Do I Need a DevOps Toolchain?

A DevOps toolchain connects the most effective tools for developing, delivering, and maintaining software that you depend on.

Do You Need a DevOps Toolchain?

You’re resolving an error in your company’s product code with the intent to fix it forward. You notice a different error that you can’t fix, and you want to alert the right person to address it before you submit your changes. But you don’t want to leave your work, open Slack, hold a conversation, and check back into your work environment. Wouldn’t this be a good time for a DevOps toolchain for your incident response process?

Sometimes to resolve a critical issue by rolling back or fixing forward, you have to share important information so the people fixing the issue can access it. The glacial pace of moving that information into other systems manually, without an integration platform, could allow the issue to get out of hand.

In this article you will learn some DevOps toolchain use cases and benefits. But first let’s define what we mean by DevOps toolchain.

A DevOps toolchain helps with workflow orchestration.

A DevOps toolchain helps with workflow orchestration.

 

What is a DevOps toolchain?
A DevOps toolchain connects the most effective tools for developing, delivering and maintaining software that your organization depends on for your DevOps teams and SREs. You can use a pre-configured toolchain or your own custom-built toolchain.

A simple example
xMatters is an incident management company. We help customers solve technology problems before they become business problems. So let’s tackle a DevOps incident case.

Let’s say you receive a notification from your incident management platform that New Relic has identified what appears to be a major incident. That sounds pretty bad, so ideally you’d be able to quickly start your DevOps toolchain directly from the notification to kick off its automated remediation steps. The process might look something like this:

  • Open a Zendesk ticket directly from the notification.
  • Open a Slack channel directly from the from the notification, using a Slack integration to add critical information to the Slack channel for everyone working the issue.
  • Invite the most appropriate people who are currently on call to join the Slack channel through an integration with the on-call schedule.
  • The incident manager uses slash commands within Slack to open a Jira issue.
  • The incident manager uses slash commands within Slack to open a Statuspage notice for customers.
  • When the issue is resolved, the incident manager updates Statuspage, closes the issue, and archives information from the resolution process for further study to improve future responses.

You can use a DevOps toolchain for dozens of purposes, including:

More frequent deployments: We see a lot of companies deploying software multiple times a day. Frequent, smaller deployments ensure quality deployments by making it easier to include monitoring, testing, and rapid response. Companies find they innovate more and because they spend less time firefighting.

Incident management: In a 2019 study of more than 300 DevOps organizations, 57% are seeing service degradations at least weekly. Rightly constructed, a DevOps toolchain can take auto-remediation steps when service level metrics reach a threshold – before services start to degrade.

Why is a DevOps toolchain important?
People with different roles have different core functions and are measured on different outcomes. So a DevOps toolchain can benefit all of them, but in different ways.

They focus on the same things, but from different perspectives. For instance:

Security: In the 2018 Puppet State of DevOps Report, 64% of C-suite respondents believe security teams are involved in technology design and deployment versus 39% at the team level. 54% of the C-suite reported that security policy configurations are automated, compared to 38% at the team level.

64% of the C-suite respondents reported that incident responses were automated, compared to 39% at the team level.

64% of the C-suite respondents reported that incident responses were automated, compared to 39% at the team level.

64% of the C-suite believe teams have post-incident reviews and share results, compared to 48% at the team level.

64% of the C-suite believe teams have post-incident reviews and share results, compared to 48% at the team level.

Insight: Security must be written into the architecture rather than bolted on. Turning compliance with privacy regulations into actual security requires sophisticated collaboration.

Incident management: 57% of the C-suite respondents reported that incident responses were automated, compared to 29% at the team level. 64% of the C-suite believe teams have post-incident reviews and share results, compared to 48% at the team level.

Insight: Application downtime costs upwards of $300,000 per hour and can land your company on the evening news. Let’s call this sub-optimal. Toolchains enable more effective incident reviews by preserving important information from multiple systems.

57% of the C-suite respondents reported that incident responses were automated, compared to 29% at the team level.

57% of the C-suite respondents reported that incident responses were automated, compared to 29% at the team level.

64% of the C-suite believe teams have post-incident reviews and share results, compared to 48% at the team level.

64% of the C-suite believe teams have post-incident reviews and share results, compared to 48% at the team level.

Workflow automation: According to the Evans Data Corp’s 2019 DevOps and the Cloud survey series, the greatest benefit of workflow management tools for IT managers is capturing end-to-end business data. For developers, it’s building dashboards to visualize operational data.

Insight: Real-time dashboards require real-time data—and DevOps toolchains can automate data capture.

Budget: IT Managers are more likely to say that technical software challenges are the main source of frustration in automating a network, while developers think it’s a lack of a budget for new tools. Although IT managers have an interest in knowing which tools their teams are using, 58% of developers say they use tools not licensed or sanctioned by the IT team.

Insight: Whether the problem is integrating new tools or automating a network, sharing information between tools enables better business.

Deployment: The majority in both groups say the development team owns the go/no-go decision for software deployments. However, 41% of IT Managers say it’s the Ops team… and only 22% of developers believe that.

Insight: Every organization tweaks DevOps philosophies to fit their business. Sharing data through automation is a key piece of improving processes in the CI/CD pipeline.

41% of IT Managers say the Ops team owns the go/no-go decision for software deployments and only 22% of developers believe that.

41% of IT Managers say the Ops team owns the go/no-go decision for software deployments and only 22% of developers believe that.

Four DevOps toolchain benefits
At this point you probably agree that you need a DevOps toolchain, but you might also be wondering if it’s worth the investment in the infrastructure and processing mapping necessary to use them. Consider how much time, money, and heartburn you’ll save while you’re enjoying just the following four DevOps toolchain benefits:

  1. Reduced technical debt and toil: Unresolved work causes your team to spin its wheels rather than focusing on innovating and performing high-value task that impact revenue. DevOps toolchains automate manual, repetitive work and free your team to create new features and experiences for your customers!
  2. Consistent, guided workflows: A process that isn’t documented or practiced is likely to be ignored or forgotten. Enforce accountability and help your people to take appropriate and decisive remedial action.
  3. Reduced MTTR (often dramatically): In even the simplest incident you have to collaborate by asking for help, updating your boss, briefing the team, or escalating. Toolchains connect your tools so can focus on communication rather than toggling between systems and channels.
  4. Targeted alerts: If something goes wrong, and people need you to fix it, you’re not much help if no one can find you. A toolchain can help people find you and provide you with the information you need.

As organizations digitize their services, they’re looking to automate processes to do more things more efficiently. They only achieve these new levels of productivity by connecting tools across their whole infrastructure and their cloud environments.

Learn more by reading about the xMatters Integration Platform. The integration platform helps people, data, and tools work together to resolve issues faster.  Collaborative, guided, fast incident resolution reduces the burden on your high-value resources.

See the xMatters Integration Platform