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Engineers looking for DevOps jobs must learn how technologies interact with each other, because it's a highly specialized area of expertise with many sub-specialties. Continuous learning and improvement are your keys to career success.
In an increasingly cloud-based and decentralized world, 77% of businesses are using or planning to use DevOps. At the same time, 64% of leaders across various IT functions are struggling to find skilled DevOps practitioners.
Therefore, as the scramble for a limited talent pool continues, it’s time for developers to get busy; they must learn DevOps as part of application development early on. A business and its end users may be able to tolerate a bug or poor implementation at the application level. And although developers may typically learn on the job, with DevOps, that’s a no-go: A suboptimal, vulnerability-prone infrastructure supporting a product or service can seriously damage a business.
Moreover, developers looking to pursue DevOps have to view tools in combinations rather than individual elements. For example, suppose you want to build an application in Java language on the open-source operating system Linux and deploy it on Kubernetes to automate deployment. The toolset used here is very different from a developer wanting to build and deploy an application on an individual Linux machine.
These are just some reasons why DevOps is in high demand. But let’s dive deeper and look at how engineers can enhance their skills to fill the talent gap. (Also read: The Best Places in the World to Work in Tech.)
IT executives and their developers may wonder how DevOps differs from their day-to-day, so here’s what they must watch out for and the skills they should look at strengthening this year:
Cloud operations and DevOps go hand in hand; the efficiency of one is dependent on the other. The DevOps methodology is vital to drive forward production, but the Cloud provides the platform to test, deploy, and release code.
Developers with knowledge about cloud platforms, like AWS or Azure, would increase an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity, configure firewalls, and administer the infrastructure.
Storing work results and sharing them with colleagues is essential to DevOps culture. Source code management (SCM) is a set of automation tools that track revisions made to a program to ensure all team members stay on top of changes to source code and related files. Developers must get their hands dirty with Git as soon as possible, trying out GitHub and GitLab.
Developers need to understand the concepts of virtualization and containerization to assess risk.
Virtualization enables developers to run multiple systems on the hardware of a single server. Containerization is more flexible, allowing for the deployment of multiple applications anywhere: on an on-premise server or virtual machine in the cloud, among other environments. For larger application container orchestration, Kubernetes is a popular open-source, out-of-the-box solution, and Docker Swarm works well for smaller applications.
Python, Ruby and Go are among the most popular DevOps scripting languages. Developers must learn at least one of these for automation scripting. Additionally, Bash is used for Linux and Shell for Windows.
In an increasingly Linux-based cloud world, Bash is a must. DevOps professionals will need to write programs in different languages and manage code using GitHub, for example. Mastering each language means greater control over how DevOps enables efficiency. (Also read: The 5 Programming Languages That Built the Internet.)
A DevOps automation skillset is closely linked to coding ability.
Jenkins, for example, is an open-source continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) automation software tool written in Java. It is used to implement CI/CD workflows (called "pipelines"), package applications, run vulnerability scans and build docker images. Another reason to brush up on your coding languages.
Applications can’t just run indefinitely; they will have problems. In fact, they're like loaves of bread: bound to go moldy pretty quickly. A developer is responsible for monitoring the "mold" (system health, resilience, and reliability) and making iterations.
Monitoring tools like Prometheus and Nagios can be configured to send out alerts when there’s a problem. To visualize the data stored in these types of tools, use Grafana or one of its alternatives. (Also read: How to Choose the Right Application Monitoring Tool.)
Developers should know how to install firewalls, proxy servers, load balancers and manage ports.
A developer that stands out from the rest must have “soft” skills, be organized and business-orientated, and have a high level of commitment to break silos between development and operations teams.
In general, developers must start communicating with business stakeholders, peers and other departments in technical and business terms while viewing technology as a tool to achieve business outcomes.
Traditionally, the definition of DevOps was anything that made the development process more efficient. Five years ago, many chief technology officers (CTOs) thought simply putting development and operations professionals in the same room was enough.
Now, DevOps has grown and become more complicated: The unofficial icon is an infinity symbol, proving it is an infinite, continuous process. It isn’t like finishing a sculpture or essay. Integrations need constant maintenance, and consistent evaluation of the product development life cycle is vital.
DevOps is also left to the discretion and knowledge level of particular developers or IT teams to implement how they see fit. They come up with their own instrumentation preferences, policies and practices, which invariably lead to inconsistencies, fractured systems, huge technical debt, duplication of software licenses and developer turnover. (Also read: How Remote Work Impacts DevOps and Development Trends.)
This type of downfall often happens when developers and engineers look at DevOps only as a CI/CD pipeline. While this enables the rapid and reliable code delivery with a collection of tools, it forgets why DevOps came into being.
DevOps is not solely a set of tools: It is an outcome-oriented model for delivering high-quality, business-impacting code quickly. It requires regimented cultural philosophies, practices, coding/scripting and an entire software development life cycle (SDLC) separate from business feature development.
The mad rush to adopt DevOps is due to the roadblocks and challenges developers currently face, such as:
Development and operations teams speak different languages: Developers want to quickly produce code for new features to push production, while operations teams like to maintain stability, ensure projects are running smoothly and are more reluctant to make modifications.
DevOps is a mechanism that ensures this miscommunication is somewhat removed, bridging the gap between racing to production and slow approvals with built-in deployment plans.
Developers often lack the training to build secure systems. Operations teams tend to focus more on security and, in some organizations, there’s also a dedicated security team.
If developers push an application into production and the operations team approves it, but security doesn’t, the cost of remediating any vulnerabilities is extortionate. This amplified the need to “shift left.”
It's not just a security lock whacked on at the end; security has to be baked into every single layer of the product ecosystem. (Also read: What is DevSecOps?)
Not only do applications need to be secure and performant, but they also have to be built in a prescribed manner as required by regulatory bodies. Organizations that have had to inject HIPAA, HITRUST, or SOC2 after the fact can relate painfully to the need to build applications right the first time.
Manual tasks make development expensive and prone to friction. There's a lot of manual work — from maintaining a server, to application testing, to backing up.
The idea is that code is bug-free natively, but that’s not the case. When tests –feature, regression, load, stress, security and performance — are done manually, it’s just ineffective engineering.
DevOps wouldn’t be complete with simply deploying tools; the secret lies in the combinations of technology. Learning how they interact with each other is essential for developer success and long-term maintenance. IT executives needing DevOps skills fast must assess what knowledge their developers already have from the list above and where their team needs to focus.
But ultimately, DevOps does not have a standard playbook or a step-by-step implementation guide that guarantees outcomes. It is a highly specialized space with a vast number of sub-specialties. So, it is never one person’s job and requires robust orchestration between various specialists. Really, it is all about continuous learning and improvement, just as it is about CI/CD. (Also read: DevOps Managers Explain What They Do.)
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Written by Sashank Purighalla | Founder and CEO
Sashank Purighalla is a serial entrepreneur with a strong software product development background, a strategic business vision, a keen interest in innovation and excellent process and people’s skills.
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