What Is the DevOps Toolchain?
A DevOps toolchain is a combination of tools to facilitate software development, management, and delivery. Organizations use DevOps tools to manage and automate DevOps processes throughout the software development lifecycle.
A software development toolchain enables development teams to perform complex tasks. The tools comprising a toolchain usually run consecutively, with each tool’s output serving as the input for the next tool. However, some DevOps tools are used in parallel to the flow of the DevOps pipeline.
DevOps practices emphasize the communication and collaboration between developers and various IT professionals, alongside automation to implement infrastructure changes and software delivery processes. Automated toolchains are therefore useful for DevOps because the pipeline cannot rely on a single tool. DevOps processes usually involve a combination of tools from different vendors.
Why Do You Need a DevOps Toolchain?
Modern software development requires speed, with market competition driving businesses to respond rapidly to customer demands and push out frequent software releases. A development process that once took months now must take weeks or days. Developers and operations teams use DevOps tools and techniques to collaborate and complete projects faster.
DevOps involves transforming the workplace culture, so the development and operations teams work together, but no single tool handles all DevOps processes. Therefore, DevOps teams require a toolchain to enable the use of multiple tools as a single unit, making the software development process smoother.
A DevOps toolchain is the key to achieving optimal tool automation and enabling an integrated software development lifecycle. The DevOps toolchain orchestrates and automates the various capabilities needed to build and deliver quality software quickly and reliably.
11 Essential Tool Categories in the DevOps Toolchain
A DevOps toolchain should include the following tools:
1. Planning Solutions
The DevOps culture requires planning to identify and implement business goals, determine agile development and operations practices, and assign responsibilities to teams and team members. A DevOps plan is essential to know who does what and how to prioritize conflicting demands.
2. Collaboration and Communication Tools
DevOps methodologies require software connecting teams across multiple locations, time zones, and departments. Improved communication is key to enabling fast software releases.
3. Source Code Management Tools
Source control tools allow DevOps teams to track code changes and collaborate on a single application. Typically, a code versioning system uses branches to allow individual developers to work separately on different project parts without modifying the rest of the application code. A developer can make a pull request to merge changes into the application’s main branch.
4. Continuous Integration (CI) Tools
Continuous integration is a key DevOps practice, enabling multiple team members to collaborate on the development process in a rapid and seamless pipeline. CI tools help save time by automatically coordinating, building, testing, and merging updates to the shared codebase. They help DevOps teams avoid merge issues and identify bugs early in the development lifecycle. Implementing the CI pipeline requires automation—manual processes are inefficient and defeat the purpose of adopting CI.
5. Test Automation Tools
Automated tests ensure fast feedback loops and allow DevOps teams to push code changes to production. Automation improves the test execution speed and coverage, minimizing human error and saving the team’s time.
6. Repository Managers
Software development involves binary and source code components, typically stored in repositories. A repository manager allows teams to share, manage, and store binaries—it is similar in concept to a version control system, providing a single source of truth but with a different workflow.
7. Database Management Tools
Most software projects rely on databases, requiring a management tool to control access, automate software deployments, and ensure the security of code changes. It handles database validation, configuration, and versioning processes, providing scalability and consistency.
8. Configuration Management Systems
A configuration management system allows DevOps teams to control application changes, automatically approving or rejecting changes. It uses an IaC approach, enabling teams to manage configurations as code.
9. Continuous Delivery (CD) and Continuous Deployment Tools
Continuous delivery involves automatically preparing code changes for release to the production environment. It extends the automation of CI to the next stages of the development pipeline, ensuring that developers have ready, tested artifacts to deploy to production. A CD tool creates the pipeline standardizing software releases.
Continuous deployment takes this concept further by automatically deploying code changes to production. It makes the deployment process more efficient, so organizations can release features to customers and test them quickly in the real world. Continuous deployment pipelines allow DevOps teams to respond almost immediately to customer feedback, enabling end-users to benefit from near-instant updates.
10. Issue Tracking Solutions
Issue tracking solutions capture issues during the early stages of the DevOps pipeline, prioritize them according to severity and impact on the system, assign them to the relevant personnel, and track their progress. These tools enable project managers to handle and track issues that occur effectively.
DevOps teams leverage issue tracking solutions to eliminate the need to identify and resolve system issues on an ad-hoc basis. This type of work does not conform with agile methodologies that require continuous and rapid response to issues as they occur. Issue tracking solutions can integrate with CI/CD pipelines to help teams resolve issues quickly and continuously.
11. Monitoring Solutions
DevOps requires continuous monitoring to provide real-time information about the entire development pipeline. A monitoring solution aggregates and analyzes data from various sources, identifying patterns and generating alerts for issues requiring investigation or intervention. It helps DevOps teams troubleshoot problems while minimizing downtime.
Building Your DevOps Toolchain
Understanding the fundamental processes and tools involved in DevOps is essential for building a DevOps toolchain that meets the organization’s needs. Next, the organization must establish a collaboration strategy and select the tools DevOps teams use to build, test, and deploy applications.
When adopting DevOps, an organization can opt for a ready-made toolchain or create a customized toolchain. The DevOps toolchain configuration will determine how teams work, so it’s important to consider this.
Ready-made, all-in-one toolchain solutions provide a complete suite of tools, allowing organizations to launch DevOps projects quickly and implement all the basic tool requirements. However, these solutions tend to be rigid and may be difficult to integrate with other tools. Most organizations have established development and operations teams accustomed to using legacy tools—adopting an all-in-one solution may require a complete overhaul.
Another issue with complete solutions is that they often perform all basic tasks but cannot specialize in priority areas. They are inflexible in the face of changing market demands.
Alternatively, customized DevOps toolchains can meet the specific needs of different DevOps teams. This approach allows teams to integrate their legacy tools into the new toolchain, reducing the learning curve and retaining the advantages of existing workflows. For instance, teams can use GitHub for source control, Kubernetes for environment provisioning, Jenkins for CI, and Jira for workflow planning and tracking. A flexible toolchain also allows teams to customize the workflow for each project or department.
A DevOps toolchain must support integration between various tools. It must allow developers and engineers to share information easily and avoid wasting time logging into different systems or switching between tools and screens. An integrated toolchain provides a seamless developer experience and enables an efficient DevOps process.
How Codefresh Fits into Your DevOps Toolchain
Codefresh is a modern continuous integration and continuous delivery toolchain built on the foundation of GitOps and Argo. It takes the best of the open source Argo toolset and provides essential enterprise features like a unified user interface, a single pane for cloud-wide management, secure enterprise-grade runtime, end-to-end auditability, and cross-application single sign-on.
It has comprehensive GitOps continuous integration designed for Kubernetes and modern applications. It is built for flexibility and scalability around Argo Workflows and Argo Events. Codefresh seamlessly combines the continuous integration side with a powerful GitOps software delivery solution powered by Argo that is tightly integrated with the continuous integration feature set. It includes support for advanced deployments like canary, blue-green, and experimental releases with the ability to easily track builds and releases across your organization.
It provides comprehensive dashboards that offer visibility from code to cloud while integrating with your favorite tools. A centralized dashboard gives insight into deployments at scale while providing the security and support enterprises need.
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