Building a DevOps pipeline: The stages, benefits, and how to develop one

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Researchers expect growth in the DevOps market to reach a whopping $25.5 billion by 2028, so now is a great time to learn what it takes to execute an efficient DevOps project. 

Understanding how to build a DevOps pipeline is a crucial first step. If pipelines exist to move things forward, a DevOps pipeline is about moving software projects forward from one process to the next. 

In this guide, we’ll cover all the important considerations you need to keep in mind when developing a DevOps pipeline for a software development lifecycle.

What is a DevOps pipeline?

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A DevOps pipeline is a series of automated processes that allow software development teams to continually build, test, and deploy software in a way that’s swift, reliable, and repeatable. 

Think of it as a roadmap for software development projects — except, in this case, the roadmap is also capable of actually driving the car for large parts of the journey!

Like most pipelines that are made up of processes instead of actual pipes, we can break DevOps pipelines into several stages or steps. 

Sending code changes to a version control system like GitLab or Bitbucket, continuous integration, automated testing, continuous deployment, and continuous delivery are all key processes that combine to move projects forward down the DevOps pipeline. 

These stages allow DevOps teams to break projects down into manageable, repeatable processes and automate them for even more efficiency.

Benefits of a DevOps pipeline

Building a DevOps pipeline offers a lot of exciting advantages for organizations that regularly develop new software projects. 

Some of the top benefits of a DevOps pipeline include:

Accelerated software delivery and development cycles

It takes organizations an average of four to nine months to complete a single software project. It should come as no surprise, then, that speeding up software delivery timelines is a leading goal for many development teams.

By streamlining and automating development cycles, an effective DevOps pipeline can empower organizations to produce high-quality software much faster. This is something sure to make your clients happier, but it can provide plenty of other benefits as well: Benefits like reduced project costs and the ability to take on more projects, just to name a couple! 

Enhanced quality and stability of software releases

There are plenty of cases where speed and quality don't always go hand in hand. A DevOps pipeline, however, allows DevOps teams to have their cake and eat it too, speeding up software development processes while at the same time promoting better quality assurance.

Continuous code integration, continuous testing, continuous monitoring, and feedback implementation are all core components of a DevOps pipeline. These processes combine to ensure the quality and stability of a software application at every stage of its development.

Reduced frequency of incidents

Ensuring the quality and stability of software releases doesn't just benefit the product's end-users — it can directly benefit the development and operations teams working on the project as well.

Anyone who has worked in software development knows what a nightmare unexpected bugs and issues can be. When these issues are discovered too late in the development process, fixing them can often require going back to square one.

A DevOps pipeline helps eliminate these headaches by ensuring the quality and stability of a software application each step of the way. This allows teams to identify issues early on and resolve them while it is still relatively easy to do so.

Faster review times and resolution times

In DevOps projects, all code changes are uploaded to a shared repository that triggers automated builds and tests. This allows DevOps teams to automatically test new features and code and immediately flag any issues.

Meanwhile, thanks to continuous deployment, building a DevOps pipeline also helps organizations rapidly deploy software updates to a production environment. This allows teams to swiftly validate fixes and resolutions.

Combined, these processes can fuel much faster review and resolution times.

Key components of a DevOps pipeline

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According to Maurice Kherlakian, when it comes to DevOps, "A phased approach to continuous delivery is not only preferable, it's infinitely more manageable.” In a DevOps pipeline, "continuous" is the name of the game. Here are all the continuous processes that comprise a DevOps pipeline:

Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD)

Continuous integration involves integrating code changes into an existing code base to make sure that they’ll work with the rest of the code in the repository. Think of it like introducing your dog to other dogs in the dog park to make sure everyone gets along. 

Continuous delivery, meanwhile, involves automatically testing code changes in a pre-production environment to make sure that new code is continually kept ready for release.

Continuous deployment

Continuous deployment is the process of automatically deploying code changes to a production environment without any manual intervention. 

As you can probably imagine, deploying code changes to end users without any manual review requires a lot of confidence in your DevOps pipeline's automated testing and deployment processes. 

But when it’s done right, continuous deployment allows organizations to swiftly and frequently deliver new updates and features.

Continuous monitoring

Continuous monitoring enables organizations to detect bugs, performance bottlenecks, security vulnerabilities, and other issues in real time. This might include monitoring everything from server resources to networking to the performance of your application and its API interfaces.

DevOps tools typically used to monitor these metrics can automatically provide automated alerts when an issue is detected — like an alarm system for software bugs. This allows organizations to constantly confirm their applications perform optimally and swiftly resolve any issues for a seamless user experience.

Continuous feedback

Allowing for the collection and implementation of timely feedback is one of the primary objectives of DevOps project management and the agile methodologies on which it’s based. After all, there’s no one more important to impress than the clients who commissioned the project! 

By collecting stakeholder feedback at every phase of a project's development lifecycle, a DevOps pipeline helps guarantee the end result is everything the client hoped it would be.

Continuous operations

Continuous operations is a lesser-known term in the DevOps world, and it's one that is a little open to interpretation. Generally speaking, continuous operations means limiting application downtime so that end users can continue accessing the app without disruption.

The stages of a DevOps pipeline

A complete DevOps pipeline tends to include a lot of different processes. One great way to simplify your DevOps pipeline is to break it down into distinct steps or stages. 

Here are the stages that a DevOps pipeline should include:

1. Plan

The planning stage of a DevOps pipeline is where development teams discuss and define project requirements, timelines, and goals.

2. Code

The next stage in a DevOps pipeline is to start writing the code. During this stage, developers will use version control systems to manage and track code changes.

3. Build

During the build stage, developers compile code and create deployable artifacts. This is done using a build system that automatically retrieves source code from the version control system.

4. Test

The testing stage is designed to verify performance and identify bugs once the code is compiled. This stage entails numerous types of automated tests, including unit tests, functional tests, and integration tests.

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5. Release

During the release stage, the software is prepped for deployment. This commonly entails tasks such as compiling documentation and release notes and ensuring that the software is compatible with its target environment.

6. Deploy

During the deployment stage, the software is either manually or automatically released to the production environment.

7. Operate

The operational stage is the stage where software is actively used by its end users. For development teams, this stage commonly involves managing and maintaining the software, ensuring its availability and performance, and addressing user support requests.

8. Monitor

The final stage in a DevOps pipeline is to continually monitor the software and its underlying infrastructure, analyzing metrics and events to identify any performance or security issues needing to be resolved.

How to build a DevOps pipeline

To build an effective DevOps pipeline, you’re going to need to have the right tools and systems in place.  

Consider doing the following when building your pipeline:

Choose a CI/CD tool

A CI/CD tool is the beating heart of a DevOps pipeline, and choosing one is the first step in building your own. CI/CD tools allow you to automate the continuous integration and continuous delivery practices that DevOps requires. 

Jenkins is one of the more popular CI/CD tools available today, but plenty of other great options are on the market worth looking into as well.

Establish project management processes and tools

Stripped down to its core, a DevOps pipeline is just a project management process. 

While there's a lot of time-saving automation involved, you still need to approach it the same way you would any other type of project to sidestep any project failures. This means establishing the right project management processes and tools. 

Project management processes such as defining the project scope and objectives (as well as defining your project management style), resource planning, and stakeholder communication are still very important when executing a DevOps project. 

Many DevOps project managers use tools like Teamwork to make these processes more streamlined and reliable. With Teamwork, DevOps project managers leverage a litany of advanced project management tools designed to facilitate project transparency, effortless communication, and efficient workflows.

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Implement a control environment

A version control system is like a sandbox where developers can store their code and make sure that it gets along well (i.e., functions correctly) with the other code in the sandbox. 

Version control systems such as GitLab and Bitbucket allow developers from anywhere in the world to share the code they create and ensure that there are no merge conflicts.

Configure a build server

Also known as a continuous integration server, a build server works to automatically retrieve and compile code from source code repositories. The build server acts as an integration point for all of a development team's code and serves as an environment for running tests and resolving dependencies.

By using a dedicated build server, organizations ensure the reliability and repeatability of the build process across numerous environments and team members.

Commence automated testing

The testing stage is one of the most critical stages of a DevOps pipeline, and this stage begins once the code is configured on the build server. There are a variety of DevOps tools that developers use to set up automated testing cycles, with Jira and Jenkins being two of the most popular. 

There are also a variety of tests you’ll need to run during this stage, including unit testing, integration testing, functional testing, and regression testing.

Deploy to production

The final step in a DevOps pipeline is to deploy the finished product to production. This is done manually or automatically, and there are pros and cons to consider — no matter which route you choose.

Configuring your build server to deploy code automatically accelerates software delivery cycles so you can swiftly deliver updates and new features to your users. But it also requires a lot of faith in your automated testing and deployment tools/processes! 

If the risk of faulty code ending up in production is too much for your organization, you can configure your build server for manual deployment instead.

Accelerate your DevOps processes with Teamwork

Teamwork ensures your organization has the three most important pillars of DevOps project management: organization, collaboration, and communication. Without these, even the most well-constructed DevOps pipeline isn't likely to deliver great results.

With Teamwork, DevOps teams and project managers can break projects down into organized phases, track project progress across numerous metrics, and communicate with team members and clients effortlessly. (Not to mention the wide range of other powerful features and automation tools designed to accelerate the DevOps process!)

Start enjoying the many features and benefits of the best DevOps project management platform on the market and create a streamlined and optimized DevOps pipeline you and your team will love.

Sign up for Teamwork today!

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