What is the most important part of the DevOps workflow when it comes to enabling software development? Is it the ability to process an entire software deployment chain as fast as possible and as often as possible? Is it automated testing? Is it the ability to store all of that data up in the cloud?
We sat down with some of Europe's leading DevOps talent to discuss.
Jeroen Van Dijk-Jun, Agile DevOps Lead Developer / Scrummaster / Trainer
Jeroen Van Dijk-Jun is an Agile DevOps Lead Developer, Scrummaster and Trainer operating from the Netherlands. With a career spanning 12 years taking him from software development to DevOps and Scrum training, Jeroen gives a rather balanced opinion when it comes to discussing how DevOps can best support software development.
“So I like to put a mark on the horizon. Like that's what we're going for. And on that moment, like, let's get the team to work on getting some small steps done to get closer to that horizon. And well, to motivate the whole team, that's really what I'm good at.”
Having a proactive approach to team building, Jeroen’s time in isolating during COVID-19 has given him a new appreciation of the work that can be achieved in this space even while working remote.
“A lot more is possible nowadays. For example, we did a retrospective and also initial assignment in which I was the Scrummaster all while remote using Miro. It’s not 100% secure, so you just avoid super technical stuff that’s company sensitive, but it was a great experience and everyone was able to collaborate and improve.”
Facilitating collaboration is key to improving employee productivity. The Institute for Corporate Productivity and Professor Rob Cross of Babson College carried out a survey of 1,100 companies and found that collaborative work is five times more likely to result in higher performance. Running parallel to the expansion of more distributed teams, collaboration software has come on leaps and bounds.
This has enabled Jeroen and professionals like him to get a better handle on their workflows. For Jeroen, who supports a team of software developers, the most important part of that DevOps workflow is pipeline automation.
“Everybody makes mistakes, even your best Developer. So having a pipeline, which will make sure everything is guarded, means people can focus on doing what they do best without worrying about making little mistakes.”
Another crucial part of the DevOps workflow for Jeroen is to develop on code branches and collaborate on those. Instead of just making the changes needed, you can use code diff view to help explain your changes and turn it into a collaborative exercise.
“Now with Corona, you can't literally jump behind someone's screen and that's what you normally do when someone has a problem. So the next best thing is using branches to talk people through code changes. In this way your team members can see what they needed to do to complete the task, and along with the code diff on the screen a call to talk them through.”
Cosmin George Mladen - Monitoring DevOps Lead
Cosmin George Mladen is a Monitoring DevOps Lead at Microsoft. Having been working for Microsoft in a range of different roles over the past 6 years, Cosmin’s connection to DevOps started in his most recent role.
Currently, Cosmin is working on a monitoring solution for Enterprise customers who require that Microsoft is proactive and reactive on telemetry collected by Azure. The approach used is to centralise all the information available in that environment and trigger alerts and create tickets based on specific thresholds and checks. .
The platform Cosmin and his team uses (Azure DevOps), which uses a lot of functionality you’d see in social media channels and integrations with code hosting and automation platforms, enables true remote working.
“That enables everyone to be independent, work at their own pace and convenience. When it comes to actually updating the system, it’s incredibly simple - almost 100% automated.”
Cosmin’s team, which is distributed around the globe, requires this kind of platform. With developers working in Argentina, Canada, Romania and India, it becomes a challenge to sync up with time zones for meetings - other than that, it’s business as usual.
“There will never be an ideal time slot but it’s all about the least disturbance in everyone's normal schedule. For example, if the Netherlands is more compatible with the India time zone then the dev we have in Canada will have to adapt a bit for everyone else to meet. We try our best to avoid those situations as much as possible but it is what it is - we have to deal with it.”
Having a team distributed across a range of different time zones also means that for high priority items, like a bug being flagged, Cosmin’s team can effectively be productive for the entire day with one time zone passing the baton on to the next as their working day ends and another one starts.
“We use the Azure DevOps task board and user stories interface and make sure we’re constantly updating them with comments for the next person - this is what’s been done, this is what is left to be done. It’s just like being in the same office, turning to a colleague and telling them what’s happening. Crucially, the person who was working on it allocates it to the next. This assigns responsibility which helps keep progress up and running.”
The fact Cosmin and his team have the whole work discussion going on in that one place and nowhere else means they can have an end-to-end overview of what has been done, what challenges came up and what can be learned for the next project.
For Cosmin, one of the most important parts of the DevOps workflow is also the most underrated one - communication.
“Communicate as much as possible. Don’t think that if you have a question you’ll be looked down upon. One thing I’ve learned from our previous Dev lead is that in a team that works with constant change (like DevOps) there is no such thing as a silly question.
Any question needs to be put out there, it doesn’t matter if you ask once, twice, three times. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you know or not, something could just have been missed.”
Ehsan Golpayegani Lead DevOps Engineer, Cloud Architect at IKEA Group
Ehsan Golpayegani is the Lead DevOps Engineer, Cloud Architect at IKEA Group working through Capgemini. Having been working in DevOps for 5 years, starting as a system administrator, Ehsan is currently working through Capgemini - leading their DevOps chapter.
Inheriting a team of just 2, Ehsan has quickly grown that team to 7 with the expectation to get up to 10 by the end of the year, with each member working on a consultant basis.
Similar to Cosmin, Ehsan and his team are well used to the idea of working across different regions.
“So we have always had our meetings remote and have always planned 3 or 4 months ahead of schedule. We always knew the subject of the next sprint and the requirements from the developers. Every day we call each other to get in touch with each other - make sure there are no problems and to go through the list and sort out requirements.”
With Ehsan’s team growing quickly, he’s had to onboard two members of the team during COVID-19 restrictions.
“I try to, even before COVID, is to create documentation. A list of priorities for new joiners and a list of things they need to access. It’s like a checklist to help guide the new employee. This step by step guide will work whether you’re in the office or not.”
As for the most important aspect of the DevOps workflow, Ehsan looks to the automation of pipeline enabling developers to push code and see the results seamlessly.
“We don’t stop developers, we don’t stand in their way. If the process is ongoing, and we’re just working on refining that process, they can focus on doing what they do best.”
Alessandro Surace - Lead DevOps Engineer and Infrastructure TechLead at Signavio and CompTIA SME
Alessandro Surace, Lead DevOps Engineer and Infrastructure TechLead at Signavio has around 20 years experience in DevOps. Having recently moved to Berlin, Alessandro has spent one year at Signavio. Here he’s influenced a lot of cloud environments, and new DevOps methodologies.
“This is what really I enjoy about the DevOps in the sense that we are not managing only infrastructure, but we are managing code.”
For Alessandro, the most important part of the DevOps workflow is building out proper pipelines and then building out a good peer-review process.
“We do pair programming with different tools. So a pull request is done in our GitHub repo. The most effective review is done through a call reviewing together the changes to better understand the impact."
Sebastian Nilsson, DevOps and Agile Coach at Avanade
Sebastian Nilsson is a DevOps and Agile Coach at Avanade. With a career spanning 17 years within software development, from architect to CTO, Sebastian is now operating in a hybrid role responsible for the DevOps architecture and the agile coaching in a ‘jack of all trades’ position.
Within a team of 15, Sebastian and his team are working with on premises systems with legacy code.
“We're building middleware. So we need to be in the same pipeline as they are, but we build on prem, through the cloud, and we deploy from the cloud down on prem.”
With such legacy systems, Sebastian also has to change the culture around development and delivery. One such area that was brought forward during COVID-19 was home working.
“We’re building a culture but I don't think anyone could have predicted this. Now we’re looking to move to remote first methodology. So just because you're in the office, it doesn't mean that what you say holds more weight than for anyone else.”
When it comes to remote working management, Sebastian is very flexible with the only request being that work be predictable.
“I mean, all our tools are built for this. And then you can grease up the flow by having regular conversations. “
For Sebastian, the most important part of the DevOps workflow is basic hygiene.
“One basic part of DevOps is to have good insight and control of your software, which means you can have insight and control of your DevOps pipeline as well. But that hygiene factor might not really be seen as next level, as opposed to a game changer like CD - but it’s just as important.”