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What Is DevOps?

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There’s no one right way to develop software, but DevOps is quickly becoming the dominant software development methodology. Known for its iterative, team-based process, DevOps isn’t just an efficient way to develop software — it’s also a philosophy that software engineering teams use to build a collaborative workplace culture. So, what is DevOps, and how do professionals use it? How can you prepare for DevOps roles, even if you don’t have work experience? We’ll cover:

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DevOps Defined

What is DevOps? DevOps is a workplace philosophy and practice that helps teams plan, build, develop, and deliver software efficiently and effectively. It is a collaborative, iterative process that focuses on continuously delivering and improving software.

The name comes from the combination of development (dev) and operations (ops). DevOps teams are often comprised of both software developers and information technology (IT) operations professionals. 

>>MORE: Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: What’s the Difference?

These people all work toward the same goal: to deliver high-quality software efficiently. DevOps is a software methodology that helps them achieve this goal. 

While some companies have specialized DevOps teams and software engineers, others use it as a methodology to deliver software and shape team culture.

“DevOps is not an individual title or role in our organization, but it is very much a way of working collaboratively across the organization,” says Brent Austin, senior director of cloud delivery and engineering at Liberty Mutual Insurance. “We deliver on shared outcomes while embracing opportunities to learn and innovate together.”

DevOps vs. Other Software Methodologies

DevOps is just one type of software methodology — meaning it’s one process that teams use to develop and deliver software. Other software methodologies include:

  • Waterfall: A sequential process where each phase of the development process only happens once the phase before is entirely complete. This methodology is considered a traditional, primarily outdated approach.
  • Feature-Driven Development: This process is about iteratively delivering client features and updates. While it has some elements of agile and DevOps methods, it’s still considered an older methodology.
  • Scrum: Scrum is a value-driven approach where teams work on one feature in a generally two- to four-week workflow called a sprint. Each sprint has specific goals the team focuses on during that time frame.
  • Agile: Most similar to DevOps, agile methodology is also a collaborative and incremental approach to development. However, agile methodology is a software development process, while DevOps is an expansion of its principles that also defines team culture.

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“Previous methodologies treated development and operations as two separate and distinct functions, often at odds with one another,” Austin says. “Development teams looked to release changes to deliver new functionality for their users; operations teams looked to slow the rate of change in response to being on the hook when changes introduced instability of bugs into a system. Collaboration was limited to exchanges through ticket-based systems vs. well-defined APIs and platform interfaces.”

DevOps is also heavily focused on collaboration compared to other methodologies. Everyone on the team, from developers to operations professionals, takes ownership of the end-to-end delivery of software. Because of the collaborative nature of this methodology, DevOps is more than a methodology or process — it’s also an element of an organization’s culture. 

DevOps Lifecycle

The DevOps lifecycle is the process that DevOps teams use to deliver software. While some stages may vary from company to company, it generally consists of seven main phases.

Continuous Development

The team plans the software in the first phase of the DevOps lifecycle. This phase often includes collaboration with the client to understand what they’re looking for from the software. The team then discusses the resources needed to make this happen, including budget and timeline.

Coding also starts during this phase to build what the team has planned.

Continuous Testing

After the team writes the code, developers test the software. Many automated testing tools can speed up the process and help them quickly identify errors or bugs in the code. If there’s anything wrong, they’ll go back and fix the error, then test the code again.

Continuous Integration

Once the team tests the code, they will integrate the new code and code changes into a repository — like a Google document for code. It’s where all the code is kept, and the team can track any changes made.

The team tests the code after they’ve integrated any changes or updates.

Continuous Deployment

The team then deploys the code. When deployed, the software becomes available to users on the front end (the part of the software that users can see).

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Continuous Monitoring

Continuous monitoring ensures that the software is working as intended and running efficiently. The operations team is crucial to this phase as they monitor whether users experience any bugs and how the software performs.

Continuous Feedback

In this phase, stakeholders across numerous teams (not just development and operations) share feedback about the software.

Continuous Operations

Similar to continuous monitoring, continuous operations is about the software’s performance. In this phase, the team monitors the software’s security, compliance, and quality to ensure it runs as securely, effectively, and efficiently as possible.

>>MORE: Practice your DevOps and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) skills in a startup environment with Blackbird’s Software Engineering Virtual Experience Program.

Key DevOps Practices

Besides the DevOps lifecycle, a few critical DevOps practices make up its methodology. 


Microservices are an architectural approach to software development where the software is made up of small services that communicate with one another. 

This approach helps deliver software more efficiently and iteratively in two ways: first, multiple team members can work on different services simultaneously; second, if one service crashes, the issue is isolated and doesn’t affect the other services. 

In contrast, monoliths are an architectural approach where services are grouped together. When one part of the monolith crashes, the whole monolith crashes.

Infrastructure as Code

Infrastructure as code helps speed up the development process by automating procedures. Teams write policies and instructions in the code so the team can easily change, test, and deploy without changing the infrastructure.

“DevOps focuses on automation and treats the underlying infrastructure that’s used by an application as code, implementing security guardrails in the process,” Flavius Dinu, developer advocate at Spacelift, a CI/CD platform for infrastructure as code. “This means that you will automate everything that’s going to be created, from access control, networking, computer, storage, and monitoring to the actual deployment of the application.”

Monitoring and Logging

These practices help DevOps teams constantly improve their software. Monitoring is when teams monitor software performance to make it as efficient as possible. Logging is for keeping track of any changes made within the software. Monitoring and logging helps teams identify performance issues or pain points and track iterative software development.

Communication and Collaboration

DevOps is about moving away from working in silos and toward working in a collaborative, iterative development process. Instead of individual team members being responsible for specific parts of the development process, in DevOps, every team member should feel responsible for the end-to-end process. As a result, everyone takes ownership of successful deployment and must collaborate on software updates and changes. 

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“DevOps is not just about tools and processes – its success lies in innovative teams that build a collaborative culture and aren’t afraid to take risks,” says Anant Adya, executive vice president of cloud, infrastructure and security (CIS) services at Infosys.

Benefits of DevOps

So, why do software engineering teams use DevOps? 

“The main benefit of using DevOps is its ability to help companies achieve rapid delivery times without compromising on quality or security,” says Daniel Chabert, CEO and founder of PurpleFire, a CRO, web, and software development agency. 

Not only do these teams work to deliver software faster, but they can also increase quality and reliability because they can easily make changes and updates to the software.

“Increased automation, CI/CD practices and automated testing ensure changes are safe,” Austin says. “Smaller batch sizes allow the detection of and rollback of bad code to be handled quickly. [They also] result in faster feedback loops and the ability to pivot and adjust based on user feedback.”

Finally, DevOps’s ability to implement iterative feedback helps meet customer needs and address any inefficiencies quickly.

“The use of DevOps allows our organization to be proactive and anticipatory in meeting our customer’s needs,” says Monique T. Parker, cybersecurity systems analyst at Infinite Technologies. “Customers are always amazed to see the swift pace at which we act to fulfill their needs. DevOps is used to quickly implement service modifications, additional system capabilities, and real-time data feeds to enhance the quality and fidelity of our applications’ functionality and output.”

DevOps in the Hiring Process

Most IT leaders say they use DevOps in the workplace — 83%, according to Puppet. So even if you’re not applying to be a DevOps engineer and are applying to a software engineering role, you might likely have to answer some questions about DevOps. 

>>MORE: Entry-Level DevOps Interview Questions (With Answers)

What’s the best way to get familiar with the process, especially if you’ve never worked in a DevOps environment? Professionals in the field recommended trying it out before the interview.

“Volunteer at open-source projects or hackathons that use the methodology,” Chabert says. “This will give you a chance to learn through hands-on experience and also demonstrate your skills to potential employers.”

You can also brush up on general processes and concepts with online resources to help with basic interview questions about the methodology. The DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) program is also a great way to keep yourself updated about how DevOps professionals use the practice in the industry, including what qualifies a DevOps team as “successful.” 

“Many web-based learning institutions like Udemy and Coursera offer online training courses for DevOps and more,” Parker says. “Microsoft and Amazon offer DevOps training specific to their Azure and AWS cloud platforms, respectively. Books like ‘DevOps for Dummies,’ ‘The DevOps Handbook,’ and ‘Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases Through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation’ offer self-paced DevOps training in the palm of your hand. Ultimately, anyone who wants to learn about DevOps and gain experience can do it, right now, today!”

Practice your DevOps skills with Accenture’s Know the Code Virtual Experience Program.

Image credit: Kampus Production / Pexels

Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.