Software product development and maintenance require constant development, integration, deployment, and testing. Different teams handle each of these modules; hence, a smooth workflow requires uninterrupted collaboration. For this purpose, many organizations use the concepts of DevOps. DevOps introduces tools and practices to automate workflows and bridge gaps across multiple teams. A modern implementation of DevOps, GitOps, uses the popular version control system, Git, to maintain the application environment infrastructure.
Let’s discuss how GitOps and DevOps fare against each other in improving development and deployment operations.
What is DevOps?
DevOps is a cultural paradigm that combines Development and Operations within an organization for smoother delivery of software products. It encourages team collaboration by removing silos between the developers and the IT professionals. The product life-cycle encounters minimum errors and blockers due to effective cross-team communication and automation of development and deployment processes.
DevOps brings Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) to the software development lifecycle. CI/CD principles save developers time and effort by automating software integration, testing, and deployment using tools like Jenkins and CircleCI. Automations ensure quicker delivery and reduce the risk of passing erroneous code to the production environment.
Software products require constant improvement, innovation, and support, which is why the DevOps process becomes a loop of constant development, testing, and deployment. This loop typically follows the following stages:
Planning: Creating a path for the project development, including milestones and final deliverables
Code: Writing code for the actual program. The code may be for building a project from scratch, adding new features, or fixing bugs
Build: Developers push their written code to a shared repository where senior members manually review it. This also automatically triggers the codebase to be rebuilt. If the build fails, developers are alerted. The Continuous Integration (CI) process allows for seamless integration of the code to the master codebase without any manual effort
Test: Shifting the codebase to a sandbox environment after review, where it goes through manual and automated testing. This step assesses code quality and notifies developers if any changes are needed. The deployment of the codebase to the sandbox environment happens via Continuous Delivery (CD)
Deploy: Pushing the tested codebase to the production environment. This is an automated process as DevOps takes care of the CD process and sets up the environment for the new changes to be reflected. The changes are now visible to the client
Operate: Once code deployment completes, it falls to the IT team to ensure that the server environment operates properly. Environment administration includes network maintenance and server load balancing
Monitor: Monitoring application usage to check for any downtimes, slowness, bugs, crashes, etc. These issues concern the IT and development teams and require them to collaborate for quick fixing
Feedback: Data and feedback collected from stakeholders in the production environment help to plan further improvements and take the cycle back to step 1
These practices help developers deliver a quality product, fulfilling all client requirements within the shortest time possible. A modern DevOps best practice involves the use of Git for efficient deployment of IT infrastructure. Let’s discuss it in detail below.
What is GitOps?
GitOps is a framework based on DevOps principles that use Git to maintain Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC). Git is a popular version control system (VCS) that developers use worldwide to maintain codebases. Several source code management, such as GitHub, use the Git framework to offer developers functionalities like branching and code history.
Like the codebase, the IT infrastructure is equally important for successfully delivering a software product. IaC allows system administrators to compile the entire IT infrastructure required for the project using configuration files. These configuration files are constantly updated according to project needs and deployed to the production environment. GitOps introduces Git as the single source of truth for the infrastructure configurations and becomes an imperative part of the Continuous Integration/ Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline.
Under GitOps, the Git VCS tracks the system infrastructure. It keeps a history of every change made to the configurations. GitOps enables the continuous deployment (CD) of the infrastructure code by constantly syncing the production environment with the source (Git Repo). Keeping the production environment in sync with a reference environment has several benefits:
Development teams can experiment with environment configurations in the reference repository and push the most stable versions to production
Alerts are issued to the concerned authorities when unexpected changes are detected
Git quickly allows the system administrators to revert to an older version in case of errors
GitOps speeds up operations by automating the infrastructure deployment process. It also provides an additional layer of security by allowing system administrators to limit user access to files and actions (e.g., the ability to deploy to production).
DevOps and GitOps side-by-side
Although GitOps builds its functionality on the principles defined by DevOps, both these concepts serve different purposes. DevOps is a culture that enhances development and deployment efficiency using several tools. GitOps mostly focuses on the deployment infrastructure's maintenance using Git for version tracking. The table below displays a detailed comparison.
A concept defining certain working principles for quicker and smoother operations
A framework to handle CD of infrastructure configuration
Not confined to any particular tool. As a matter of fact, DevOps culture can include multiple tools to maintain a CI/CD pipeline
Mainly uses Git. Secondary tools include Kubernetes and IaC
Offers more flexibility in choosing implementation patterns
Offers less flexibility due to heavy reliance on Git
Focuses on automated workflows, and frequent deployments
Focuses on maintaining production environment error-free by constantly syncing the production code with a standardized repository
Removes silos between teams and facilitates collaboration between developers
Uses Git to keep deployment infrastructure in sync with the source repository.
It is easy to confuse these concepts as being interchangeable or being subsets on one another when, in reality, their implementations are independent. An organization following the DevOps culture may not use GitOps; conversely, an organization using GitOps may not necessarily follow the complete DevOps lifecycle.
A robust continuous integration and delivery pipeline produces high-quality software products. DevOps promises to refine these pipelines by improving team communication for effective development and automating essential steps such as testing and deployment. DevOps, as a practice, brings together development and operations.
GitOps is one such implementation of DevOps that uses Git and focuses on the continuous and accurate deployment of infrastructure as code. It aids system administrators by keeping a track record of all the changes to the development environment. It ensures that the production environment behaves as expected, allows easy switching between different versions of the configurations, and provides better access control for different users.