How to overcome Top DevOps challenges in the time of Covid-19

By Anushka Arora, The force behind the content that one sees on Devtron loves sharing her knowledge with people

As we are getting used to the new normal forced upon us by COVID-19, we decided to analyze its impact on companies and how that has changed priorities for the DevOps team. Firstly, companies have to live with uncertainty which means cash conservation is important, and so is a quick pivot. Secondly, companies are going remote, which needs collaboration, delegation, and security first approach. Though these may be integral parts of DevOps, there is an increasing sense in the community of how woefully short DevOps tools are of their promises.

Companies can no longer assume business as usual. There is considerable impact on their bottom line and top line. Even multi-billion dollar companies have filed for bankruptcy. Companies which were raising hundreds of millions of dollars of VC money are raising a few million and figuring out how to sustain current valuations. Even business models have become unviable for many, and they have pivoted to delivering essentials, masks, or sanitizers to keep their noses above water.

We expect all great startups to be capable of launching new products quickly, sadly that’s not the case. DevOps tools today are built to make predictable changes like deploying code changes. When setting up new microservices and supporting infrastructure or anything outside their predictable pattern, the manual is the way to go for most of them. Manual is not only time-consuming but is also prone to error.

Solution: Make flexible tools which can be easily extended for custom requirements

Follow principles of infrastructure as a code. Every change should be repeatable, testable, and should be applied through tops. Invest time in identifying stakeholders' requirements and building the right abstractions in the product to support different use cases so that infrastructure and microservice provisioning can be customized even by developers.

Another fallout of uncertainty is the need to reduce costs so that companies can weather out COVID-19. Companies’ focus was on growth, and infrastructure cost was a small price to pay for exponential growth. But now, every single penny has to go through a magnifying glass. Currently, for most organizations, cost analysis is not integrated into DevOps. It’s a manual process which happens whenever companies feel financial stress ( Check out our article on reducing cloud infrastructure cost).

Solution: Integrate continuous infrastructure cost rationalization with DevOps toolchain

Now that companies are staring at an uncertain ecosystem, they would want cost optimization to happen continuously. This can happen only through tools which continuously monitor resource utilization, take corrective actions, automatically including suggesting changes in configuration or changing configuration automatically. Cost and resource optimization systems should extend current deployment systems to minimize the user's impact and ensure that changes are DR compliant.

With the wide adoption of cloud infrastructure, it is natural to assume that companies are remote-ready. But even for companies distributed across the globe, most of the time, people working together are co-located.

I am sure you have heard and lived stories of war rooms. People from different teams coming together in a room, burning the proverbial midnight oil to stabilize major releases. Pinging commands on chat for the DevOps team to execute.

We can still create tickets for deployment, ping commands on chat, but collaboration becomes much more difficult when you can’t walk over and talk to your team members. Screen sharing between multiple team members over video conferencing is not the ideal tool for collaboration for releases.

Only when a person with ownership of the impact of the action takes action is it possible to have effective collaboration in remote settings. Another important capability is for all participants to have the same single-pane view of the cause-effect chain.

To understand it better, let’s take an example, one of the team members has worked on optimizing database queries of an application. To deploy it to production, you will either open a ticket with database queries to be executed along with the success criteria or push them into git. The DevOps team will then execute them (maybe you are sitting next to them) and share results. They will also make changes in the deployment configuration and inform you about the changes and results. Then you will start deployment. Although highly inefficient, it still worked in the pre-COVID world.

Solution: Build DevOps products which empower the technology team through responsible delegation

What we need today is a capability to delegate access to the application owners. Different team members should execute steps they own because they are the subject matter experts of that step. Everyone involved should have the same single pane view of cause-effect to debug issues quickly without sharing logs/names/artifacts over chat.

Distributed teams also mean that access to critical infrastructure is happening from home. Even though VPN mitigates the risk, it doesn’t obliterate it. Most companies don’t have complete visibility of what is running in their infrastructure; there have been cases where their infrastructure was being used for bitcoin mining, or the database is for sale on the dark web.

Solution: Log and audit every mutable action

Each user should be given access through personally identifiable information, and every mutable action taken by them should be logged. Audit logs should be query-able so that you know who did what and when. Apart from user access**, continuous auditing of workloads should be done** to ensure that only applications with whitelisted configurations run under allowed users.

Conclusion

As unprecedented circumstances unraveled across the whole world, employees are getting used to the new reality of working from home; organizations are forced to re-engineer IT processes. DevOps have to play a crucial role during these challenging times. New expectations will force DevOps to rethink the whole premise of the DevOps tools chain. Different tools connected through scripts and labor-intensive methods can no longer meet the needs of the business.

Need of the hour is a DIY DevOps platform that is easy to understand and use collaboratively, giving complete visibility around cost and performance while ensuring the right security.

Interested in learning more about how Devtron solves these challenges? Please reach out to our team.

Devtron is redefining the paradigm of how #DevOps should be done. It automates #ReleaseOrchestration & Life Cycle Management of Applications on #Kubernetes.