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May 29, 2020 By Sumo Logic

DevOps automation: best practices and benefits

You probably know that automation is an important component of DevOps. But how do you actually put automation into practice in order to advance the goals of DevOps?

Let's answer that question by exploring what automation means in the context of DevOps, why automation is important to DevOps and which processes to prioritize to achieve DevOps automation.

What is automation in DevOps?

In DevOps, automation means eliminating the need for human engineers to intervene manually in order to facilitate DevOps practices.

Theoretically speaking, you could perform DevOps processes like Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery and log analytics manually. But doing so would require a large team, a lot of time and a level of communication and coordination between team members that is just not realistic in most situations.

Automation makes it possible to perform these processes using software tools and preset configurations.

DevOps automation examples

Examples of automation in DevOps include:

  • Infrastructure-as-Code tools can automatically configure software environments based on configuration files created beforehand.
  • Release automation suites can build, test and deploy new versions of an application.
  • Automated testing frameworks can evaluate how a new version of an application behaves in order to assess whether it meets predefined quality thresholds.

Automation doesn't remove humans completely

It's important to note that automation in DevOps doesn't remove humans from the picture entirely. Even the best-automated DevOps process requires human oversight and intervention when things go wrong or something needs to be updated.

Still, automation minimizes dependency on humans for managing basic, recurring tasks within a DevOps practice.

Benefits of automation in DevOps

Automation delivers a range of benefits that make it easier to achieve the goals of DevOps.

Consistency

When processes are highly automated, they are also consistent and predictable. A software automation tool will always do the same thing unless it is reconfigured to do otherwise. The same is not true of human engineers.

Speed

Automation means that processes like code integration and application deployment happen faster.

This is true for two main reasons. First, there is no need to wait on a human to be ready before a process can start. Deploying a new release at 2 a.m., manually, may not be possible when you are relying on a human to execute the process. With automation tools, there is no delay.

The second reason is that automated processes tend to be executed faster. An engineer who is manually deploying a new release will need to assess the environment, type out configurations, manually verify that the new version was deployed successfully, and so on. In contrast, an automation tool can perform these operations almost instantaneously.

Scalability

Automation is the mother of scalability. Processes that are feasible to manage by hand in a manual fashion often cannot be performed manually at scale.

For example, you may be able to deploy new releases manually when you are dealing with only one application and one production environment. But when your team is managing multiple applications and is deploying to multiple environments (such as more than one cloud, or different operating systems), your ability to release new code quickly and consistently becomes very difficult.

What to prioritize for DevOps automation

There are many processes and practices that go into DevOps, and they vary from one organization to another. Although in an ideal world you would fully automate everything, in the real world you often have to pick and choose what to prioritize when building automation.

This decision is different for every DevOps team, of course. But in general, it's wise to prioritize the following processes:

  • CI/CD: Rapid application development and delivery is at the core of DevOps. It's difficult to achieve this goal without automating your Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery, or CI/CD, process.
  • Software testing: Testing software prior to release is important, but your ability to do so manually is limited by the number of team members you have. Test automation tools like Selenium and Appium make it easy to run tests automatically, increasing the thoroughness of your testing routine.
  • Monitoring: Keeping track of all of the components of a fast-moving DevOps environment is difficult to do manually, at scale. Automation tools that can monitor for availability, performance or security problems and generate alerts based on them help solve this challenge.
  • Log management: The amount of log data generated by DevOps environments is vast. Collecting and analyzing all of that data by hand is not feasible for most teams. Instead, they rely on log management solutions that automatically aggregate and analyze log data for them.

Getting started with DevOps automation with Sumo Logic

When it comes to automating log management and analysis, Sumo Logic offers a solution designed especially for the needs of DevOps. Sumo Logic delivers the ability to work at any scale and with any type of application or infrastructure. It also offers configurations that are repeatable and reusable, and it integrates with a variety of other common DevOps tools.

Learn more by signing up for a free Sumo Logic trial.

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