These days, it seems like you can’t avoid hearing about DevOps if you work anywhere in software development or IT. But despite DevOps’ meteoric rise, not every technology professional is up to speed on what DevOps is all about, much less how to incorporate DevOps methodologies into their work.Dev + Ops illustration

That’s why we’ve created this crash course in DevOps basics, using resources from New Relic and around the web. DevOps beginners won’t turn into experts overnight, but our guide can help you discuss DevOps with more experienced practitioners, ask more informed questions about how to succeed with DevOps, and offer insight into where to begin your own DevOps journey.

We’ve broken that journey into five phases: DevOps basics, DevOps culture, DevOps automation and tools, DevOps measurement, and DevOps security. And then, to keep it all grounded in reality, we look at how New Relic learned to embrace DevOps.

DevOps basics

There are plenty of good introductions to DevOps. The key is to find the right mix of resources to get the information you need quickly, so you can spend more time on in-depth material that actually prepare you to adopt and apply DevOps methods. Here are our suggestions:

What Is DevOps? This New Relic online guide offers a quick but complete review of where DevOps came from, the problems its creators wanted to solve, and the anatomy of a modern DevOps organization. Think of this as the first step on your personal DevOps journey: a prerequisite that prepares you to jump into more detailed resources.

The 3 Pillars of DevOps: Culture, Automation, MeasurementDevOps 101: Moving Fast with Confidence. This 44-minute webinar video is your chance to watch New Relic Senior Product Marketing Manager Ravi Tharisayi quiz Donnie Berkholz, who was at the time research director for 451 Research, on DevOps best practices. Their conversation touches on some vivid examples that highlight the business value of DevOps. They also discuss the “three pillars” of a successful DevOps venture: culture, automation, and measurement—a structure mirrored in this post.

Continuous Delivery, Continuous Deployment, and Continuous Integration: What’s the Difference? These terms refer to DevOps workflows that are central to creating a successful DevOps practice. They also provide a useful way to measure DevOps maturity, with organizations adopting one or more of these workflows as they step up their automation, measurement, tooling, and other capabilities. This post unpacks these terms and explores their origins, how they differ, and how they help software teams deliver better applications faster.

Bonus resource: The Incredible True Story of How DevOps Got Its Name

DevOps culture

The very term DevOps—a portmanteau of development and operations—speaks to its goal of tearing down the walls separating two groups that (hopefully) share a common goal. By most accounts, that’s more about changing an organization’s culture, collaboration practices, and attitudes than it is about adopting new tools and technology.

The change required to embrace a DevOps mindset and cultural norms may not always be easy. But at least you’re not on your own—there’s a wealth of proven, practical guidance on building a successful DevOps culture:

DevOps Culture. Software developer Rouan Wilsenach’s short but impactful guest post on Martin Fowler’s highly regarded blog offers a pointed, practitioner’s take on what DevOp culture really means, why it’s essential, and why the other pillars of DevOps depend upon a healthy DevOps culture—even as they help to support and sustain that culture.

Kickstarting DevOps. Subtitled “How to get everyone on board and successfully make the transition,” this New Relic ebook puts a special emphasis on DevOps’ prerequisites. Learn how to prepare your teams and gather the information you’ll need to maintain momentum and avoid unwelcome surprises on the path to DevOps nirvana.

DevOps automation and tools

Automating software development and deployment tasks and workflows is a key pillar of DevOps success. DevOps is all about replacing the inefficiencies and errors associated with manual process, allowing developers and IT folks to focus on innovation and creating value for the organization, instead of getting bogged down in routine maintenance.

DevOps emphasizes using tools to automate the management of your continuous integration and delivery pipelines, as well as automating the process and organizational changes required to take advantage of automated workflows:

Automation and the DevOps Workflow. This white paper, produced by software vendor Chef, is a dense but useful introduction to how and why automation is critical to successful DevOps. (The second half focuses on the Chef platform—which, along with other tools like Puppet and Ansible, figures prominently in many organizations’ DevOps plans.)

4 Simple Steps to Prioritizing Your DevOps Automation. As promised in the title, this useful post from TechBeacon lays out four steps for organizations just getting started planning their DevOps automation process. It’s pretty straightforward: 1) Evaluate your needs, 2) Identify your bottlenecks, 3) Consider the ROI, and 4) Continuously assess and reevaluate. The end result: “continuous monitoring and improving.”Cloud native tool landscape.

The Cloud and DevOps Tools Landscape. This awesome infographic from the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), updated regularly, offers an intuitive, visual, and thoroughly mind-blowing survey of the modern DevOps toolset. Use it to assess offerings devoted to addressing particular DevOps issues, from provisioning to orchestration, and better understand the relationship between various categories of DevOps tools. It’s also a healthy reminder of the vast numbers of very smart people working hard to keep DevOps growing and evolving.

DevOps measurement

Measurement is far more than just another item to check off your DevOps list, it’s a critical pillar of any successful DevOps journey. It’s hard to imagine succeeding with DevOps without a firm grasp of how and why to monitor the performance, productivity, and outcomes of your software development projects.

Fortunately, this is one aspect of DevOps where highly capable tools like New Relic, when combined with established instrumentation, visibility, and monitoring best-practices, help modern software organizations ensure their DevOps efforts pay off:

DevOps Without Measurement Is a Fail. The title of this New Relic ebook, updated in 2018, promises to explain “How to measure and track the 5 critical drivers of DevOps success.” You’ll learn how to link DevOps to business success and a great  customer experience, how to track application and infrastructure performance, how to increase engineering velocity, and what it takes to deliver quality software.

Guide to Measuring DevOps Success. This comprehensive set of tutorials provide best practices for using New Relic from the beginning to the end of your DevOps journey. The tutorials cover all three stages of measuring DevOps success: 1) Preparing your DevOps team, 2) Activating well-defined processes, and 3) Optimizing your team, process, and enterprise. Each guide focuses on identifying key performance metrics and delivering the best possible digital experience for your customers.

Dashboards for DevOps: Examples of What to Measure. Jonathan Owens, a Senior Site Reliability Engineer at New Relic, proves that a dashboard is worth a thousand words—especially when it comes to instrumenting and tracking your DevOps team and processes. Of particular interest: Jonathan’s in-depth look at building business-performance dashboards using hard numbers and hard-cash impact to assess the progress your DevOps efforts.

Modern Software Podcast: Gene Kim on Measuring DevOps Success. In this 2017 podcast, DevOps visionary Gene Kim dives into a number of measurement-related topics that both DevOps novices and experts will find illuminating. But there’s much more to this conversation between Gene and the New Relic Modern Software Podcast crew—ranging from what kinds of companies are using DevOps today and how they benefit from it, to busting common DevOps myths. Gene even offers a fresh take on the long-running conflict between speed and stability as software development imperatives.

DevOps security

Security is just as important to DevOps as it is to any other approach to software development. Fortunately, the same DevOps processes that enable companies to deliver better software faster also support a rigorous, yet efficient and flexible, approach to application security. A basic understanding of this new security model, commonly referred to as SecDevOps, should be on any practitioner’s short list of DevOps goals:

SecDevOps: Injecting Security into DevOps Processes. In this blog post, New Relic technical content editor Isaac Eldridge explores “SecDevOps”—a set of best practices designed to “implant security deep in the heart of their DevOps development and deployment processes.” If DevOps is designed to minimize coding faults by automating development to reduce the opportunity for human error—and more quickly fix any errors that do occur—SecDevOps does the same thing for security vulnerabilities.

The New Relic DevOps story

Every organization has to start its DevOps journey somewhere, and New Relic is no exception. We’ve shared our own DevOps experiences in hopes of helping other modern software organizations find DevOps success as quickly as possible:

How New Relic Does DevOps. Lead software engineer Jose Fernandez packs a remarkable amount of useful information into a concise package. Find out how and why New Relic originally adopted a DevOps methodology, our best practices and key technologies, how we use our own tools, and the role DevOps plays in our business success.

Lessons Learned from New Relic’s DevOps Journey. This recorded webinar reveals how the New Relic team uses its own platform to visualize the progress of DevOps initiatives; to help teams rally around outcomes; to maintain sane and effective on-call practices; and to take a data-first approach to software delivery decision-making.

DevOps Done Right: Best Practices to Knock Down Barriers to Success. Here’s the perfect coda to a crash course in DevOps: A guide to ensure that your organization will finish what it started and avoid the pitfalls that can cause a DevOps transformation to stall out or accept mediocre results. We highlight lessons learned during New Relic’s own DevOps journey—with the goal of “bringing together proven best practices that show you how to move faster and more effectively than ever before.”

Matthew McKenzie is a Senior Content Editor at New Relic. He's a veteran writer, editor, content strategist and IT industry analyst with more than two decades of experience following the evolution of cloud computing and related technologies. View posts by .

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