DevOps Toolchain for Beginners

August 3, 2021

In the digital world, business agility and speed are imperative for IT organizations, given the pace at which the business and technology landscape is evolving. They are obliged to respond and deliver at speeds greater than the pace of digital disruption. And, DevOps has emerged as the panacea to these challenges.

DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, processes, and tools that increase an organization's ability to deliver software faster while maintaining excellence in quality. This speed enables businesses to serve their customers better and gain a competitive edge in the market.

DevOps automates and integrates the efforts of development and IT operations teams to help them build, test, deploy, and monitor applications with speed, quality, and control. It is all about automating manual tasks, reduce errors, eliminate bottlenecks, and axe rework across the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) phases.

However, a successful DevOps implementation generally relies on an integrated set of tools or a toolchain. A DevOps toolchain enables asynchronous collaboration between Dev, Ops, and security teams, seamlessly integrates DevOps workflows and automates the entire software development lifecycle to the extent possible. Let’s take a deep dive into DevOps toolchains:

What is DevOps Toolchain?

A DevOps toolchain is a set of tools that automates the tasks of designing, building, testing, delivering, deploying, managing and controlling software applications throughout the system development lifecycle. It aids in achieving key DevOps principles, including continuous integration, continuous delivery, automation, and collaboration. This makes product delivery faster and more efficient.

Why Do You Need DevOps Toolchain?

The need for speed is imperative in the software world. Today, businesses are being pushed to the limit trying to adapt to an evolving market that demands rapid, real-time responses. In response, the software development that took several months is being executed in weeks by development and operations teams collaborating using DevOps methodologies.

However, as DevOps is a cultural transformation where Dev and Ops teams work in a collaborative environment, there isn’t a single tool that facilitates all the DevOps principles and practices. This escalated the need for a collection of tools (or toolchain) that operates as an integrated unit to enable development to delivery of software. Moreover, the holy grail of DevOps – the optimal automation across software development lifecycle – remained elusive without the DevOps toolchain. DevOps toolchain plays a crucial role in automating and orchestrating DevOps capabilities to deliver software at the desired speed and quality. Apart from these advantages, the DevOps toolchain offers many enviable business benefits. Let’s delve into it:

What are the Business Benefits of DevOps Toolchain?

1) Fast and Efficient Deployments

Software companies constantly strive to deploy updates several times a day, which is challenging for DevOps teams. With the DevOps toolchain, DevOps teams can integrate automation into every phase of the software development lifecycle, enabling faster deployment of products with quality and efficiency. Now, instead of weekly deployments, the software companies can ensure deployments on a daily basis, and in some cases, every few hours.

2) Incident Management

Prompt incident response ensures business continuity. In today’s reality, it’s no longer a question of 'If your business will witness an incident. It’s a question of ‘When.' Thus, organizations must be prepared to respond and resolve an incident quickly and efficiently, to prevent business disruption.

A DevOps toolchain optimizes your incident response strategy. It automates much of the initial process of incident management, thereby accelerating the resolution process and shrinking the downtime. Toolchains also aid in effectively creating incident reports by absorbing and analyzing data from all impacted systems.

3) Improved Software Quality

Software bugs and issues can impede the software development process, hauling the release timeline backward. The ability to identify and remediate defects quickly and accurately is the need of the hour. Here again, the DevOps toolchain can be a game-changer. The toolchain can help DevOps teams proactively identify the issues plaguing the application, prioritize them based on their severity, and remediate the issue.

4) Workflow automation

In Evans Data Corp's 2019 DevOps and Cloud Survey, IT managers mentioned that the most significant value proposition of workflow management tools is absorbing and analyzing end-to-end business data. Whereas developers underscored that the workflow management tools' most significant benefit is the building dashboards that visualize operational data. Whatever be the side you support, a DevOps toolchain can enchant you.  With a toolchain at your disposal, you can automate the data capture process in real-time and enables teams with seamless access to the data they need precisely when they need it.

5) Security

Security is always at the forefront of business objectives. However, many organizations fail to have a common understanding about 'who is responsible for security. Misunderstandings about the responsibility of security can trigger undesired data breaches and attacks.

A DevOps toolchain can help technology teams ensure security is addressed efficiently without potential oversights. All security aspects, including continuous monitoring, regulatory compliance, data encryption, and post-incident review reporting, can be integrated into a toolchain. This enables organizational-level security posture.

How to Build a Robust DevOps Toolchain?

A robust DevOps toolchain plays a vital role in accelerating the DevOps advantages. It’s imperative that the DevOps toolchain follows an organization-level approach, which spans across all teams, businesses, processes, systems, and applications. Moreover, it must incorporate the understanding of how each tool optimizes the advantages and fortifies the other tools in the DevOps ecosystem.

While there is no ‘one-size-fits-all' regarding DevOps tooling, a robust toolchain must incorporate underlying best practices and process efficiencies induced by version control, code quality, and continuous integration, among others. Tool selection depends on various factors like migration strategies, scalability, open-source, and licensing costs. It’s imperative to choose tools in a phased manner and start with the foundational areas like version control and configuration management to achieve initial success. Then the team can adopt tools for other DevOps practices like continuous delivery, deployment, and monitoring.  Without further, let’s delve into options for building your DevOps toolchain:

1) All-in-one DevOps Toolchain

An all-in-one DevOps toolchain provides standard, complete offerings that you can choose from on par with your needs. This is the best choice for the organizations just embarking on their DevOps journey or teams aiming to launch a project quickly. The pre-orchestrated set of tools fosters greater standardization and integration with nominal resources. However, as many organizations already have a set of tools in use, this toolchain may not integrate with them to deliver a complete solution. Moreover, as companies need to integrate legacy tools into the DevOps toolchain, the all-in-one toolchain can hinder it.

2) Customizable DevOps Toolchain

If an in-the-box solution isn’t suitable for your DevOps needs, the other approach is to choose a toolset that can be customized as per the teams' needs. You need to select all the tools you require for your toolchain and cautiously orchestrate them to integrate into your DevOps pipeline. This approach allows DevOps teams to choose and use tools as per their interests. This type of toolchain prevents you from being locked into tools or vendors. However, custom DevOps toolchain can be expensive and resource-intensive as the management and standardization of this approach is a bit challenging.

What are the Considerations for Creating a DevOps Toolchain?

Organizations must consider the below mentioned five main aspects to create a healthy DevOps toolchain:

1) Accept the reality

The first and foremost step to embrace a revolutionary change is accepting the reality that change is always constant. You must be adaptable. For instance, if your code developments aren’t pushed to production quickly, you need to adopt another toolchain. In other words, you need to deploy a toolchain that pushes code quickly.

2) Stay Relevant

Stay relevant with the latest trends and innovations in the DevOps ecosystem. There are many companies that have already embraced DevOps and have leveraged it to the fullest. Network with them, read their success stories, interact with them in different tech communities and learn from them.

3) Analyze

Analyze and assess your current software development process and the tools utilized for it. Elicit vital information such as how much time each SDLC phase takes, its accuracy, and efficiency. This will help you identify the vulnerabilities, loopholes, and inept processes in your current system.

4) Build

Once the loopholes in the current system are identified, make the necessary changes to the system. Then start selecting the tools as per your requirements. Put your theoretical knowledge into practice to build the prototype of your toolchain. Improve your current system with these tools.

5) Scale

To gain an edge in the present-day everchanging IT market, businesses need to adapt and scale seamlessly as per the demands. Thus, your DevOps toolchain needs to be maintained, upgraded, and regularly configured to navigate uncertainty. You must plan your long-term toolchain support strategy.

DevOps Tools’ Categories

1) Project management tools

Project management tools aid teams in compiling a stock of user requirements that form coding projects, divide them into smaller tasks, and monitor the task till completion. These tools support agile project management practices, like Scrum, Lean, and Kanban. Some of the popular open-source tools are GitHub Issues and Jira.

2) Source code repositories

These are the version-controlled coding spaces that enable multiple developers to work on the same code base simultaneously. However, these code repository tools must be integrated with CI/CD, security, and testing tools, so that code can automatically move to the next step when it is committed to the repository. GitHub and GitLab are some of the open-source code repositories.

3) CI/CD pipelines

Continuous integration and deployment tools automate code building, testing, and deployment. Jenkins is the most famous CI/CD tool available in the market. Argo CD is another popular open-source tool for Kubernetes native CI/CD.

4) Test automation frameworks

Automated testing frameworks comprise software tools, libraries, and procedures for automating all testing processes, including unit testing, functional testing, contract testing, usability testing, performance testing, penetration testing, and security testing. Most of these tools support multiple languages; some even leverage artificial intelligence to automatically reconfigure testing processes in response to code changes. However, these test tools are costly. Some of the famous open-source test tools include Selenium, Katalon, Appium, Serenity, and Robot Framework.

5) Configuration management tools

Configuration management tools help manage your infrastructure as code, which then prevents configuration changes across environments. By executing a script, these tools allow DevOps teams to configure and provision fully versioned and documented infrastructure. Some open-source options include Chef, Puppet, Ansible, and Terraform.

6) Monitoring tools

Monitoring tools, including Data dog, Nagios, Prometheus, and Splunk, enables DevOps engineers in detecting and rectifying system issues. By collecting and analyzing data in real-time, these tools provide insights into how code changes impact application performance.

7) Continuous feedback tools

These tools collect feedback from users through various channels, including heat mapping (analyzing users' activity),self-service issue ticketing, or surveys. These feedback insights help DevOps engineers to address customer issues and improve product quality accordingly.

8) Artifact repositories

Artifact repositories stores all the heavy binary artifact files that are supposed to be updated or changed. These are the repositories of libraries, DLLs, and binaries developed by using internal or external source code repositories. JFrog Artifactory and Nexus Repository are some of the popular tools in this category.

9) Issue tracking tools

An increase in transparency across the software development lifecycle gives clear vision and in-depth insights, enabling DevOps teams to track issues swiftly and efficiently. And issue tracking tools are the answer. These tools help in cataloging and tracking issues and resolve them with heightened responsiveness.

10) Collaboration and communication tools

The ‘holy grail’ of the DevOps culture is seamless collaboration and communication between different teams. Collaboration and communication tools enable a host of teams, including developers, testers, operations teams, to coordinate and work together, regardless of their location and time zone. Slack, Campfire, and Skype are some of the examples of collaboration tools.

11) Planning tools

As the goal of the business is standard across the organization, stakeholders, clients, and employees working with different teams should embrace transparency. And planning tools come to the rescue by providing the required transparency. They help with sprint planning. Asana and Clarizen are some of the popular planning tools out there.

12) Orchestration tools

Orchestration is all about automating workflow processes to build, test, deliver, and deploy software applications. These tools can be installed and managed by in-house development teams or outsourced as SaaS (Software as a Service) based tools. CircleCI, Azure DevOps, and Jenkins are some of the popular tools under this section.

13) Source Control

Every organization needs a centralized storage location for all its critical assets, including data, documentation, code, configurations, and files. Source control tools help you in this. Moreover, these tools categorize data into different branches for teams to work on.  SVN, Git, and Subversion are a few examples of source control tools.

14) Database tools

Organizations store, process, and handle vast amounts of valuable data daily. Every application development involves processing a lot of data. These database management tools enable organizations to handle hefty data with ease. Razor SQL and Team Desk are some of the most preferred database management tools.

Every DevOps team prefers or uses a different set of tools, and some may integrate more or fewer components into their DevOps toolchain. Stating that, the list above comprises only the most popular DevOps tools in the market.

List of Best DevOps Tools To Learn and Master

There is a wide variety of paid and open-source DevOps tools you can use to embrace DevOps maturity. Here’s the list of some popular DevOps tools:

1) Docker

Docker has garnered popularity in the DevOps ecosystem as the most commonly used DevOps tool by the DevOps teams. It is a Linux-based open-source tool that supports containerization. It means that your software is packaged and shipped along with its dependencies as a single unit. This eliminates the tedious task of managing dependencies separately. Docker is portable, secure, compatible with any language, and integrates seamlessly with other tools, such as Ansible, Jenkins, and Bamboo.

According to Forrester, Docker dominated the enterprise container platform category in quarter four of 2018.

2) Ansible

Ansible is most famous for its software automation benefit. It is used for automating software provisioning, configuration management, and application deployment. This open-source DevOps tool can easily handle complex deployments without any need for a dedicated systems administrator. Moreover, Ansible is agentless and uses a simple syntax written in the YAML language.

“Ansible has become the DevOps darling for software automation,” quotes CIO.

3) Git

Git has established itself as the most popular DevOps tool in the IT world. It is being used by tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook. This open-source DevOps tool enables DevOps engineers to easily track their development work progress and coordinate work among themselves. With Git, one can revert to previously saved versions of their work, create branches separately, and implement new features when ready. However, organizations are required to host a repository for the work, such as GitHub.

4) Puppet

Puppet is popular for its thousands of modules. This open-source DevOps tool enables DevOps teams to manage and automate software inspection, delivery, and operation. It can seamlessly integrate with many other tools. However, the free version Puppet tool is only profitable for smaller projects. If you are working on large-scale projects, choosing Puppet Enterprise would be a wise choice. Puppet Enterprise can enable your organization to numerous teams and thousands of resources.

5) Chef

Chef has a solid track record as the most powerful configuration management tool. This open-source DevOps tool allows you to modify infrastructure into a code and manage data, attributes, and roles, among others, with ease. Same as Puppet, Chef also supports multiple platforms and seamlessly integrates with cloud-based platforms. Irrespective of your infrastructure vastness, Chef can automate infrastructure configuration and application deployment. It can also manage configurations across the network.

6) Jenkins

Jenkins has enticed DevOps engineers with its ability to detect errors in code, quickly and efficiently. This free, open-source DevOps tool automates your delivery pipeline and allows you to test and report code changes in near real-time. Jenkins can integrate with almost every DevOps tool available in the market, as it has a vast plugin ecosystem with over a thousand plugins. This DevOps tool is compatible with Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.

7) Nagios

Nagios is one of the most sought-after monitoring tools in the DevOps arena. This free, open-source DevOps tool helps identify and rectify issues in networks and infrastructure. With Nagios, DevOps teams can monitor applications, services, and network protocols, among many others. It enables you to keep a record of events like outages and failures. Presently, Nagios Core and Nagios XI are the two editions available in the market. The latest edition, Nagios XI, offers greater functionality with many new features. Anyhow, both editions have Forum support.

8) Splunk

Splunk has grabbed a position in the list of most popular DevOps tools for its ability to allow every member in the team to effortlessly access and use machine data and logs. With Splunk, DevOps engineers can quickly analyze and visualize machine data and gain insights to improve productivity and efficiency. Developers have the facility to develop custom Splunk apps and integrate Splunk data into other apps.

9) Bamboo

Bamboo is a widespread continuous integration and deployment tool. It integrates automated builds, tests, and releases into a single workflow. Though it is almost similar to Jenkins, Bamboo is not an open-source DevOps tool. This tool enables developers to automatically develop, integrate, test the source code and prepare an application for deployment. The unique features of Bamboo include easy to use graphical user interface, auto-completion, integration with various tools, and prebuilt functionalities. Developed by Atlassian in 2007, Bamboo allows DevOps teams to use CI/ CD methodologies.

10) ELK Stack

The combination of three open-source DevOps tools, including Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana, is ELK Stack. While Elastic search is a search and analytics engine, Kibana is the visualization layer. Meanwhile, Logstash gathers data from various sources, which are stored by Elastic search. ELK Stack is famous as the most robust yet simple DevOps tool. It is used for centralized logging. The Stack features multiple plugins and an active support community.

11) Kubernetes

Released in 2015, this container orchestration platform helps you manage a vast number of containers with ease. Once you deploy containerized applications to a set of computers, Kubernetes automates their distribution and scheduling. However, Kubernetes is just an orchestration platform, meaning it’s not a whole solution by itself. It must be used together with other tools like Docker that lets you develop, distribute, and run containers.

12) Selenium

Selenium is known for automating tests for web applications. This open-source DevOps tool is used by many Fortune 500companies, including Google and IBM. The unique features of Selenium are that the test scripts can be written in many languages, including Python and Java. It is compatible with operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux, and works with any browser. To achieve continuous testing, Selenium should be integrated with Docker and Jenkins.

13) Vagrant

Vagrant is among the most popular open-source DevOps tools. With this tool, you can develop and manage virtual machine environments in a single workflow. Thus, all the team members, whether a developer, an operator or a designer, will have the same simple workflow. Vagrant replicates the production environment, so that DevOps engineers can identify and fix bugs early in the production process. This popular tool easily integrates with Ansible, Chef, and Puppet, among others.

14) Maven

Maven is an open-source DevOps tool, which is primarily used for Java projects. The primary function of this tool is automating the build process and resolution of dependencies. Maven helps in the compilation of source code, running tests, including unit tests and functional tests, integrating the results into JAR's, WAR's, and RPM's, and uploading the packages to remote repo's, Nexus, or Artifactory. The tool is developed based on the concept of a project object model. Maven depends on XML and has predefined instructions for performing regular tasks.

15) Gradle

Last but not least, Gradle is one of the most commonly used DevOps tools out there. This open-source automation tool enables writing code in several languages, including Java, C++, and Python. Though Gradle builds on Apache Ant and Maven, it uses a Groovy-based domain-specific language for describing builds. Since its release in 2009, this tool has been gaining popularity steadily for multi-project builds. Owing to its incremental builds, build cache, and daemon, Gradle is efficient than Maven.

DevOps Orchestration

DevOps orchestration is a crucial step for any organization that has embarked DevOps journey and is in the process of, or completed, implementing automation. It coordinates all the tasks automated by DevOps practices to offer improved optimization and oversight.

Initiating DevOps orchestrating can offer a host of business benefits, including:

Ø  Faster software delivery

Ø  Swift release of new features and fixtures

Ø  Minimized deployment time

Ø  Reduced service delivery cost

Ø  Increase product reliability

Moreover, DevOps orchestration enables analysts, managers, and QA to select as per their interests and quickly implement a complete environment provisioned at the proper build and configuration levels. However, orchestration in DevOps is not a walk-on-cake. Organizations require orchestration tools that are entirely on par with their business goals to make the most of their automation efforts and DevOps implementation. Moreover, DevOps orchestration is a comprehensive organizational shift, vertically and horizontally. Fret not! Opsera can help!

How can Opsera Help?

Opsera is the most secure and flexible DevOps orchestration platform that provides self-service toolchain automation, continuous orchestration, drag-and-drop declarative pipelines, and unified insights into your SDLC. Opsera enables development teams to select any DevOps tools from their SaaS platform, or allows you to bring your own tools and quickly provision and implement from their self-service portal. With Opsera, your DevOps teams can swiftly develop DevOps toolchains with native integrations and custom tools, all while having the flexibility to choose the best tools at their disposal.

Opsera’s continuous orchestration platform can automate any CI/CD toolchain and release pipelines across a diverse ecosystem of development methodologies. Whether you choose any tool or bring your own - provision in a self-service way and handle lifecycle management through the SaaS portal. Embrace the perfect CI/CD stack that best suits your organization's objectives with zero vendor lock-in. We manage hybrid environments, aggregate and contextualize data from toolchains and pipelines, and incorporate metrics gathered at every step so that you can deliver software faster, safer and smarter.

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