Implementing an efficient DevOps toolchain has become indispensable for organizations striving to achieve agility, scalability, and accelerated time-to-market. However, as DevOps environments grow in complexity, maintaining control, compliance, and security across the entire software delivery lifecycle becomes increasingly challenging. Hence the need for a governance platform.
This article discusses the evolving landscape of DevOps toolchains and how governance can help manage the chaos they can cause. We will also answer the popular question, “Does a governance platform come at the expense of developer velocity?” After reading this article, you’ll come away with the four key features you need in a governance platform.
The evolving landscape of DevOps toolchains
In the past, a typical DevOps toolchain consisted of a relatively small set of tools focused on specific DevOps tasks such as version control, build automation, and deployment. However, with the adoption of cloud computing, microservices, containerization, and other technological advancements like platform engineering, the complexity of toolchains significantly increased.
Today’s toolchains encompass many tools for application delivery, including continuous integration (CI) servers, configuration management tools, infrastructure provisioning tools, container orchestration platforms, monitoring and logging systems, etc. Although the expanded toolchain ecosystem brings immense potential, it also introduces new challenges for organizations.
Challenges when scaling your DevOps toolchain
One of the key challenges in a growing DevOps toolchain is managing the growing number of tools and their interdependencies. With multiple DevOps teams using different tools, ensuring compatibility and seamless integration becomes complex. Also, maintaining visibility into the entire toolchain and managing access controls across different tools become challenging.
Another challenge is the lack of standardized practices and configurations across the toolchain. Inconsistencies in tool configurations can lead to issues in deployment — as well as increased cognitive load, security vulnerabilities, and performance bottlenecks. Ensuring adherence to best practices and compliance standards becomes critical but difficult in a decentralized toolchain environment. Organizations are recognizing the need for a governance platform to address these challenges.
A governance platform is a centralized solution that provides visibility, control, and standardization across the DevOps toolchain ecosystem. It is a single source of truth, offering a comprehensive view of all tools, configurations, and integrations within the toolchain. It enables organizations to track tools’ usage, health, and performance, facilitating effective management and troubleshooting.
Does a governance platform come at the expense of developer velocity?
Seeing the “centralized” nature of a governance platform, developers ideally would start to think about its effects on their application development velocity. The relationship between governance and developer velocity is not inherently negative. Still, it can vary depending on how an organization implements and enforces governance.
Strict and rigid governance can sometimes create bottlenecks and decelerate the development process. If you burden developers with excessive bureaucracy, lengthy approval DevOps processes, or a lack of autonomy, their velocity and efficiency can indeed be impeded. However, an effective governance platform can also facilitate developer velocity in several ways, for example:
- Shift-left testing: Shift-left testing is an approach that involves testing early and continuously throughout the development process rather than waiting until the end. A governance platform can incorporate automated testing tools and practices, encouraging developers to perform testing during development. This tactic catches bugs and issues early on, reducing the time spent on bug-fixing in later stages of development and improving overall velocity.
- Reducing technical debt: Technical debt can significantly hinder a development team’s velocity. A governance platform can enforce guidelines and code quality standards that encourage developers to address technical debt as they go. By investing time and effort in code refactoring and maintenance enforced by the governance platform, technical debt is reduced, making the codebase more maintainable and allowing for faster development in the future.
- Compliance and risk mitigation: Adhering to regulatory requirements is crucial for certain industries. Governance ensures that developers follow compliance guidelines, reducing the risk of legal issues and costly penalties.
Organizations should adopt a governance platform that supports developers and encourages productivity while ensuring compliance, security, and quality to strike the right balance.
Four key features you need in a DevOps governance platform
By adopting the right governance platform, businesses can strike the perfect balance between speed, control, and security — thus achieving DevOps excellence while safeguarding their software development processes.
To help you make an informed decision, the four essential features below form the foundation of a successful DevOps governance platform.
The best feature you need in a governance platform is platform engineering. Platform engineering is the process of designing and building toolchains based on best practices, industry standards, and the experiences of software engineers in the organization. You deliver these toolchains through an integrated product called an “internal developer platform”.
An internal developer platform enables developer self-service. Developer self-service is an approach that empowers individual developers to access and utilize tools and services without depending on external assistance or approvals. This increases developer productivity.
Creating your DevOps toolchain through platform engineering paves golden paths that reduce cognitive load and standardize your infrastructure operations and software delivery process.
Effective policy management is crucial for enforcing the desired standards and best practices across a DevOps workflow. Your ideal governance platform should allow you to define, customize, and enforce policies for security, compliance, code quality, and deployment processes.
The first State of Cloud Native Policy Management report by Nirmata, the creators of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) project Kyverno, revealed that nearly 50% of cloud native production environments had adopted some level of policy management. Though adoption has come with its challenges, the benefits greatly outweigh them.
Aside from the ability to write policy-as-code, your ideal governance platform should enable you to test those policies before pushing them to production. The image below shows how Mia-platform’s policy editor helps developers write and test policies side by side.