How to choose the right DevOps tools for your development

DevOps is essentially becoming the next big thing in software technology. Focussed on delivering products and services at high velocity, DevOps combines the right philosophies, practices, and tools to evolve and improve products at a fast pace.

While companies far and wide agree that DevOps is essential to smooth development, more than half find the DevOps transformation journey very difficult.

If you’ve decided to get on DevOps, you’ve probably got yourself acquainted with DevOps practices and how to approach development with a DevOps mindset. What’s left is for you to choose the right DevOps tool.

However, before talking about how to choose the right DevOps tools for your company, let’s first cover the basics.

What is DevOps??

DevOps is a set of practices that operates to automate and integrate the processes between software development and IT teams, so they can build, test, and release software faster and more reliably.

What are DevOps Tools?

DevOps tools could be considered as applications that help you automate the software development process. By far, since the software development process has a lot of aspects to it, there’s no single DevOps tool that you can use to automate it. Rather, depending upon the function, the DevOps tool varies. Let’s look at some of the widely-used DevOps tools in the industry.

Types of DevOps

Here are some common types of DevOps tools:

1. Version control tools [GitHub, Bitbucket, GitLab]

Code evolves - there’s no denying that. Version control tools track changes in code over time in a special shared database so that the evolving code is monitored and shared with all parties involved.

2. Container Management tools [Docker, Kubernetes]

In development, containers are required to maintain the environment, dependencies, and configuration of a particular software component separate from the rest of the components. Container Management tools allow you to create, remove, replace and deploy containers at scale.

3. Application Performance Monitoring tools [Prometheus, Dynatrace, AppDynamics]

Application Performance Monitoring tools allow you to ensure that your IT applications are adhering to standards, it lets you identify bugs and potential issues, and provide flawless user experiences by closely monitoring them. Mind you, while Application Performance Monitoring is a part of Application Performance Management, it’s not the same - that’s a much larger discipline.

4. Deployment & Server Monitoring tools [Splunk, Datadog, Sensu]

As the name suggests, these tools help you track and resolve any application hosting, deployment, and performance issues related to the server by keeping an eye on the server performance.

5. Configuration Management tools [Chef, Puppet, Ansible]

Configuration Management tools help you keep track of the state of your applications and infrastructure, maintain configuration so that you do not need to repeat tasks such as installing the same package over and over again. This lets you make changes and deploy faster.

6. Deployment Automation tools [Jenkins, Bamboo, IBM UrbanCode]

This one’s pretty straightforward. These tools help you ship code either completely or partially- automatically at different stages of your software development process.

7. Test Automation tools [Test.ai, Selenium]

With these tools, all you have to do is simply add in all the testing tasks you’d want to conduct on your code and then run them without any human intervention avoiding errors and making the process more efficient.

8. Artifact Management tools [Sonatype NEXUS, JFRog Artifactory, CloudRepo]

These tools help you keep all your software assets like packages, contributing to the development in one place and making them widely accessible for all those involved in the project.

9. Codeless Test Automation tools [AccelQ, Appvance, Testim.io]

Think of these as the advanced version of the testing tools where even writing test scripts is taken care of, so anyone irrespective of whether they know code or don’t, it can still work with them.

Clearly, that’s a lot of types to choose from. While you know best what kind of automation or testing or container tools you want, which one out of the lot you should pick can be a tough call. While I can’t make that choice for you, I can surely help you in picking the right one. However, before we start, know that there’s no single tool that will solve all your problems. Rather, you need to build a DevOps techstack. And here’s how you can go about choosing the tools.

How to choose the right DevOps tools for your development

Choosing the right DevOps tool depends on whether it fulfills all your requirements or not. Here’s the strategy I follow in picking my bet, and tips that you can use to find your DevOps tools.

Tip 1: Start with a plan

If you want to start with anything then planning is the essential part. I always rely on tools to help me with the planning bit too. Just pick any tool that comes with sprint planning features. Sprint planning is a concept of ‘Agile Methodology’ where the product owner opens the door for a meeting with the entire team and discusses the acceptance criteria.

Take a tool that helps team members to comment and share ideas, goals, strategies, assess and discuss requirements and contribute to roadmaps. Something like Confluence, HipChat, JIRA Software and then use it prepare a detailed document of what you’re looking for. Discuss and deliberate with the team and prepare a checklist of what kind of DevOps management you want to be taken care of.

Tip 2: Look for efficiency and ease

When you start with the actual development of the product, that time you need to understand various factors. You need to choose a tool in such a way that you believe will interact well with the different members within the toolchain. The tool should also help with compiling codes, as well as can test the different assets simultaneously for quick results. You can also use these tools to understand the integrity of the code designed by the developer and identify the build and test errors formulated. In short, the tool should be efficient and easy to use, then you can opt for the same.

Tip 3: Don’t forget Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration is a process where the code is submitted in a shared repository several times a day and tested each time. The Continuous Integration part is very important when you go for a DevOps tool. Continuous Integration helps continuously test the code that you have shared and then work on the bugs that may exist. This way you are able to fix the issues at the earliest and get rid of them too. Look for the tools that can help you immediately test the development you have just about initiated. The purpose is to make builds easy and testing faster.

Essentially, you need a tool that automatically applies your tests to development branches, and gives you the option to push to master when branch builds are successful. as well as you can get real-time alerts in your team’s chat tool with simple integration. Some of these tools are Bamboo, HipChat.

Tip 4: A dashboard works best for deployment

During the deployment process, one of the biggest challenges is to get all the information related to change, testing, and deployment in one place. The last thing anyone needs before a release is a long meeting to report on status. This is where release dashboards come into the picture.

You need a tool that provides a dashboard that can be integrated into your code repository and gives full visibility on deployment details like pull requests, deployment warnings, branches, etc.

Before finalizing the tool, you should ideally consider all the steps involved with the deployment of the code. When you have a single repository for the code as well as the deployment tools that time your progress, Jira Software can be a good choice. You have complete access to the actual and real-time status of the release you are planning. You can also automate the deployment process with certain tools. AWS and Hipchat are excellent tools for automating your deployment process. When you begin automating deployments, begin with the lowest level environment, and test the deployment there. If you find that it is a success, then you can begin replicating the deployment to higher environments. People also use Chef and Puppet tools for deployment.

Tip 5: Monitor, monitor all the time

Monitoring your application is one of the important factors in any organization.

There are two types of monitoring that need to be automated: server monitoring and application performance monitoring.

Manually checking your API and testing your application is fine for spot-checking. But to understand the overall health of your application, you need software that is listening and recording data 24/7. And there are such applications/tools to monitor your app 24/7. Following are some of the tools. So, out of the lot, you need to add monitoring tools for the future to your DevOps techstack.

Tools like [ BigPanda, HipChat, HostedGraphite, Nagios, New Relic, Pager Duty, Pingdom, Splunk] are also able to integrate group chat and get it quickly to the team so that there are no communication gaps and issues can be fixed faster.

Tip 6: Always keep a feedback loop

Feedback is one of the most important aspects of every task. It automates communication between tests that spot issues and tests that process needs to be supported by your chosen tool. Using feedback tools [i.e Jira Service Desk, Pendo, and SurveyMonkey], you can get your customers to tell you if you are doing the right thing or not. You need to understand whether what you have built has errors and bugs or not and whether it is usable.

The tool should also help to define a chain of communications with all automated and human players in the loop. This includes an approach to correct the problem in collaboration with everyone on the team, a consensus as to what type of resolution you should apply, and a list of any additional code or technology required. Then comes the push to production bit, where the tool should help you define tracking to report whether the resolution made it through automated testing, automated deployment, and automated operations.

Together with all of these tools you can build a robust DevOps machinery that can help you deploy faster, iterate sooner and develop better. Hope my tips come in handy in choosing your best set.

Snehal Narkar

Snehal Narkar

India