Add Chef to your Organization’s DevOps Kitchen

Companies looking at DevOps with the hopes of streamlining their software development process sometimes struggle with the initial implementation. Leveraging the right set of DevOps tools is an important factor in achieving success as much as any organizational or policy-based changes. One such tool – known as Chef – is especially helpful for shops taking advantage of the Cloud as part of their overall application engineering strategy.

What follows is a closer look at the features and functionality of Chef to see if it allows your team to manage server infrastructure quicker than ever before.

Open Source Server Configuration Management for the Cloud… and more

Chef’s main functionality centers on the management of Cloud-based infrastructure. It offers value to any company whether they manage ten servers or ten thousand – no matter the platform. It lets your development staff focus on ensuring their software runs properly, instead of having to deal with the drudgery of server administration tasks. While it truly shines in the Cloud, Chef also works with on-premise servers as well as a hybrid infrastructure.

A Code-based Approach to Server Management

What makes Chef unique among similar infrastructure management tools is its emphasis on using code to define and automate a collection of servers. This lets you handle automated server management in a similar fashion as your applications, with development, QA, and production environments ensuring a high level of quality. Additionally, letting your developers manage servers using code fits nicely with the overall philosophy of DevOps, where formerly segregated duties are handled in a more communal fashion.

A development kit, known as the Chef DK, includes everything required to develop and test infrastructure automation code. Test Kitchen handles the running of these tests, using InSpec as the TDD programming language. Not surprisingly, the included code analysis tool is known as the “Food Critic.”

Continuing with this kitchen metaphor, the collection of code used to automate and define a server infrastructure is known as a cookbook, and – of course – they are made up of recipes. This nomenclature definitely helps developers new to Chef better understand the functionality of each part of the system. Behind this somewhat humorous style lies a very powerful tool.

The Chef Server is the central repository for every cookbook in the system. This design allows the Server to manage any number of physical or virtual machines in your infrastructure. The Chef Client runs on each of these nodes; staying in constant communication with the Server.

An Essential Tool for DevOps

As noted earlier, Chef offers any DevOps organization the means to manage their technical infrastructure easier than before. Its code-based scheme for server management lets you leverage your development talent in a new fashion. The kitchen-based metaphor used in Chef also makes it easy to understand by both your technical and non-technical team members.

Chef, and similar tools, like Ansible which we previously covered, play an important role in any company deriving value from its investment in DevOps. Ultimately, this is a methodology requiring more than just a change in organizational structure for success. Download Chef to see if it makes sense in your shop.

Thanks for reading the Betica Blog. Keep coming back for additional insights from the software development world.

Software Architects need these Four Essential Skills

Of course, strong technical ability is a requirement for anyone employed as a software architect. This role is almost always filled with someone who forged their skills working at least a few years as an application engineer. What separates the best architects from those merely holding the job title are the other intangibles necessary to thrive in today’s business world.

O’Reilly Media recently looked at four essential abilities a software architect needs to truly be successful in this era of Agile and DevOps. Let’s take a closer look at these skills to see if adding them to your toolbox makes you better at the practice of software development. Good luck!

Technical and Business Leadership

A good software architect knows how to lead the developers on his team, while also working closely with business stakeholders and project managers to ensure the project requirements are clearly defined with sufficient progress being achieved. Mark Richards, an experienced software architect and author, commented on the importance of this trait.

“It’s being a technical as well as business domain go-to person, it’s really to help clear roadblocks to the team so they can actually move forward. Being a leader as an architect means providing technical help and guidance, it means to help the team make decisions and form those decisions and validate them, and also to provide motivation to the team and support whether it be technical or non-technical support,” said Richards.

The Ability to Negotiate

Software architects also need to be able to negotiate at times to ensure a technology project proceeds in a smooth fashion. This skill comes into play when first determining the technology stack and basic architecture for an application. Sometimes, stakeholders may want a feature beyond the scope of the project or its budget. Similar negotiations happen with project managers and even the development staff, ensuring buy-in before the actual work commences.

Strong Decision-making is a Must

While the product owner or project manager typically rank higher in the hierarchy of most technology projects, a software architect still needs to possess strong decision-making skills. This especially comes into play regarding the technology stack used on a project, i.e. programming language, database, virtualization platform, etc. A strong-minded and confident approach definitely helps to formulate a robust architecture for a software application.

Collaboration is Vital in Today’s Technology World

It stands to reason any software architect working at a company with a DevOps organizational structure knows how to collaborate with their coworkers. Many enterprises also use architectural teams to define system architectures as a group. In this latter case, being able to share ideas and concepts with other like-minded professionals – in an ego-free fashion – helps ensure the best possible applications are built for the organization. Richards feels a mediator role helps when architectures are defined using a team instead of an individual architect.

In any case, it is obvious the best software architects possess a variety of skills that go beyond writing great code. Consider developing these abilities in your own work to take your software development career to a higher level.

Thanks for reading the Betica Blog; check back soon for additional news and insights from the constantly changing software development world.

How to make DevOps emerge into Maturity

DevOps remains the rage throughout the technology industry. Companies look to its optimized organizational structure that – when combined with the leveraging of state of the art innovations in automation and virtualization – facilitates the production of software faster than ever before. This includes new application development as well as enhancements and bug fixes.

Still, DevOps is a relatively new movement in IT and, as such, it is still maturing. Let’s take a closer look at what’s hampering its adoption in the tech world, with an eye on whether implementing its concepts makes sense for your organization.

Organizations struggle with Change

Many large organizations attempting to embrace DevOps struggle with the large scope of change, spanning the technical, cultural, and structural. Separate teams that formerly ruled over a singular domain now have to work together as one group. This especially impacts the network administration and software engineering roles.

Technical hurdles involving the use of new automation tools as well as the latest in virtualization technology, like Docker, also need to be overcome. Companies already using these tools are more ready to take on the other changes required in a DevOps implementation. As we’ve noted in the past, already having Agile in place as a software development methodology makes it easier to add DevOps to the equation.

Corporate Culture and Legacy Systems hamper DevOps Adoption

A recent survey reported on in ZDNet revealed corporate culture remains the biggest barrier to DevOps at many organizations. In many cases, this “culture” includes a host of legacy systems still in use, in addition to a company structure defined by those singular domains mentioned earlier. Industry pundit, Shashi Kiran, commented on some of the issues hampering DevOps adoption in the IT world.

“Starting out with a clean slate is always relatively easy. Preserving or integrating legacy in brownfield environments is where it becomes both challenging and interesting. For the next several years that’s where the action is. Enterprises that have invested in technology over the past few decades suddenly find that they can now actually create tremendous legacy inertia to move forward. So, while many have adopted DevOps practices, it has begun in pockets across the organization,” said Kiran.

Fostering a Collaborative Spirit at Technology Companies

Getting past any cultural concerns adversely impacting DevOps implementation requires fostering collaboration and teamwork. Once again, this is one of the reasons DevOps works better at companies already familiar with Agile. Chris Cancialosi, Ph.D., a founder at gothamCulture, feels understanding the right metrics is another essential piece in convincing executives their investment in DevOps will pay dividends.

“First, measuring and understanding your current state baseline is critical. A valid and reliable assessment ensures you are in a position to change, assists in helping leaders understand the potential obstacles that currently exist in the system, and helps organize and prioritize the change activities that must happen in order to embed these new ways of working into the cultural fabric of your company,” said Cancialosi.

In short, once everyone realizes the positive difference DevOps, automation, and virtualization makes on the software delivery process, it becomes easier to make the necessary cultural and structural changes to fully embrace this new way of doing things.

Stay tuned to the Betica Blog for additional insights from the wide world of software development. As always, thanks for reading!