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common DevOps Antipatterns

9 Common DevOps Antipatterns and How to Break them

Everyone wants to do DevOps, but before diving into that, it’s best to start with knowledge about DevOps antipatterns. In the good old days, IT engineers just called them “bad ideas”. But as diplomacy and political correctness came along, the term “antipattern” is widely approved today.

We know that “pattern” is the right way to do, then inherently “antipattern” is the wrong one. So what truly is DevOps antipatterns, how can they affect your projects, and how to break them or avoid going wrong? CMC Global has compiled this list to give you an overview of this problem.

What are DevOps antipatterns?

Recurring problems can easily happen when designing a website/ application architecture or setting up an effective coding workflow. This means Software development engineers don’t necessarily have to tackle every problem from scratch, as some can be reused in the same way as code snippets on the micro-level.

Design patterns are generally known as reusable solutions scenarios, which will come in handy to solve any occurring problems. This helps the development team optimize their code and minimize the work to be done. However, DevOps initiative, without a collaborative mindset, will likely fail and become antipatterns.

The term “antipattern” was first introduced in a book called AntiPatterns published in 1998. Also called patterns of failure, it refers to reused solutions that may seem useful in the beginning but turn out to do more harm than good later.

Antipattern can happen for different reasons, for example, those that are not used in the right context, setting, or time, or in which the whole paradigm was bad from the beginning, or a reused code that was effective in the past but may not work in the present.

DevOps antipatterns are reused code that was effective in the past but may not work in the present

“There will be common misconceptions”, Colin Wynd, head of Real-Time Payments Technology at The Clearing House, said in his 2020 DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas. What is more, there are no “cookie-cutter” solution that fit all companies and all software requirements. So, if you want to avoid mistakes made by other organizations, first you need to uncover the main antipatterns in DevOps.

9 DevOps antipatterns to avoid at all costs

Antipattern #1: Thinking it’s all about the DevOps team

DevOps, DevOps antipatterns of team

A DevOps team will not become one just because you name it so. DevOps is more than just a fancy and trendy term. It is an organizational structure, process set, and culture that changes the dynamics of a software team to enhance the software release cycle. As Colin Wynd said, it is the term that consists of all the resources: developers, operations, and information security that bring about the business value.

So, one DevOps team should be formed of existing dev and ops teams, not a separate entity. You should only create a separate DevOps if your long-term goal is to migrate or integrate the existing dev and ops personnel into one. If you are into this approach, be aware of the possible friction between the new and old teams. Another key tenet to bear in mind is that the CI/CD tooling teams do not produce production applications, so the DevOps team is also not synonymous with them.

CIOs and PMs can break this DevOps antipattern with three steps:

Fix underlying processes

In the DevOps infinity loops, it is of great importance to constantly measure the environment and applications to give dev and operations the feedback they need in time. Businesses can do that by implementing continuous integrations, including automated regression testing, security scanning, license monitoring, or code reviewing.

Deployments must be implemented to all environments too so that businesses know how they will perform continuous measurement whether it is dev, quality control, or production.

Structure your teams correctly

A well-structured team in a DevOps organization needs to have all the resources, from dev, infosec, and operations staff working together to reach the ultimate business outcomes. They must be balanced also so that no stuff is mandated and an equal partnership is formed. 

As Wynd said, you don’t want to have a development or an operation takeover – you want a balanced team that is structured correctly. 

Build the right culture

Key principles must be made to build an ideal DevOps culture, such as collaboration, an open attitude towards failure, and continual improvement. In this way, a DevOps organization can evolve and accelerate the code to production time.

Antipattern #2: Too ambitious of taking big steps

big steps and ambitious leads to patterns failure

Many organizations can not handle a direct Waterfall-to-DevOps transition. While we all understand that moving away from Waterfall is necessary, diving straight into DevOps from software practices which are less than Agile, or Agile-like, can possibly lead to instantly drowning.

The secret is to take critical steps, not big jumps.

A sudden jump means a lot of time and effort will be spent to adjust to the new process, experts explained. To break these DevOps antipatterns, first businesses need to have a big picture with carefully planned steps for the transition between different software development methodologies. The recommended process is to go from Waterfall to Water-Scrum-fall, then get an Agile-like approach, full Agile, and finally, to DevOps.

This time will give you the space for cultural, working, and process changes adaptation. Your team will also have the time to understand DevOps to the fullest and get the basics in place.

Antipattern #3: Not deploying code to production

We all know that if an organization doesn’t deploy code to production, it’s not doing DevOps. And to archive this stage, DevOps needs to be a stable and thorough partnership between the 2 teams: dev and ops teams.

However, poor integration or communication can cease deployment. Even though a dev team can drive the DevOps implementation, they don’t have control over the production environment and can’t deploy the code. What they do is get the right tooling, set up a CI process, get it integrated with open sources, as well as the security scan.

If the other half of DevOps: operations teams are not bought into DevOps, or is not aware of the scope of responsibility, the following process can take months with endless meetings, reviews, and so on.

Antipattern #4: Team members don’t know their scopes of responsibility

unclear scopes of responsibility leads to fail projects

This problem seems to pop up in any project, not just limited to the IT ones. Even though the IT segment is a crucial blunder, it is common that team members do not fully understand what really is their responsibility or which part of the system unit they have to take responsibility for.

This leads to the consequences that some team members may interfere with the work of their colleague, or make decisions that are not compatible with the general workflow or technologies. This antipatterns can be found mostly in microservices where several teams are responsible for several microservices.

PMs can break DevOps antipatterns with active internal communication between teams. A good DevOps team pattern will be:

  • All team members work based on a set plan and business strategy
  • The communication chain is properly set up. Each team member knows where they can refer to their questions/ problems.
  • Only CTO or other Lead-level positions make the final decision

Antipattern #5: Specialists lost the entire ecosystem picture while focusing on their tasks only.

scopes of responsibility in software development teams

Unmotivated staff is a common problem that causes inefficient results. This antipattern in DevOps’ typical representative is the individual who only focuses on his/ her job without integrating into the general workflow. They may or may not have the kind of mindset such as “I make it works, so if it doesn’t work on your machine, then it is on you” or “I only need to care about my part, which is my own written piece of code”

CIO need to take good care of these unmotivated team members because finding out the reasons why they act like this can possibly break this antipattern. Project Managers need to be responsible for the communication throughout the teams and frequently check their task distribution to develop the interchangeability of the team members

Antipattern #6: The lack of documentation or manual undocumented changes

documentation in software development projects

Documentation is vital since a new-comer can base on that to bring things together as fast as they can in case of staff turnover or replacement. Thus, infrastructure configurations’ constant changes wouldn’t do any good.

PMs should set standards for the documentation so that it is in a good state with detailed descriptions, from what was configured or deployed, decided made and the reason why, or when it was done. Keeping good documentation rules overall will allow teams to reduce the amount of possible technical debt.

Antipattern #7: Define specific days for implementation.

For experienced PMs, establishing a deadline to implement a DevOps culture is impossible, especially if you have only a starting point or any precise measurable/definable states.

The best thing you can do to break this DevOps antipattern is to define practical KPIs for each stage in the implementation plan. With a practical and possible step-by-step transformation plan, it would be much more efficient for you to see which stage of the project is on the roll and which is a constraint.

The 3 most important DevOps key principles to keep in mind are Flow, Feedback, and Continuous experimentation and learning.

  • Flow: business and dev processes optimization to understand the overall flow of how things are done.
  • Feedback: Understand and constantly respond to the customers about how to speed up the process. 
  • Continuous experimentation: IT engineers will need to dedicate time to new experiments, so try to reward teams for taking risks, and so on.

Antipattern #8: Choose the most hyped technologies for no reason

wrong choice of technology cause devops antipatterns

Technology is changing at an unprecedented speed, reflecting on the rapid development of new technologies. This trend are reflected in conversations such as “My friends and I talked and he recommended Kubernetes to boost our productivity!” or “everybody and their moms are talking about this tool, how about we implement it on our project?” 

Software development trends is something to watch out, but rational decision making plays a key important role in most projects, especially to break any DevOps deployment patterns. The question that all PMs need to keep in mind is: “Do I and my team really need this?”. Keeping this mindset can help them choose between thousands of practices and tools to implement.

Antipattern #9: Bail on software testing and monitoring

testing and monitoring lacking cause devops failures

A good example of these antipatterns is the scenarios in which a startup tries to implement DevOps. Startups are always in a hurry, they have no time for testing and monitoring due to the pressure of quick implementation. And thus, this mindset of focusing on the main product development can lead to failure.

Testing pyramid (unit, integration, system tests) is no chopped liver. It is as important as the development process when no release or small updates can be launched without testing passed. So, you need to implement monitoring tools from day one to be able to quickly recover from incidents or find the system’s pitfalls.