The Path to Becoming a DevOps Engineer

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Career choices can often baffle newbies. Knowledge is the key in making a decision. Here’s a guide to career options in the DevOps engineering field. This article will guide new entrants to the IT industry on the many roles that DevOps engineers can assume, the job requirements and the certifications necessary to obtain those positions in the IT industry. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

In the 21st century, technology has evolved to meet the challenges faced in IT management across various segments. The technological advances and changes have been sweeping, rapid, and encompass multiple fields like the Agile methodology, DevOps, Big Data, cloud computing and machine learning. Prior to DevOps, software development faced countless challenges like changes in the system, deployments that were fraught with risks, and the lack of consistency across platforms. Development teams struggled to overcome these hurdles.

DevOps (development plus operations) has now been taken to the central stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC). It offers process frameworks mixed with open source tools to integrate all phases of the application’s life cycle, and ensures that everything functions as a cohesive unit. It aims to align and automate the process across the phases of development, testing, deployment and support. It includes the best methodologies and practices such as code repositories, build automation and continuous deployment, among others.

DevOps can be defined as, “A set of practices intended to reduce the time between committing a change to a system and the change being placed into normal production, while ensuring high quality.”

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It can also defined as, “An evolution of the ideas of Agile software development and lean manufacturing, applied to the end-to-end value chain in IT, which allows businesses to achieve more with modern information technologies, due to cultural, organisational and technical changes.”
According to the Second Annual GitLab Global Developer Survey conducted in March 2018, “Thirty-five per cent of the respondents have already established the DevOps culture and a mere 23 per cent describe their development method as DevOps.” The survey adds, “Sixty-five per cent of the respondents believe that the DevOps workflow saves them time during the development process and 29 per cent plan to invest in DevOps in 2018.”

The worldwide survey indicates a steady increase in DevOps adoption by enterprises from varied sectors and regions. As a set of cultural philosophies, practices and tools, DevOps aims to accelerate the delivery of high-quality products and services by unifying software development (Dev) and software operations (Ops).

Figure 1: The DevOps life cycle

Top reasons behind the global adoption of DevOps

  • Accelerates and extends the Agile methodology: Many global organisations adopt the Agile methodology to accelerate software delivery and improve software quality. This unifies software development and testing activities. With DevOps, the Agile methodology can be extended by integrating software development, testing and development activities, thereby, speeding up software delivery by removing the bottlenecks.
  • Strong communication and collaboration: With DevOps, programmers, testers and operations test engineers work as a single team. In this environment, every member has a strong understanding of pre-defined business requirements and organisational goals, which they can attain by working in a collaborative manner, focusing on the common goal rather than on individual goals. It creates a strong environment for experimentation, innovation and research.
  • Automation of repetitive tasks: With DevOps, organisations adopt automation tools and strong production platforms that help operations engineers to deploy the software applications without investing extra time and effort. The testing professionals can use test automation tools to evaluate the software under varied user conditions and produce more accurate test results. The automation of common and routine tasks helps businesses to reduce development cycles and shorten delivery cycles.
  • Reduction in failures: DevOps is focused on shorter development cycles and frequent code releases. As the programmers focus on a specific feature or component of the software application, they can easily write high-quality code and repair common coding errors. At the same time, the testers can detect the flaws in the software and get them repaired without any delay. Hence, enterprises can reduce failures and fixes significantly by adopting DevOps.
  • Creating a performance-based work environment: DevOps enables enterprises to modernise and transform the work environment by focusing only on performance. The unified work environment makes various stakeholders in the project collaborate with each other without bureaucratic obstacles. Also, software developers and operations engineers can perform optimally by understanding their roles and sharing risks.

DevOps life cycle
The DevOps life cycle comprises various stages and is highlighted in Figure 1. The terms in this figure are explained below.

  • Plan: Initial planning with regard to the type of application required
  • Code: Coding the application as per the client’s requirements with proper planning
  • Build: Building the application by integrating the various types of code created by diverse programmers in the coding phase
  • Test: Testing of the application built so far to verify and validate the requirements, and re-build the applications if components are not working effectively
  • Releases: Deploying the application in live scenarios
  • Deploy: Deployment of the cloud in cloud environments for additional usage
  • Operate: Performing operations on code, if any
  • Monitor: Strong monitoring of the application as per the client’s requirements and validating the end user experience

The roles and responsibilities of team members in DevOps
DevOps engineer: This person needs to have a core understanding of the SDLC and in-depth knowledge of various automation tools for developing digital pipelines (CI/CD).

Roles and responsibilities

  • Apply cloud (AWS, Azure, GCP) computing skills to deploy upgrades and fixes
  • Design, develop and implement software integrations based on user feedback
  • Troubleshoot production issues and coordinate with the development team to streamline code deployment
  • Implement automation tools and frameworks (CI/CD pipelines)
  • Analyse code and communicate detailed reviews to development teams to ensure a marked
  • improvement in applications and the timely completion of projects
  • Collaborate with team members to improve the company’s engineering tools, systems, procedures and data security
  • Optimise the company’s computing architecture
  • Conduct systems tests for security, performance and availability
  • Develop and maintain design and troubleshooting documentation

Build/release engineer: The build engineer is responsible for ensuring that build and deployment requirements are met in a fast-paced CI/CD environment.

Roles and responsibilities

  • Manage and maintain code, create new builds, standardise automated deployment, ensure the satisfaction of configuration requirements, assist with release notes and more
  • Understand the importance of user expectations and perhaps take on some of the hybrid responsibilities of a UX designer role

The release manager: This person needs to interface and communicate with test managers, Dev managers, IT Ops and, of course, the PMO (Project Management Office) on a daily basis. Equally, a release manager must be confident enough to manage and report to the senior IT management like the CIO and CTO, as well as to business management.

Roles and responsibilities

  • Manage the release life cycle, which includes scheduling, coordinating and the management of releases across the enterprise for multiple applications across various portfolios
  • Build the IT release calendar working closely with the IT release managers from different portfolios across IT, and centralise the view of all releases
  • Manage risks and resolve issues that affect the release’s scope, schedule and quality
  • Measure and monitor the progress of the release to ensure application releases are delivered on time and within budget and that they meet or exceed expectations
  • Coordinate release content and efforts based on the service request backlog, pending service requests, third party applications or operating system updates
  • Communicate all key project plans, commitments and changes including requirements, QA plans, schedules and scope changes
  • Manage relationships and coordinate work between different teams at different locations
  • Conduct release readiness reviews, milestone reviews and business go/no-go reviews
  • Produce deployment, run books and implementation plans
  • Maintain the release schedule for all core services and ensure alignment across key partners and vendors
  • Develop scripts and automation tools to be used to build, integrate and deploy software releases to various platforms
  • Research new software development and configuration management methodologies and technologies, and analyse their application to current configuration management needs

Site reliability engineer: The site reliability engineer, or the reliability engineer, is responsible for ensuring the quality of orchestration and the integration of tools needed to support daily operations. This role is important in any DevOps organisation, as a failure to ensure sound integration can lead to outages that are costly.

Roles and responsibilities

  • Create a bridge between development and operations by applying a software engineering mindset to systems administration tasks
  • Collaborate closely with product developers to ensure that the designed solution responds to non-functional requirements such as availability, performance, security and maintainability
  • Work with release engineers to ensure that the software delivery pipeline is as efficient as possible
  • Be responsible for the availability, performance, monitoring and for incident response, among other things, of the platforms and services that the company runs and owns

Data analyst: A data analyst’s responsibilities include conducting the full life cycle analysis to include requirements, activities and design. Data analysts develop analysis and reporting capabilities. They will also monitor performance and quality control plans to identify improvements.

Roles and responsibilities

  • Interpret data, analyse results using statistical techniques and provide ongoing reports
  • Develop and implement databases, data collection systems, data analytics and other strategies that optimise statistical efficiency and quality
  • Acquire data from primary or secondary data sources and maintain databases/data systems
  • Identify, analyse and interpret trends or patterns in complex data sets
  • Filter and clean data by reviewing computer reports, printouts and performance indicators to locate and correct code problems
  • Work with management to prioritise business and information needs
  • Locate and define new process improvement opportunities

Product manager: This person is responsible for collaborating with the Dev team to ensure the product’s requirements are met to a high-quality standard at each sprint. Product managers provide the deep product expertise needed to lead the organisation and make strategic product decisions.

Roles and responsibilities

  • Analyse market and competitive conditions, and lay out a product vision that is differentiated and delivers unique value based on customer demands
  • Participate in many activities from the strategic to the tactical, in order to provide important cross-functional leadership — most notably between engineering, marketing, sales and support teams
  • Responsible for defining the why, when and what of the product that the engineering team builds

Top certifications to become a qualified DevOps engineer
The various certifications one can choose from to become a professional DevOps engineer/master are listed below, with a brief on each.

A. Amazon

Certification name: AWS Certified DevOps Engineer—Professional
Skills validated include the ability to:

  • Implement and manage continuous delivery systems and methodologies on AWS
  • Implement and automate security controls, governance processes and compliance validation
  • Define and deploy monitoring, metrics and logging systems on AWS
  • Implement systems that are highly available, scalable and self-healing on the AWS platform
  • Design, manage and maintain tools to automate operational processes

Official website: https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certified-devops-engineer-professional/

B. Microsoft

Certification name: Microsoft Azure DevOps Solutions Skills validated include the ability to:

  • Design a DevOps strategy
  • Implement DevOps development processes
  • Implement continuous integration
  • Implement continuous delivery
  • Implement dependency management
  • Implement application infrastructure
  • Implement continuous feedback

Official website: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-az-400.aspx

C. EXIN

Certifications: EXIN DevOps Foundation, EXIN DevOps Professional, EXIN DevOps Master
Skills validated in the different certifications are:

  • EXIN DevOps Foundation gives IT and business professionals the basic knowledge and understanding of DevOps
  • EXIN DevOps Professional has been designed to give IT professionals the background knowledge and understanding of essential DevOps practices
  • EXIN DevOps Master is an advanced-level certification that teaches candidates a combination of principles, knowledge and practical skills

Official website: https://www.exin.com/qualification-program/exin-devops?language_content_entity=en

D. ICAgile

Certifications: ICP-FDO (Foundation of DevOps), ICP-IDO (Implementing DevOps), ICE-DO (Expert: DevOps)
Skills validated in the different certifications are:

  • ICP-FDO certification provides an overview of core concepts for DevOps and is geared towards a broad audience of professionals, both technical and non-technical. It covers areas such as the business case for DevOps, continuous integration, continuous delivery, accompanying cultural changes, operational considerations and configuration management.
  • ICP-IDO certification provides a hands-on approach to planning, building, monitoring and maturing a DevOps pipeline. It lays an excellent foundation for implementing DevOps in organisations and makes an individual well-versed in avoiding common pitfalls and overcoming obstacles to DevOps implementations.
  • ICE-DO certification seeks to provide the industry with two things: (1) a learning roadmap for people to acquire knowledge and build capability, and (2) a means of recognising expertise through real-world experience and a demonstration of capabilities.

Official website: https://icagile.com/Learning-Roadmap/DevOps

E. Linux Professional Institute (LPI)

Certification: Linux Professional Institute DevOps Tools Engineer
Skills validated include the ability to:

  • Set up continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines
  • Build, deploy and orchestrate application containers
  • Automate system configuration
  • Build system images and run them locally and in the cloud
  • Monitor applications and computing instances
  • Manage, collect and analyse log data
  • Use source code management and version control

Official website: https://www.lpi.org/our-certifications/lpic-ot-devops-overview

F. IBM

Certifications: Foundations of IBM DevOps V2, IBM Certified Solution Advisor –DevOps V2
Skills validated include the ability to:

  • Clearly articulate the benefits of DevOps for driving business agility and continuous innovation
  • Advise stakeholders on how to remove barriers to the adoption of DevOps and implement organisational change and continual process improvement
  • Have a deep working experience of continuous delivery (integration, delivery, collaboration, innovation) practices
  • Experience of application development life cycle, operational methods, SCM, version control and common tooling for cloud-ready and cloud-native application development
  • Develop and test automation and virtualisation, as well as deploy and implement best practices
    Understand the IBM DevOps reference architecture patterns and apply them to DevOps solutions
  • Recommend the best approach, tooling and consumption models (on-premise/ public / SaaS) across the IBM solution portfolio (and leading open toolchain components)

Official websites: https://www.ibm.com/certify/exam?id=C1000-040; https://www.ibm.com/certify/cert?id=C0002402

G. BeingCert.com

Certifications: DevOps Foundation, DevOps Professional, DevOps Master
Skills validated in the different certifications are:

  • DevOps Foundation certification ensures that the candidates understand the various DevOps tools and technologies, and use them in solving infrastructure issues. It gives complete knowledge of
  • DevOps, service delivery and automation.
  • DevOps Professional certification provides knowledge of the principles of continuous development and deployment, automation of configuration management, inter-team collaboration and IT service agility using modern DevOps tools.
  • DevOps Master has been designed to emphasise on the collaboration and communication between
  • IT professionals (developers, operators and supporters) in the life cycle of applications and services, which leads to continuous integration and continuous development.

Official websites: https://www.beingcert.com/Detail?id=39; https://www.beingcert.com/Detail?id=47; https://www.beingcert.com/Detail?id=85

H. Star Certification

Certification: Star Certified DevOps Expert
Skills validated include the ability to:

  • Understand the DevOps methodology and its key concepts, and thoroughly understand cloud computing and virtualisation concepts
  • Use DevOps tools like Ansible, Chef, Jenkins and SaltStack
  • Manage source code using Git
  • Deploy DevOps concepts to respond faster to client needs
  • Explain version control with Nagios

Official website: https://www.starcertification.org/Certifications/Certificate/DevOps

I. CertiProf

Certification: DevOps Essential Professional Certificate (DEPC)
Skills validated are:

  • In-depth understanding of DevOps, Agile software development, CI/CD
  • DevOps and Agile, DevOps and Scrum, DevOps and ITSM (ITIL)
  • Knowledge of various DevOps tools: Git, cloud platforms, Docker, JS, Chef, Jenkins, Puppet, etc.
  • Reporting and monitoring skills

Official website: https://www.certiprof.com/portfolio/certiprof-devops-essentials-professional-certificate/

J. Global Association for Quality Management

Certification: Foundation Certificate in DevOps (FCDO), Certified DevOps Master (CDM)
Skills validated in the two certifications are:

  • Foundation Certificate in DevOps (FCDO) provides an introduction to DevOps
  • Certified DevOps Master (CDM) provides advanced knowledge with regard to DevOps

Official websites: https://www.gaqm.org:8443/gaqm/certifications/showsubcontent?subcategoryid=58;
https://www.gaqm.org:8443/gaqm/certifications/showsubcontent?subcategoryid=60

K. Arcitura

Certification: Arcitura Certified DevOps Specialist
Skills validated are:

  • DevOps practices, models and techniques — business drivers, rapid delivery, responsive scalability and increased reliability, automation, measurement and unified metrics, DevOps platform and toolchain, DevOps tools, repositories and systems
  • DevOps life cycle—IaC, configuration modules, policy as code, DevOps metrics, monitors, pipeline stages, microservices and cloud computing

Official website: https://www.arcitura.com/next-gen-it-academy/certifications/certified-devops-specialist/

L. DevOps Agile Skills Association (DASA)
Certifications:

  • DASA DevOps Fundamentals
  • DASA DevOps Professional (Enable and Scale; Specify and Verify; Create and Deliver)
  • DASA Leadership (Product Owner; DevOps Leader; DevOps Coach)

Skills validated in the different certifications are:

  • The DASA DevOps Fundamentals certification provides an extensive introduction to the core Agile DevOps principles covering the essential knowledge and skill competencies that have been defined by DASA.
  • The DASA DevOps Professional Enable and Scale certification validates that the candidate has a practical understanding and experience in leading DevOps teams and enables members to become effective, ensuring the team works optimally.
  • The DASA DevOps Professional Specify and Verify certification focuses on ensuring that the requirements of the customers are fully understood and brought into the team so that these can be integrated into the IT product or service being delivered by the team.
  • The DASA DevOps Professional Create and Deliver certification addresses the heart of a DevOps team, as it focuses on programming, continuous delivery, security, risk and compliance as well as infrastructure engineering.
  • The DASA DevOps Product Owner certification helps the product owner realise the maximum business value and engage with stakeholders; it deals with future requirements as well as operational challenges.
  • The DASA DevOps Leader certification program helps leaders understand leadership in the context of DevOps, discusses leadership development models, building teams and transforming the organisation.
  • The DevOps Coach certification helps team members and other stakeholders in the organisation apply DevOps concepts and principles within their organisation.

Official website: https://www.devopsagileskills.org/certifications/

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