Category: DevOps Tips

DevOps for Contractors

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The challenges of DevOps--a cultural change, learning new technologies, and making a big-picture impact for a software project team--are possibly even more challenging in contract work. In this blog post, I'll expand on some of my past experiences as a contract software developer and discuss, in retrospect, how DevOps could have worked in different scenarios.

Since beginning our DevOps blog in November, and participating in webinars and conferences, we have received many questions that span the various facets of DevOps, including change management, security, and methodologies. This post will address some of the most frequently asked questions.

In late 2014, the SEI blog introduced a biweekly series of blog posts offering guidelines, practical advice, and tutorials for organizations seeking to adopt DevOps. These posts are aimed at the ever-increasing number of organizations adopting DevOps (up 26 percent since 2011). According to recent research, those organizations ship code 30 times faster. Despite the obvious benefits of DevOps, many organizations hesitate to embrace DevOps, which requires a shifting mindset and cultural and technical requirements that prove challenging in siloed organizations. Given these barriers, posts by CERT researchers have focused on case studies of successful DevOps implementations at Amazon and Netflix, as well as tutorials on popular DevOps technologies such as Fabric, Ansible, and Docker. This post presents the 10 most popular DevOps posts (based on number of visits) over the last six months.

Container-based virtualization platforms provide a means to run multiple applications in separate instances. Container technologies can provide significant benefits to DevOps, including increased scalability, resource efficiency, and resiliency. Unless containers are decoupled from the host system, however, there will be the potential for security problems. Until that decoupling happens, this blog posting describes why administrators should keep a close eye on the privilege levels given to applications running within the containers and to users accessing the host system.

At a recent workshop we hosted, a participant asked why the release frequency was so high in a DevOps environment. When working with significant legacy applications, release may be a once-in-a-year type event, and the prospect of releasing more frequently sends the engineering teams running for the hills. More frequent releases are made possible by properly implementing risk mitigation processes, including automated testing and deployment. With these processes in place, all stakeholders can be confident that frequent releases will be successful.

This post is the latest installment in a series aimed at helping organizations adopt DevOps.
Some say that DevOps is a method; others say it is a movement, a philosophy, or even a strategy. There are many ways to define DevOps, but everybody agrees on its basic goal: to bring together development and operations to reduce risk, liability, and time-to-market, while increasing operational awareness. Long before DevOps was a word, though, its growth could be tracked in the automation tooling, culture shifts, and iterative development models (such as Agile) that have been emerging since the early 1970s.

This post is the latest installment in a series aimed at helping organizations adopt DevOps.

Tools used in DevOps environments such as continuous integration and continuous deployment speed up the process of pushing code to production. Often this means continuous deployment cycles that could result in multiple deployments per day. Traditional security testing, which often requires manually running multiple tests in different tools, does not keep pace with this rapid schedule. This blog post introduces a tool called Gauntlt, which attempts to remedy this issue.

"Software security" often evokes negative feelings among software developers since this term is associated with additional programming effort and uncertainty. To secure software, developers must follow a lot of guidelines that, while intended to satisfy some regulation or other, can be very restricting and hard to understand. As a result a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt can surround software security. This blog posting describes how the Rugged Software movement attempts to combat the toxic environment surrounding software security by shifting the paradigm from following rules and guidelines to creatively determining solutions for tough security problems.

The workflow of deploying code is almost as old as code itself. There are many use cases associated with the deployment process, including evaluating resource requirements, designing a production system, provisioning and configuring production servers, and pushing code to name a few. In this blog post I focus on a use case for configuring a remote server with the packages and software necessary to execute your code.

In a computing system, a context switch occurs when an operating system stores the state of an application thread before stopping the thread and restoring the state of a different (previously stopped) thread so its execution can resume. The overhead incurred by a context switch managing the process of storing and restoring state negatively impacts operating system and application performance. This blog post describes how DevOps ameliorates the negative impacts that "context switching" between projects can have on a software engineering team's performance.

The DevOps movement is clearly taking the IT world by storm. Technical feats, such as continuous integration (CI), comprehensive automated testing, and continuous delivery (CD) that at one time could only be mastered by hip, trendy startups incapable of failure, are now being successfully performed by traditional enterprises who have a long history of IT operations and are still relying on legacy technologies (the former type of enterprises are known in the DevOps community as "unicorns," the latter as "horses"). In this post, I explore the experience of a fictional horse, Derrick and Anderson (D&A) Lumber, Inc., a company that hit some bumps in the road on its way to DevOps. As D&A finds out, a DevOps transformation is not a product that can be purchased from the outside, but rather a competency that must be grown from within.

When building and delivering software, DevOps practices, such as automated testing, continuous integration, and continuous delivery, allow organizations to move more quickly by speeding the delivery of quality software features, that increase business value. Infrastructure automation tools, such as Chef, Puppet, and Ansible, allow the application of these practices to compute nodes through server provisioning using software scripts. These scripts are first-class software artifacts that benefit from source code version control, automated testing, continuous integration, and continuous delivery.

In the post What is DevOps?, we define one of the benefits of DevOps as "collaboration between project team roles." Conversations between team members and the platform on which communication occurs can have a profound impact on that collaboration. Poor or unused communication tools lead to miscommunication, redundant efforts, or faulty implementations. On the other hand, communication tools integrated with the development and operational infrastructures can speed up the delivery of business value to the organization. How a team structures the very infrastructure on which they communicate will directly impact their effectiveness as a team. ChatOps is a branch of DevOps focusing on the communications within the DevOps team. The ChatOps space encompasses the communication and collaboration tools within the team: notifications, chat servers, bots, issue tracking systems, etc.

Development with Docker

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In our last post, DevOps and Docker, I introduced Docker as a tool to develop and deploy software applications in a controlled, isolated, flexible, and highly portable infrastructure. In this post, I am going to show you how easy it is to get started with Docker. I will dive in and demonstrate how to use Docker containers in a common software development environment by launching a database container (MongoDB), a web service container (a Python Bottle app), and configuring them to communicate forming a functional multi-container application. If you haven't learned the basics of Docker yet, you should go ahead and try out their official tutorial here before continuing.

DevOps and Docker

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Docker is quite the buzz in the DevOps community these days, and for good reason. Docker containers provide the tools to develop and deploy software applications in a controlled, isolated, flexible, highly portable infrastructure. Docker offers substantial benefits to scalability, resource efficiency, and resiliency, as we'll demonstrate in this posting and upcoming postings in the DevOps blog.

On the surface, DevOps sounds great. Automation, collaboration, efficiency--all things you want for your team and organization. But where do you begin? DevOps promises high return on investment in exchange for a significant shift in culture, process, and technology. Substantially changing any one of those things in an established organization can feel like a superhuman feat. So, how can you start your organization on the path to DevOps without compromising your existing business goals and trajectories?

Environment parity is the ideal state where the various environments in which code is executed behave equivalently. The lack of environment parity is one of the more frustrating and tenacious aspects of software development. Deployments and development both fall victim to this pitfall too often, reducing stability, predictability, and productivity. When parity is not achieved, environments behave differently, which makes troubleshooting hard and can make collaboration seem impossible. This lack of parity is a burden for too many developers and operational staff. Looking back on almost every problem I have seen in new production deployments, I find it hard to think of one issue that wasn't due in some part to lack of parity. For developers, this pain is felt when integrating and testing code.