DevOps: A Key to Agile Methodology Success
How an automated DevOps process can help you reach the goals of the Agile development methodology
by Shay Shmeltzer

DevOps focuses on automation of the process of software and infrastructure development and delivery—thus streamlining and removing both technical and organizational barriers.

So where is the connection between DevOps and Agile?

A key underlying requirement for the successful implementation of the Agile methodology is the ability to quickly modify your software and produce quality, runnable applications quickly. This allows the Agile development team to iterate over the results with customers and continuously improve the applications based on user feedback. This is the spot where DevOps fits into the Agile picture.

Successful DevOps implementation shortens the time needed to produce a running application, and it provides quicker exposure of problems in the delivered application—resulting in better quality for the deliverables.

Real-World Example

Figure 1 shows an example of the DevOps process. I'll illustrate the benefit of an efficient DevOps process for an Agile team using one of Oracle's product development teams, which I'm part of. The team has a completely automated DevOps process in place that kicks off when a developer commits branch changes into a Git repository. The whole process, by the way, is managed in a cloud environment leveraging Oracle Developer Cloud Service.

Figure 1. Example of the DevOps process

The process starts with a member of the team (development lead, product manager, or other member) adding a task that reflects a customer need to the task repository (this can be a new feature, a fix for a bug, or an enhancement request). The tasks are prioritized and assigned to a specific sprint (a short period dedicated to development) and to a specific developer.

The developer will be working on the new task in his own local branch of code. Once he deems his code is ready, he'll commit the code branch into the hosted Git server, and this operation starts a chain of events.

The first step will be a build process creating a testable version of the feature, which will then start a set of automated test scripts written by the developer. This is the first line of defense for software quality.

If this build/test cycle succeeds, a code review process will be initiated—automatically notifying the manager in charge of the specific product area that code has changed. Using a web interface, the manager can review the code changes and comment on specific lines of code. Doing iterative "peer programming" this way is another way to make sure that the code that is being produced is of good quality.

Once the code has passed the review, the manager can indicate it is ready to be merged into the main development branch. The merge operation will start another set of automated build and test processes on the combined development line of code.

Every night, an automated build takes the full set of Git repositories that makes up our team's product and creates a runnable version of the product deploying it to our testing environment. This instance is used by QA to verify the fixed bugs and new features.

Subsequently, another automated process is invoked to run a set of automated Selenium-based UI tests on the deployed application. Because the feature is now incorporated into the complete runnable product, product managers can then demo the feature to potential users and get their feedback on the results.

Once a development sprint is done (usually every two weeks), we lock the code branch and use the same DevOps process to produce a release candidate of our product.

As you can see, this extensive DevOps process streamlines our code->build->test->deploy cycle and removes many tasks that used to require manual steps that would delay delivering products.

Advantages of DevOps Automation

There are several results of this type of DevOps automation:

  • Faster software delivery: Removing the manual build, package, and deploy steps allows us to deliver our software much faster. We used to release product versions once a year, but we have moved to a monthly release cycle for cloud products.
  • Improved software quality: The introduction of automated tests, and quicker deployment into QA instances for manual tests, results in higher quality for our products.
  • Product ownership: Because the whole process is transparent and every team member is able to see the results of the latest build, team members feel deeper responsibility for their code and its role in the product. You really don't want to be the guy who broke the build and delayed the whole team.
  • Improved team collaboration: Through a central team-activity dashboard view, everyone in the team knows what's going on in the project. With common quality goals in sight, team members are more likely to help each other review code, fix issues, and complete high-priority tasks.
Conclusion

At the end of the day, the result of implementing a cloud-based DevOps solution is that our team is now able to deliver more-frequent releases of a better product. We are also able to address specific feature requests raised by our customers in shorter turnaround cycles—matching the goals of the Agile development methodology.

About the Author
Shay Shmeltzer is director of product management for Oracle's development tools and frameworks. He is focused on helping developers simplify and streamline their work by leveraging the right tools and technologies.
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