What is DevOps?

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What is DevOps?

DevOps is a cultural and technical approach to software delivery that unites development (dev) and operations (ops) teams in service of faster, more reliable IT processes. At its core, DevOps is about breaking down silos, fostering collaboration, and automating workflows to achieve a more agile and efficient software delivery pipeline.

DevOps goes beyond just tools and frameworks. It requires a mindset shift that centers on continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) and constant feedback loops. DevOps aims to harmonize the traditionally disparate worlds of development and operations, creating a cohesive and efficient workflow that accelerates time-to-market and enhances product quality.

How does DevOps work?

DevOps is a holistic approach to software development, a continuous cycle that encompasses several key stages. Beginning with the planning and coding phase, it progresses through continuous integration, testing, deployment, monitoring, and feedback.

DevOps infinity loop

Collaboration is key at each step, as cross-functional teams work seamlessly together to eliminate bottlenecks and optimize the entire development lifecycle. Automation acts as a linchpin, driving efficiency by eliminating repetitive manual tasks and ensuring consistency across environments.

DevOps encompasses both the cultural and technological aspects of software development.

DevOps cultural tenets

DevOps dismantles the traditional barriers between development and operations teams, fostering a collaborative environment where cross-functional teams work seamlessly toward shared objectives.


Open and transparent communication is a cornerstone of DevOps culture. Teams share insights, feedback, and updates in real-time, ensuring everyone is on the same page throughout the development process.

Continuous improvement

The DevOps mindset is rooted in a commitment to continuous improvement. Teams regularly reflect on their processes, seeking ways to enhance efficiency, reduce bottlenecks, and deliver even greater value to end-users.

DevOps technical components

Automation is the engine that propels DevOps forward. From automating repetitive tasks to orchestrating complex deployment pipelines, automation liberates teams from manual labor, allowing them to focus on innovation and creative problem-solving.


CI/CD practices are pivotal in DevOps, ensuring that code changes are seamlessly integrated, tested, and deployed in a continuous and automated way. This results in faster delivery cycles and reduced time-to-market.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

IaC enables the management of infrastructure through code, providing consistent and reproducible environments. This practice ensures that development, testing, and production environments remain synchronized, minimizing discrepancies and enhancing reliability.

Adopting both the technical and cultural aspects of DevOps is essential for a comprehensive and efficient transition to modern software delivery.

DevOps and automation

At the heart of DevOps lies the engine of efficiency – automation. Automation in DevOps extends far beyond simple script execution; it’s a comprehensive strategy to eliminate manual interventions wherever possible.

From CI/CD pipelines to infrastructure provisioning and configuration management, automation accelerates processes, minimizes errors, and allows teams to focus on creativity and innovation. By embracing automation, organizations can achieve a level of consistency and repeatability that is instrumental in scaling their operations and adapting to the ever-changing demands of modern software development.

Learn more about DevOps automation >

The role of the DevOps engineer

DevOps engineers play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between software development and IT operations. This multifaceted role combines technical expertise with a deep understanding of the cultural shifts necessary for successful DevOps implementation.

DevOps Engineers possess a diverse skill set, ranging from coding and scripting to system administration and collaboration. Their responsibilities span across the entire development lifecycle, ensuring that code is not only efficiently developed and tested but seamlessly deployed and monitored in production environments.

DevOps engineer key responsibilities

Establish and maintain CI/CD pipelines, ensuring seamless integration, testing, and delivery of code changes into production environments.


Leverage IaC principles to automate and manage infrastructure, treating infrastructure configuration as code to enhance consistency, scalability, and efficiency.

Release management

Manage and coordinate the release process, ensuring smooth and reliable software releases with minimal downtime.

Monitoring and logging

Set up monitoring tools to track the performance of applications and infrastructure, and implement logging solutions for effective debugging and issue resolution.

Collaboration and communication

Facilitate communication and collaboration between development, operations, and other stakeholders, breaking down traditional silos to create cross-functional teams.

DevOps engineers bring tremendous value to development teams, helping guide organizations through the process of digital transformation and facilitating modern software delivery practices. To become an effective DevOps engineer, you’ll need these skills:

DevOps engineer skills

Proficiency in scripting languages (e.g., Python, Shell) and automation tools to streamline repetitive tasks and enhance workflow efficiency.


In-depth knowledge of continuous integration and continuous delivery practices, including setting up and optimizing CI/CD pipelines for efficient code integration and deployment.

Infrastructure as Code

Understanding and implementation of IaC principles using tools like Terraform or CloudFormation to manage and provision infrastructure resources programmatically

Cloud computing

Familiarity with cloud platforms (e.g., AWS, Azure, Google Cloud) and the ability to leverage cloud services for scalable and resilient infrastructure

Collaboration and communication

Strong interpersonal skills to facilitate communication and collaboration between different teams, breaking down silos and promoting a unified approach to software development

SRE vs DevOps

DevOps shares many similarities with another discipline focused on improving the delivery and maintenance of software systems: site reliability engineering (SRE). While both SRE and DevOps share the common goal of delivering better software experiences to end users, they differ in their approach and focus.

Whereas DevOps seeks to optimize the entire software delivery cycle, SRE places a specific emphasis on maintaining the reliability and availability of large-scale systems that have been deployed into production.

Like DevOps, SRE applies engineering principles to IT operations, relying on automation, monitoring, and proactive measures to ensure that services meet stringent reliability targets. However SRE’s narrower focus on systems reliability, availability, and performance mean that it focuses on reliability metrics such as service level objectives (SLOs), service level indicators (SLIs), and error rates rather than broader DevOps metrics like throughput or time from commit to deploy.

Understanding the nuances between SRE and DevOps is essential for organizations looking to tailor their approach to system reliability based on their unique requirements and objectives.

Agile and DevOps

Teams that adopt DevOps often do so as part of a larger effort to implement Agile practices in their software development. While DevOps focuses on collaboration and automation between development and operations teams, Agile is a mindset that prioritizes adaptability, frequent communication, and delivering value to users in small, iterative steps.

Agile and DevOps work seamlessly together to create a collaborative and efficient software development approach. Agile breaks projects into small, adaptable parts, focusing on teamwork and customer feedback. DevOps enhances this by automating processes, speeding up deployment, and aligning development with operations.

In combination, Agile’s iterative nature and DevOps’ emphasis on collaboration result in faster and more reliable software releases. They share a common goal of delivering value swiftly and continuously. Agile ensures flexibility in development, while DevOps streamlines the delivery pipeline. Together, they create a responsive and customer-oriented software development process.

Learn more about the Agile methodology >

Getting started with DevOps

Embarking on the DevOps journey requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. Defining your objectives is the first crucial step – understanding what you aim to achieve through the implementation of DevOps principles.

Cultivating a DevOps culture within your organization is equally vital, emphasizing collaboration, communication, and a mindset of continuous improvement. Invest in skill development for your team, ensuring they gain the necessary expertise to navigate the complexities of DevOps practices. Learn more in The Building Blocks of a High-Performing DevOps Culture.

Selecting the right DevOps tooling is another critical decision. Identify tools that align with your organization’s unique needs and goals, whether it be for continuous integration, configuration management, or monitoring. CircleCI’s user-friendly platform integrates with all leading DevOps tools and can also help you seamlessly manage the transition to modern software delivery practices with customized help from an expert support team.

Finally, it’s important to continuously evaluate your DevOps processes. Regularly assess and refine your practices to adapt to evolving requirements, ensuring that your DevOps journey remains aligned with the needs of your customers and your development team.

Learn more about measuring DevOps success >

Elevate your delivery processes with DevOps and CI/CD

In modern software delivery, agility and responsiveness are paramount. For competitive teams, embracing DevOps is not just a choice; it’s a strategic imperative. To realize the benefits of automation, collaboration, feedback, and enhanced visibility, implementing a robust CI/CD pipeline is essential.

A flexible, scalable platform like CircleCI can help your organization adopt DevOps and CI/CD with minimal stress and technological overhead. To get started, sign up for a free account and get up to 6,000 build minutes per month, or contact us for a personalized demo.