Top 12 DevOps Best Practices

Devops best practices

DevOps — the combination of development and IT system operations—has become an industry standard, allowing companies to be more nimble and deliver their software, services, and applications faster than ever.

Despite its advantages, DevOps must be properly implemented to avoid potential pitfalls. For example, a recent report from Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 team demonstrated the security issues that arise from DevOps teams not implementing property security measures.

Unit 42’s report showed that 96% of third-party cloud containers and 63% of third-party code templates contained vulnerabilities.

The blame was placed squarely on mismanaged DevOps:

Teams continue to neglect DevOps security, due in part to lack of attention to supply chain threats. Cloud-native applications have a long chain of dependencies, and those dependencies have dependencies of their own. DevOps and security teams need to gain visibility into the bill of materials in every cloud workload in order to evaluate risk at every stage of the dependency chain and establish guardrails.

Unit 42 Cloud Threat Report

In order to avoid the kind of vulnerabilities Unit 42 highlighted, as well as other pitfalls from mismanagement, companies must commit to employing DevOps best practices.

DevOps Best Practices

Successful DevOps principles and practices involve a combination of factors that address human elements, technical aspects, and everything in-between.

Here are 12 specific best practices to review, divided by category:

Best Practices for DevOps Teams

1. Build a Collaborative Environment

The whole point of DevOps is to improve the communication and collaboration between development and operational teams. That goal can be undermined if artificial barriers, interdepartmental competition, and information silos remain in place.

One of the most important principles of DevOps is building a collaborative DevOps environment, where various departments work together as one development team, sharing information freely.

2. Blame-Free Analysis

Some times things go wrong, period.

It doesn’t matter how well-planned and well-executed a project may be; things will go wrong to some degree or another. One mistake too many companies make is trying to fix the blame rather than fixing the problem.

To avoid this, DevOps teams need to be able to analyze failures and near-misses devoid of finger-pointing and blame, focusing instead on how to improve the software development process as a whole.

3. Focus on Customer Satisfaction

Another mistake many companies make is focusing so much on the principles and philosophies behind DevOps culture that they fail to consider how the customer feels. Some customers want new features the instant they’re available, while others prefer a more measured approach — one that doesn’t risk interfering with their workday.


Best DevOps Development and Security Practices

4. Cloud DevOps Best Practices

The public cloud is one of the biggest boosts to the success of small and medium-sized DevOps teams. Many DevOps in the cloud platforms offer a number of features that greatly simplify the DevOps process, including collaboration tools, version control, simultaneous development, and automation tool testing.

5. Continuous Integration

Continuous integration (CI) is a critical aspect of most successful DevOps teams. CI involves automated processes for building and testing code, as it is committed by the developer.

CI offers several benefits, including minimizing potential conflicts that can arise when larger chunks of code are integrated and ensuring work isn’t duplicated. Debugging benefits greatly from CI, as it’s always easier to find bugs when a small number of changes have been made rather than one large, monolithic update.

6. Continuous Delivery

Closely related is continuous delivery, or continuous deployment, (CD). CD offers many of the same benefits as CI, including the ability to quickly identify any bugs that slipped through QA, not overwhelming users with a release that requires a great deal of time to learn and reducing the possibility of conflicts with other services.

Together, continuous integration and continuous delivery form the foundation of the best DevOps practices that successful DevOps requires.

7. Use Microservices

Microservices are small applications that work together to create a larger whole. As such, microservice architectures are the perfect complement when it comes to implementing DevOps, as they can make it faster and easier to develop, deploy and decrease time to market for smaller apps and services when compared to traditional monolithic applications.

8.Shift Left

Another mistake teams can make — especially in the realm of security — is mixing traditional development paradigms with DevOps. In traditional development, testing and security are often left to the final phases of the development process, just before the software or service is released.

In DevOps, the goal is to identify and fix problems with quality assurance before they get to that stage, in effect ‘shifting left.’ Ensuring a DevOps team is focused on shifting left, addressing issues as they arise will help improve the quality and security of the final product while reducing the failure rate.

Want to learn even more about DevOps best practices? Check out these articles:


DevOps Testing Best Practices & Deployment

9. Implement AI

Artificial intelligence has become a critical component of DevOps best practices in 2021, and for a good reason. AI can stress-test applications and services much faster than human beings, identifying potential weak points. AI can also analyze code, looking for common errors that could be disastrous in a production environment. AI can be especially useful as a DevOps security best practice as well.

10. Implement Chaos Testing

Chaos testing involves using an automation tool to create random failures. The goal is to see how the product functions and whether it has enough robustness and redundancy to overcome the failure rate.

Chaos testing, like blame-free analysis, acknowledges that even the most well-executed projects are bound to experience unforeseen issues. The mark of a genuinely successful application or service is the ability to continue operating despite those unexpected issues.

11. Maintain Two Deployment Environments

As a DevOps pipeline best practice, many companies run two identical environments to streamline the deployment process. The goal is to have everything running in one DevOps environment while the latest features and fixes are deployed to the backup. 

Once everything has been deployed and is running smoothly, the backup becomes the new production environment. In contrast, the former production environment becomes the latest backup for the next round of updates.

12. Hire a Dedicated DevOps Company

The final DevOps best practices for 2020 are the same today. For many companies, it’s hiring a DevOps company to support their DevOps transition or development projects.

While this may seem like a drastic step, the stakes are higher than ever. The growing — and often conflicting — need to keep up with the fast pace of the industry, while still providing the security and stability required, is often more than many companies can handle.

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