Why DevOps Has Made Reliability Engineering Essential

As software product quality and time-to-market top everyone’s list of development priorities, organizations are racing towards becoming DevOps-centric. DevOps is allowing them to improve collaboration between teams and transform how software is developed and delivered.

That said, most conversations around testing in the DevOps age revolve around speed. How do you test faster to achieve quality in short time periods? How do you embrace automation and push for more robust continuous testing strategies? But while meeting time-to-market deadlines is critical, what happens when customer or market needs keep changing or when products keep evolving continuously?

That brings us to the million-dollar question: is DevOps solving some problems, but creating others?

What DevOps Teams Generally Focus on

When it comes to DevOps, organizations try to drive all their focus on building cross-functional teams, so development and testing efforts can be accelerated, and customer needs can be met faster. But in the race to hasten delivery, are teams missing out on prioritizing what to test? Instead of arbitrarily testing every aspect of the developed code, are teams first identifying where risk is highest and then focusing their testing efforts towards elements that need the most amount of testing?

For this to happen, development teams need to pay attention to analysis and insights. They must dive deeper into the data that accumulates from the various test runs to define where they can derive more bang from their testing buck. When there is an issue, such an approach can help them come up with the most efficient process to resolve the issue, discover the root cause, and implement optimal remediations.

The Significance of Reliability Engineering

Back in the days when cloud computing, DevOps practices, and test automation were unheard of, developers followed agile methodologies and system administrations often adopted the ITIL framework to develop and support applications. Since there were fewer tools to automate testing, deployment, and infrastructure, the journey from developing code to being production-ready was long and tedious. Monitoring the development infrastructure and applications and discovering root causes of issues required both expertise and skill – because operational data, monitoring tools, and support workflows did not easily integrate.

Fast forward to today, and reliability engineering has taken center stage. Reliability Engineering emphasizes on dependability in the software product across its lifecycle, it describes the ability of a system or component to function under stated conditions for a specified period of time. In addition to using DevOps and Agile to overcome the many challenges of traditional software engineering, reliability engineering can help to further improve performance, reliability, security, and scalability of software products by:

  • Building a collaborative and connected culture
  • Increasing focus on delivering value with speed and quality
  • Relying on automation to minimize software development waste and errors

Using DevOps and Reliability Engineering Together

The rising popularity of reliability engineering sometimes raises an argument of how it plays into the DevOps approach. It is important to understand where DevOps and reliability engineering come together and where they diverge. Both practices blur the boundaries between software development, testing, and operations functions. Both are designed to deliver value in a “continuous” scenario. In addition, both focus on leveraging automation to improve product releases, thus accelerating the company’s digital strategy. When DevOps and reliability engineering come together, they enable teams to:

  • Apply engineering principles and techniques to estimate, prevent, and manage uncertainty and risks of failure.
  • Eliminate conflict between development and operations teams, so everyone works on what’s important to augment product reliability.
  • Act on operational issues with a developer mindset and ensure software products function as intended – under the stated conditions.
  • Be proactive about preventing problems in the first place, instead of just solving them in a reactive manner.
  • Evaluate the inherent reliability of a product or process and identify potential areas for improvement.
  • Verify (and confirm) the dependability of products under development, while improving processes and driving better results.
  • Automate manual, mundane, and everyday tasks and minimize the chances and impact of human error.
  • Reduce the time spent on resolving operational problems while maximizing effort spent on making functional and UX improvements.

Stay in Front

The DevOps and reliability engineering combination can be extremely beneficial for software development organizations. Given that a product’s unreliable behavior is due to faults in the design, development, and deployment, with clearly defined responsibilities and shared objectives, DevOps and reliability engineering ensure defects are identified and fixed. Together, they can help teams work on the next winning product version and stay ahead!

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