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Up Your DevOps Game: It’s Time for NoOps

By Rahul Subramaniam

NoOps is here and it’s more than just a buzzword or an ideal. The next generation of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) platforms are evolving to minimize the developers’ operational burden and reduce dependency on DevOps for deployment. Dev teams that don’t want to deal with operations or don’t have in-house operations resources should consider deploying applications on a NoOps platform.

To understand the concept of NoOps, we need to start with an understanding of how deployment management has evolved over the decades.

From Hardware and Software and Back Again

It’s been a long trend of back and forth between developers and “deployers.”

It was once mandatory for software developers to be fluent in the hardware for which they were creating software. They wrote the code and then worked with the operations team to deploy it on in-house servers. Everything was tightly coupled. The first mainframes—IBMs and SiliconGraphics machines—ran on custom-built software, and the developers were responsible for the deployment and management. The developers had the machine first, and then had to create the code to make them run—assembly or low-level language or even hardware code; rope memory, in some cases.

Then came the x86 revolution, when hardware became more standardized and was decoupled from the complexities of deployment. Developers started focusing on the software and organizations had separate teams that would manage the deployments.

With the advent of virtualization and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), the deployment of software now depended on APIs for infrastructure provisioning, and we returned to an integrated development and deployment function—in other words, DevOps.

The Problems DevOps Created

The problem then became one of choice: As APIs multiplied, developers had to decide which APIs would be most relevant, efficient and useful to deploy their software—and on what infrastructure: bare metal, virtual machines such as EC2 and VMWare, Kubernetes, Swan, OpenShift, serverless, Lambda, Knative, etc.

Not only did the teams have to decide on what IaaS to deploy the actual software, but they needed to also choose how and where the layers and logs would be monitored—and even where those logs would be stored. They need to consider things such as traceability and horizontal or vertical scaling issues, to name a few.

This has resulted in the creation of bespoke permutations and combinations that work great … until vendors’ upgrades require them to keep up with tens or hundreds of configuration changes. Most teams are keeping it together, but it definitely can be done more efficiently.

Now It’s time to Up the Game to NoOps

It’s time for the next approach: Limit the number of choices to create standard best-in-class operations that deliver economies of scale and easily evolve with minimal hassle.

NoOps simplifies cloud operations—everyone can do things the same way. NoOps aims to “completely automate the deployment, monitoring and management of applications and the infrastructure on which they run,” according to Forrester, which coined the term.

NoOps is about standardizing the approach to deployments and reducing the number of variables, bringing simplicity. At its core, NoOps is focused on automating deployments and executions that are predictable and repeatable.

NoOps & Standardization

The development and increasing adoption of containers are critical to the entire NoOps philosophy. Containers provide the ability to independently deploy services and applications, automating and standardizing the process to deploy anything, anywhere. Using containers delivers the tremendous portability that hasn’t been seen since the development of generic hardware.

With encapsulation within the container, whatever is running inside will behave the same no matter where it is deployed.

The NoOps-containers movement will transform the entire DevOps industry.

Let’s go back even further. In the 1800s, few homes had electricity. They hooked up whatever appliance they had to whatever generator they were running and kept their fingers crossed. Once governments took over the role of bringing electricity to every home with standardized voltages and outlets, the appliance industry took off.

A true NoOps platform will provide a standard “socket” that works for everything. The developer will simply build the app, and it will “plug in” anywhere. With NoOps, developers don’t have to worry about how the application will work, deploy or scale, nor do they have to consider reliability or elasticity. The platform will deliver it automatically.

The “Gift” of Containers

Containers free developers from managing infrastructure and reduce the operational burden associated with building and deploying applications. They also minimize application conflicts among different environments and improve portability and team collaboration.

Containers make application deployment easier than ever before. Continuous integration doesn’t change as part of this process. Adopting containers as part of NoOps simply automates continuous delivery—developers write the code, commit the changes and push it to the container’s remote repository. Based on the Docker file, an image will be built and the containers that run your application will be deployed. Since all deployments are rolling, no downtime occurs.

Leveraging containers provides speed, agility and flexibility to any infrastructure, thus bringing cost savings and dynamism. Containers can flexibly host microservices, which can be scaled individually, as necessary. Using CPU, memory or even custom business rules, developers can set auto-scaling policies so applications are ready to serve an increased number of requests whenever needed. As the platform monitors application performance, it can use these insights to intelligently architect a right-sized infrastructure.

Putting NoOps Into Play

If you’re considering adopting NoOps, look for a PaaS provider with the expertise to make the right platform choices for you based on your application development language of choice. For example, if you are looking to host a Ruby application, ensure that the provider has the requisite Ruby expertise.

A true NoOps platform will streamline deployment, automatically scale based on your business requirements and provide outstanding performance. The automation dramatically boosts productivity and reduces costs associated with deploying and managing applications.

NoOps platforms monitor operations and automatically resolve issues using built-in observability mechanisms and intelligent alerts. Centralized logging, metrics and traceability make it easy to identify issues and initiate fixes without expensive downtime. Moreover, the platform should ensure strong security boundaries and adhere to applicable compliance regulations.

When “going NoOps,” also make sure that the solution provides comprehensive documentation and 24×7 support for emergencies that would normally be handled by an in-house DevOps team.

Wrapping It Up

NoOps can eliminate much of the work associated with deploying and monitoring applications by simplifying and streamlining operations and reducing the need for extensive in-house DevOps support. While it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, it delivers great value helping companies of all sizes from start-ups to enterprise teams save time and money and better redirect their resources toward high-value activities, creating the best code to deliver the highest quality products.

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