Julian Canlas
Julian Canlas

Founder of Embarque. julian@embarque.io

DevOps Lifecycle Phases: Definitions, Processes, and Tools for Each Phase

Is your DevOps lifecycle optimized? Are you making the most out of the continuous and iterative aspects of DevOps? Are you using the best tools for each lifecycle phase? Seven distinct phases of the DevOps lifecycle feed into each other to produce the best software application possible. The DevOps methodology centers around collaboration, integration, and communication with a continuous approach to software development.

Understanding the DevOps lifecycle and the best tools for each phase will help your team work more efficiently, reduce bottlenecks, and deliver high-quality software faster.

Tools like Instatus, which creates beautiful status pages to keep users updated on your applications and services, can majorly assist in advancing the application through the DevOps lifecycle. Keep reading to learn more about the DevOps lifecycle phases, processes, and tools.

What is the DevOps LifeCycle?

The DevOps lifecycle is software development's start-to-finish path using DevOps principles. In reality, the lifecycle doesn’t have a clear end-point.

In fact, the lifecycle is commonly represented by an infinity symbol. That’s because DevOps is a methodology centered around continuous improvement. Your application is never truly ‘finished.’

Your team will continually release updates, new features, and bug fixes during the application lifecycle. Only at the end of an application's life, when your organization decides to end support, does the cycle stop.

Phases of the DevOps LifeCycle

Three significant phases are recognized in the DevOps lifecycle: continuous development, continuous deployment, and continuous operations, which are the primary focus of any DevOps team.

These three phases are joined by four smaller but equally important stages such as continuous integration, continuous testing, continuous monitoring, and continuous feedback, for a total of seven phases.

The general lifecycle path that any DevOps application passes through looks like this:

  1. Continuous Development
  2. Continuous Integration
  3. Continuous Testing
  4. Continuous Deployment
  5. Continuous Monitoring
  6. Continuous Feedback
  7. Continuous Operations

Let’s further break down these phases to outline the definition, general processes, and popular tools of each phase:

1. Continuous Development

The continuous development phase is when an application's planning and coding happen. Your team will need to outline the application requirements and expectations and make a road map for getting to a final software product.

The planning should involve collaboration between the stakeholders, development team, and operations team to ensure that any expectations are fully understood and reasonably possible to implement.

Development Overview

Product feature requests are a great inspiration for the planning stage and later development releases. Remember that each phase is iterated upon multiple times during the lifetime of an application, so once a development release moves farther down the pipeline, the development teams start on the next planned feature or update. If your DevOps team uses agile principles, they’ll work in sprints followed by code review to work on concrete, manageable goals.

Continuous Development Tools – Planning & Coding

The planning phase isn’t associated with specific tools and varies widely depending on the organization. The coding phase requires a version control tool to help maintain the source code. Without version control, there’d be no way to track or control changes made by multiple collaborations and forget about rolling back to a previous codebase version.

Popular version control options include:

  • Git
  • JIRA
  • SVN
  • Mercurial

2. Continuous Integration

Integration is a crucial phase in the long-term DevOps lifecycle speed to market. Continuous integration is the assimilation of all the source code changes made by your different developers into a single code base repository. The code base is built out with new application functionalities. Every new commit is tested for integration compatibility with the code base, and any change conflicts are resolved in this phase.

Integration Tools

The relative success of a continuous integration approach is greatly impacted by the tools used. Continuous integration tools should help your team speed up integration and prepare the codebase for the DevOps testing phase. Any tool with access to your source code should be safe and secure. The best integration tools are:

  • Jenkins
  • Bamboo
  • GitLab CI
  • Circle CI

3. Continuous Testing

Continuous testing is the phase of the DevOps lifecycle that seems most counterproductive towards the goal of speedy time to market. That’s because testing for errors and bugs often sends work back to the development and integration phases to fix any identified issues. But without continuous testing, your application would not be nearly as high-quality, bug-free, and stable.

Quality assurance and acceptance testing ensure that the application meets expectations. Security, integration, unit, and performance tests are vital aspects of this phase.

Continuous Testing Tools

Automated testing is greatly preferred to manual testing to save time and labor. Manual testing is very time-intensive and would further delay product delivery timelines. Tools that assist with automated testing include:

  • Docker – for simulating test environments
  • Selenium
  • Jenkins
  • Bamboo

4. Continuous Deployment

When a software build has passed all tests, it’s given the green light, and your operations team can schedule deployments that meet your organizational needs. Continuous deployment is the DevOps lifecycle phase concerned with the frequent deployment of new software builds. Large deployments are unwieldy and pose significant risks to the stability of your product. Instead, DevOps promotes the release of small deployments to reduce the relative deployment risk while releasing software builds as soon as completed.

Continuous Deployment Tools

Containerization with Docker or Kubernetes is popular because it offers a way to create servers with specific configurations that can be trashed for new servers with each new release. Containerization tools are also great for handling microservice architectures, which can become quite complex.

Your team might opt to use a configuration management tool in tandem with containerization, such as:

  • Ansible
  • Chef
  • Puppet

5. Continuous Feedback

Feedback is an exciting phase for your development and operations teams. They finally get a peak at what actual end-users think about their application and how well it’s running for different users. Continuous feedback provides information on how smoothly the application services, UI, and systems work.

Continuous feedback is about collecting actionable information to help improve the application in later releases. What is working well? What isn’t working well and could use some revision? Feedback is an excellent source of ideas and inspiration and a way for developers to evaluate how customers use their applications.

Without continuous feedback, the DevOps endless loop would risk failing. For an application to continually improve, your teams need to know where to improve and what users are experiencing. Collect unstructured (Twitter, Facebook, etc) and structured feedback (surveys and focus groups) to get a wide range of data for your Dev and Ops teams to sort through.

6. Continuous Monitoring

Software development isn’t just a ‘set it and forget it’ world. With many moving pieces, microservices, and systems working in unison to support your application, things can go wrong at any time. The continuous monitoring phase is necessary to determine the efficacy of your software while watching for performance issues, bottlenecks, or other problem areas.

Continuous monitoring is crucial for the long-term success and health of your application. Proactive monitoring can reduce maintenance costs by catching and addressing issues early.

Continuous Monitoring Tools

Automated monitoring and detection tools keep eyes on your application 24/7, fixing issues as they arise. Popular continuous monitoring tools include:

  • New Relic APM
  • Splunk
  • Nagios
  • ELK Stack

Every DevOps organization should support its monitoring with a status page. Status pages act as a landing page for users whenever unexpected outages or service interruptions affect your product. With Instatus, your users have a continuous source of information on the status of your application.

The status page automatically updates when any of your systems are disrupted. Your team can also easily edit your Instatus page to notify users that your team has identified an issue and the steps they are taking to remedy the problem. Instatus is accessible to organizations of all sizes with a free plan, while the paid options are still reasonably priced.

7. Continuous Operations

The continuous operations phase is the final stage in the DevOps lifecycle, but it isn’t the end. By the time a software build is in the capable hands of your Ops team and is life, your Dev team will have already started on the development of the next build. In this phase, Operations are focused on minimizing outages and increasing uptime while handling server configuration and provisioning.

DevOps LifeCycle Summary

The DevOps lifecycle is a software product's seven-stage continuous and iterative development path. Each of the seven phases, continuous development, continuous integration, continuous testing, continuous deployment, continuous feedback, continuous monitoring, and continuous operations, feed into the next. And each phase of the DevOps lifecycle plays a specific purpose toward the goal of a high-quality software application with an accelerated delivery timetable. Strategically using the right tools for each stage, like Jenkins during continuous testing and Instatus during continuous monitoring, is the key to a successful DevOps lifecycle.

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