There is a concept in software development known as “source control.” We like to think of it as “version control.” Essentially, it means that it is not enough to see the code as it exists in the here and now. As developers, we need to be able to look back in time, at all the changes and updates that have occurred so we can control the quality and viability of the code moving forward.
Most people understand that concept and why it matters when you’re building new applications and platforms. But just as important — and just as frequently a source of errors and issues — are the environments in which that code must live and work. How those environments were built matters just as much as how the code is pieced together. After all, if your testing environment doesn’t function like your production environment, you have no idea if what you’ve built will actually work when it’s released into the real world. You’re wasting time, and you’re wasting money. And yet, while code development is routinely and meticulously mapped and documented, most founders and business owners don’t apply the same rigor to their infrastructure.
The process is known as DevOps, and there’s a reason it’s an oft-overlooked process among developers: It’s hard to do, and most developers lack the skills necessary to do it well. An internal development team may give it a try, but the challenges can lead to mistakes and frustrations, leaving them reluctant to try again.
Compounding the problem is the fact that infrastructure environments are extremely fragile. If they were built poorly, it is nearly impossible to unravel them after the fact without breaking something — and usually that something is important.
When DevOps is done right, it results in files that outline your infrastructure configuration. These files dictate how many environments you need and what they should look like. And they ensure that your testing environment mirrors your production environment, or comes close enough so that you have a good sense of whether your code will actually work when it comes time to deploy it. Plus, you’ve charted the history of the infrastructure development process, which means anyone can go back to those files at any time and see how it was built and how it is intended to work.
These configuration files sit alongside the code because they are intimately connected. One is only as good as the other.
If that infrastructure work is not done — or not done properly — there are serious implications for a business. If your environments aren’t aligned, your testing becomes basically worthless. You are no longer testing the same thing you’re planning to deploy. Most people work around this by squaring themselves with the prospect of making quick fixes on the fly. It’s a cross-your-fingers situation, which is not ideal when you’re talking about the viability of your business.
The other potential problem you could face revolves around business continuity, particularly if you’ve relied on an internal resource for DevOps who hasn’t thoroughly documented the process. What happens if that person leaves, and you have no idea how your configuration works or how to access the files? If you can access the files but they are flawed, it could take you months to figure out the source of the problem.
Then, of course, there’s the most significant threat of poorly plotted infrastructure. Every business has certain elements that are mission critical. If one of those elements is tied to shoddy infrastructure configuration and breaks, you are effectively out of business.
At Dualboot Partners, we’re all about doing things right the first time. And there are distinct benefits to that approach, aside from fundamental survival. Yes, you will protect yourself from the scenarios outlined above. At the same time, you will also increase your speed of development. You won’t have to focus time and resources on fixing issues. You can be confident in the viability of your testing, and the overall stability of your system will improve. With all of that in place, you can take new products and features to market faster than ever before.
Once we started making DevOps a consistent part of our development process, we noticed a significant decrease in issues when it came to bringing new applications to market. Now, it’s non-negotiable. And we have added experts in DevOps to our team to make the process as smooth and seamless as possible for every client we work with.
When you’re building software, code isn’t everything. The infrastructure that will support and breathe life into your application or platform is just as important.
This is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to DevOps, and in our next post, we’ll dig into the specific stages of the process to give you greater insight into its value. A few questions to consider until them:
- Do your development environments mirror your production environment?
- Are you using a standard workflow for managing your code?
- Are you using Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment?
- Is your infrastructure configuration source controlled?
All important questions, and all part of our next article. Stay tuned.