevOps?

Most product development teams would argue that speed and innovation are the cornerstones of building a digital-first brand. And rightly so. They do establish a competitive advantage for the business. However, in the 2021 digital acceleration era, repeatable success at scale is equally important. And this is where DevOps observability steps in. 

Global leaders like Facebook and Amazon proudly talk about the DevOps culture at the core of all development and its impact on business. Facebook releases millions of lines of code daily without downtime. Similarly, Amazon updates 10,000 servers and rolls back website changes with a single system command. 

At Opsera, we recently spoke to DevOps experts to weigh in on challenges, solutions, and DevOps’ future. In the article, I am borrowing insights from the webinar. However, if you want a detailed account of the DevOps observability, watch the webinar.

DevOps observability is the practice of improving speed to market, software stability, and product innovation by aggregating KPIs from across development to deployment, basically the entire software development lifecycle. DevOps observability ensures that everyone in the organization, from the CTO to the engineer, is aligned with the same KPI measurements.

What goes into measuring DevOps observability?

Handpick your DevOps stack

As DevOps as a culture advances, many tools have been built to make development and collaboration seamless. From source code management to configuration management, to QA and logging, to deployment, choose the tools that fit your business needs. If you are looking for recommendations, here’s a comprehensive list.

Build your deployment pipeline

Use a combination of templatized and customized workflows to build a robust pipeline at scale. With Opsera, it’s easy to create these pipelines using a drag-and-drop interface. You can also switch views to visualize the pipeline from a 30,000 feet view and a macro level. 

Measure KPIs with a powerful DevOps dashboard

To gauge DevOps’ success and improve its implementation, it’s critical to measure everything, starting with deployment velocity to its quality, security, and operations efficiency. DevOps KPIs are structured with the DORA metrics at the core. With a DevOps software like Opsera, it’s easy to unify the KPIs from various tools and visualize them to stay on top of the process and make smarter product decisions.

Read more: How to Measure Change Failure Rate?

Benefits of DevOps observability

To understand how DevOps observability benefits businesses, it is essential to understand the challenges posed by traditional development cycles. 

#1. With the traditional software development cycle, most of the shortcomings were identified in the project’s last leg during integration testing. This often resulted in deadline pressure, band-aid solutions, and sub-optimal product releases.

#2. The traditional ways of software development have multiple pockets of manual processes. Each manual process introduces a set of potential errors in deployment. This is both time taking and a compromise on product quality. 

With DevOps, businesses can detect predictable and unpredictable permutations of future failures. This shortens the software development lifecycle through continuous delivery and feedback. 

DevOps observability helps businesses attain a competitive edge. Here’s how: 

Higher deployment frequency

DevOps driven product development allows teams to push multiple deployments in a day. However, teams take anywhere between one-six months to release a feature with traditional software delivery.

Higher percentage of successful deployments

Speed is critical, but so is the quality. Manual deployment, configuration, and testing are not ideal for successful deployments. Teams worldwide have witnessed an increase in successful deployment by adopting more DevOps practices.

On Feb 28th, 2017, the crazy AWS outrage was a classic example of how manual processes introduce errors at an unpredictable scale. According to Amazon official, a manual typo in the command input took the servers offline for about four hours. Errors like these make or break deals for businesses.

"While we're proud of our long track record of availability with Amazon S3, we know how critical this service is to our customers, their applications, and end-users and their businesses. We'll do everything we can to learn from this event and use it to improve our availability even further."

- Amazon officials after the AWS outrage in 2017

Shorter lead time for changes

DevOps aligned teams have a lead time as short as hours, whereas the low performing teams can take up to months to go from commit to production. 

Shrinking production incidents

Irrespective of the system’s robustness, combinations go wrong and result in unhappy customers. However, DevOps observability and its best practices reduce production incidents’ frequency. Measuring is the only way to ensure that these production incidents don’t overweigh customer value.  

Lesser downtime

Brand reputation is directly proportional to service availability, which means the amount of time the end-user can use the software. DevOps aligned systems promise higher service availability, lower costs involved in repairing them, and eventually better SLAs, SLIs, and SLOs to end-users.

Faster mean time to acknowledge and resolve

The core of DevOps is streamlining development and testing. Quick response to notifications, acknowledging production incidents, and promptly getting to fixes, ensure that the team can get back to working on features faster. DevOps observability helps teams do the same. 

“For businesses to succeed in the long run, it’s crucial to have a mechanism that compares the staging and product environments. This robustness helps in coming up with a preventive mechanism and a remediation plan for production failures.

- Vishu Vasudevan, Head of Product Engineering & Management, Opsera. 

For strong DevOps observability, define KPIs from the start

One of the biggest mistakes agile SaaS companies make is to bring in DevOps at the last leg of the project. This process introduces friction and frustration in the process and delays critical deliveries. On the contrary, DevOps should function as a partner to other teams from the initial stages.

When DevOps KPIs are defined at the beginning of the project, the entire team aligns with them. 

#1. The product team should come up with a detailed account of project requirements. This should ensure that both the development and operations teams know what enters the development environment in the next 2-3 releases. 

#2. The development team needs to plan the feature pipeline and design. The plan should also include the time required to develop a feature, i.e., code commit to production deployment, and a list of tests performed - performance, integration, function, and security.  

#3. Meanwhile, the operations team should prepare for the operational readiness based on the timelines and predictions. 

“Aligning with DevOps KPIs from the inception of the project ensures a stress-free work environment. With DevOps at the core of the process, everyone from the product team to the development team feels confident in pushing code from staging to deployment," 

- Kevin Railsback, VP technical operations, Openfit

Learn more about DevOps methodology, why observability is critical in moving fast,, and focus on value stream management in our on-demand webinar with Eric Robertson, Garima Bajpal, Kevin Railsback, and Vishnu Vasudevan. 

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