How To Deploy Faster With Fewer Errors Using DevOps Automation

DevOps was once a way to remove bottlenecks introduced by the siloed working of the development and operations teams. It has now evolved into a bankable development strategy which guarantees a rapid release velocity.

Gareth Rushgrove, Director of Product Management at Synk (formerly with Docker), said this in an interview to NewRelic

Organizations are now fundamentally understanding that they need to move quickly. Fear of disruption has driven a lot of organizations to appreciate that they’re not moving quickly enough.”

DevOps and Automation are almost always clubbed together. DevOps does automate every process – development, testing, and monitoring. Yet, the relationship between the two is a bit more nuanced.

DevOps is a collection of processes that speeds up delivery. Automation is a technique used to install these processes. Teams achieve rapid release velocity in DevOps by automating repetitive manual tasks at each stage.

If DevOps is astronomy, automation is its telescope.

What is the need for DevOps automation?

A faster development team and a slower deployment team create a bottleneck.

By applying automation, teams can execute tests at a much faster pace. It also reduces manual error. Thus, DevOps Automation helps remove the process bottlenecks.

When we replace a part of the testing team with automation testers, we get more test hours within a given test period. It also reduces the cost of each test hour.

Paul Grossman tested this scenario in his whitepaper titled “Automated ROI: Fact or Fiction?”. The study compared a mixed testing team to a manual testing team. The number of test hours increased by 440% for the mixed testing team. The same team saved over 75% of the costs for each test hour.

Doesn’t Agile provide faster delivery already?

Agile is a development paradigm. It improves coordination among the software development team, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and Business Owners. It helps remove communication gaps among stakeholders.

When using Agile, teams deliver the code rapidly and incrementally in iterative cycles. They use automation to speed up the testing process. DevOps helps teams deploy faster. It removes the gaps between development and operations teams.

DevOps uses automation on a much wider scale. Teams using DevOps automate the entire delivery pipeline to ensure a smoother and faster deployment.

How to deploy faster with DevOps Automation

DevOps speeds up deployment by eliminating the bottlenecks through automation. DevOps comprises of two subprocesses: continuous delivery and continuous testing.

To achieve continuous delivery, teams must increase their rate of delivery. DevOps helps increase release velocity. Instead of delivering on a weekly basis, teams can release features on a daily basis (or often in a few hours).

Achieving continuous delivery is a challenging task. Maintaining a higher quality of code is one of these challenges. Teams have to achieve a higher code quality while delivering at a rapid pace. They can use peer reviews, integration benchmarks, and source control for these purposes.

1. Release in smaller cycles to avoid major failures

Consider a case where the team releases a major code change every quarter. The more code we integrate, the more bugs we discover and the more time we spend on the rework (theoretically).

With continuous integration and continuous automated testing, we can achieve an error-free codebase. Thus, releasing less number of code changes reduces the risk of major failures.

2. Use integration Benchmarks to track code quality

If the release cycles are shorter, the probability of bugs would increase.

Teams can integrate performance benchmarks early in the delivery pipeline. Continuous monitoring can help spot problems early on and avoid embarrassing deployment-time failures. A 2015 study proved using these two strategies to detect performance issues between versions.

3. Use source or version control systems

To deliver changes fast, team members can work on different code branches simultaneously. A source control system facilitates the integration of rapid code changes without any conflicts. It also maintains backups of older versions enabling quick code reversal.

4. Distributed, simultaneous code reviews can enable more opportunities for knowledge sharing

Structural silos are characteristic of the Waterfall model. Peer-to-peer code reviews enable team members to break these silos.

Shared awareness of the code base exposes major issues early on as team members collectively work toward improving the code quality.

Redundancy of knowledge means more than one person is well equipped to handle issues in the code. This allows a developer to take time off because the team is not dependent only on him/her. Fresh recruits can learn from the team’s functioning and coding style.

Smaller releases reduce the amount of code under review and the time required to review it. 

Steps to fewer errors using continuous testing in DevOps

When teams deliver fast, the code changes are constant and features get added rapidly. Any errors picked up due to the rapid pace of development can hinder your team’s progress.

To improve testing effectiveness, teams can test in parallel using virtualized environments. Headless tests and open communication can also help improve testing efficiency.

1. Use asynchronous execution for certain manual testing phases

Teams cannot automate some manual tests such as accessibility tests or exploratory tests. Other features may be well tested and ready for deployment to production. In these scenarios, manual testing phases become a bottleneck to continuous delivery.

Lisa Crispin (Agile Testing Fellowship Lead Trainer) suggests a unique solution for this problem. She proposes that manual tests run in parallel with automated tests. Once automated tests finish, those features are ready for production deployment.

Teams can use feature toggles to keep untested features out of the scope of UAT. Thus, features still undergoing manual testing stay out of customer view.

This separates critical parts of the testing pipeline. The team has more time to be certain about all quality aspects of the entire codebase.

2. Keep a tab on the number of defects and the ratio of failed/successful test scripts

One way to track the quality of your build is to check how many defects are discovered and what percentage of test scripts pass You can also define custom metrics that capture the quality of your build in greater detail.

3. Compartmentalize environments to ensure high reliability and endurance of the testing process

Teams can isolate the critical services of the application.

The technical environment of each module comprises of its code and the dependent libraries. It may also contain the configuration files. Teams can bundle these elements into an independent virtualized operating system.

Any major change in a module is restricted to its container while tests on other modules go on uninterrupted. Testing inside a virtualized container also gives better insights about the application quality.

4. Allow open communication among teams

Encourage team members to share feedback in your daily or weekly stand-up meetings. Gradually, teams will begin trusting each other.

If the application is using too much memory, the Operations team should not have to wait until the next meeting. They must be able to share this with the Development team as soon as they discover the issue.

If the Development team need an infrastructure upgrade, a single email to the Operations team should suffice.

Open communication prevents interpersonal, systemic, and code issues. It also enables faster resolution when they do occur.

5. Include automated headless tests

Headless browser testing is faster as GUI is not rendered on the browser.

Some use cases to automate with a headless test script include SSL testing, command-line testing, and data setup functions. Automating them saves the testing team a significant amount of time.

Avoid using headless testing when you are testing user experience as a whole or if you want to debug failed test cases.

6. Layer your tests to ensure complete coverage

All apps should go through many layers of tests to ensure more thorough coverage of all sections of the code. By testing code in layers – unit, database, integration, and systems – you can isolate bugs quickly. These tests help reduce the perceived complexity of your app.

7. Include performance testing in the continuous testing pipeline

Performance tests are an ideal automation candidate. Successful performance tests help assure business users about the stability of the application.

Is DevOps Automation suitable for your organization?

Implementing continuous delivery and continuous testing can be a daunting task. Selecting a tool is a major DevOps challenge because of the time and effort involved in its selection. Integrating the tool with your existing systems is another tedious and time-consuming task.

Arkenea is ranked among the top software development companies providing DevOps consulting services to fast growing businesses. Over the last 8 years, we have helped businesses succeed through software engineering. One of the apps released by us raised $1 Million funding right after its launch.

We understand the powerful impact a well-developed software or app can have for businesses of all sizes.

Arkenea can help lead your organization through your DevOps journey – from tool selection to process monitoring. Setup a consultation call with us today.