Business growth depends on a company's ability to innovate in line with changing customer needs and market realities. Innovation requires fast and reliable software delivery. And great software is a result of integrating development with IT operations and functions in a manner that enables better communication and co-operation, resulting in greater speed and enhanced quality.
What is a DevOps platform and how are they used?
The term "DevOps" refers to the coming together of developers and operations personnel in order to achieve automation, continuous integration, and more frequent software deployment. Successful DevOps practitioners combine advanced skills in automation technology with the ability to broadly collaborate across an enterprise in order to facilitate software deployment at optimum levels.
A DevOps platform is essentially an automation tool for any of number of functions ranging from provisioning, source-code management, or monitoring to deployment. It's no surprise that some of the most in-demand DevOps skills today are in the automation and configuration management areas. Popular DevOps tools include Ansible, Jenkins, Chef, Vagrant, Puppet, and KornShell, all of which are open-source.
Let's take a quick look at each tool and some of their advantages.
Ansible is an easy-to-operate automation engine that is used for configuration management, task execution, continuous integration and deployment. A gentle learning curve and relatively simple manageability make Ansible a popular open-source platform. Another significant advantage is that Ansible doesn't require third-party software to configure remote servers. It can be run using an SSH connection or APIs.
Ansible also makes writing and maintaining automation code simple because its "playbooks" are scripted in easily accessible YAML code. Suitable for multi-tier implementation, Ansible enables a definition of infrastructure design, including interrelation of servers — thus doing away with the need to script each path individually.
The key advantage of using Ansible is that its simplicity makes it suitable for both small businesses and complex multi-vendor enterprise environments. Ansible is used by government departments as well as numerous enterprises in different verticals. Red Hat acquired Ansible in October of 2015.
Jenkins is a continuous-integration (CI) and continuous-delivery (CD) tool used primarily by developers to concurrently detect and address bugs. Jenkins enables continuous merging of source code from any number of individual developers into the mainline, simultaneous testing, and continuous delivery of production-ready code.
With more than 1,000 available plug-ins, Jenkins is a plug-in friendly platform that enables customers to integrate with most tools. A server-based automation system, it supports Software Configuration Management (SCM) software and is suitable for shell scripts, sbt projects and Windows batch commands. Developers have the ability to use a range of tools for different functions, leaving it to Jenkins to manage the entire workflow from source code to software delivery.
Widely in use across the world, Jenkins is considered one of the top open-source CI and CD automation engines and is widely used around the world. Multinationals that use Jenkins include Verizon, Cisco and General Electric.
A configuration management tool, Chef is suitable for the operations end of DevOps. Powerful server configuration and maintenance capabilities have made Chef popular with system administrators. It's compatible with many platforms, including Azure and EC2.
This tool automates the configuration, deployment and management of physical and virtual servers on premise as well as in the cloud by using scripts called "recipes" that are compiled in "cookbooks." Though recipes are written in Ruby, Chef uses a domain-specific language that everyone can read and write.
In Chef, the server configuration is described in a recipe, which enables testing and does away with the need to make manual changes. Its Analytics feature enables real-time visibility, making administrators aware of a glitch as soon as it occurs.
Being scalable, Chef is suitable for small and large organizations. Some of the major companies that use Chef include Facebook, Indiegogo and Disney.
Vagrant is an open-source automation tool that enables developers to manage virtual machines (VM), with an accessible command-line approach. All it takes are a few commands to build an entire DevOps environment. Launched in 2010, it has been adopted by thousands of businesses across the world. Vagrant is written in Ruby.
Vagrant simplifies and speeds up the virtualization process enabling developers to create virtual development environments in minutes, using a simple, declarative script. It also makes it easy to use virtual machine solutions like VirtualBox from Oracle. There's no need to configure each machine separately; Vagrant sets up a VM based on the preconfigured base box.
It helps to enhance both development and operations, thereby streamlining the entire workflow. And, once the project is complete, an environment can be demolished in minutes if required. Enterprises using Vagrant include Disqus, Expedia, Yammer and BBC.
Puppet is a versatile configuration management and software deployment platform that enables developers to define the state and function of their infrastructure and applications using a common accessible script. With Puppet, you can automatically provision, configure and manage servers, networks and most IP-connected devices across your organization, achieving standard automation at scale. Simultaneous visibility and reporting help to enhance decision-making and ensure security and compliance.
Automation of the entire infrastructure enables organizations to boost speed and consistency of deployment and achieve auditability. Your changes can be pushed through Quality Analysis and made production-ready in minutes if needed. Puppet also enables developers and systems managers to share, test and orchestrate changes across the databank.
Puppet is written in Ruby and utilized by numerous large-scale enterprises including PayPal, CERN, Oracle and Mozilla.
KornShell, developed over 30 years ago, is a UNIX shell based on the Bourne shell, but with some key differences. It is widely used on legacy systems. This interactive command language was developed at AT&T Bell Laboratories by David Korn. It enables users to gain access to UNIX and some other systems.
Bourne, Korn and C are the three commonly used shells in the UNIX environment. KornShell or ksh combines useful functions of Bourne and C and has some unique features as well. Used by both programmers and non-programmers, ksh can improve overall quality, thereby boosting productivity.
Though many UNIX systems default to KornShell, some Linux and other systems default to different shells. Using KornShell across different systems is a great way to standardize the operations of each system, making interaction easier and less prone to errors. KornShell is used by large enterprises, universities as well as by home users.