Faced with impractical deadlines and client demands, it's easy to think that cutting corners and rushing through the software development process is the only way to meet these challenges. Yet when you don’t have a good strategy in place, delivering software at the speed the market demands leads to overtime, employee burnout, and the use of short-term hacks to boost development speed.
Fortunately, there are ways to accelerate software development without compromising quality or driving your teams to exhaustion. DevOps is one popular solution. Cloud-enabled DevOps takes productivity one step further, and in this article, we’ll look at what it is and how you can implement it for the best results. We also showcase how cloud-based DevOps works in practice by referencing one of our GCP projects throughout the article.
But first, a question: Why are your hard-working developers always behind schedule in the first place?
Factors That Impact Software Development Speed
Let’s look at the things that affect software development speed the most.
Development process complexity
A project's technical scope, programming language, and functional complexity naturally affect development speed. On the management side, unclear or changing project requirements and limited resources can lead to rushed decision-making and missed deadlines.
Code quality is crucial to keep development moving fast after the first few weeks of a product. Spending more time writing well-structured, high-quality code makes for a slower start but avoids the technical debt that accumulates with later patches, shortcuts, and suboptimal solutions.
Striking the right balance between development speed and quality is always a challenge. But when done right, it can minimize refactoring and maintenance time and lead to faster development.
Faced with an impending deadline, throwing more people at a project can be tempting. Yet extending a team doesn’t always streamline development—in fact, it eventually slows it down, given the time required to onboard new arrivals. Computer scientist Fred Brooks popularized this outcome, now known as Brooks’ law: “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”
Third-party libraries, frameworks, APIs, tools, and other external services can have both a positive and negative impact on development speed. Stable and well-documented dependencies (such as a third-party payment gateway) let developers solve common problems without reinventing the wheel.
But on the flip side, managing multiple external solutions, especially when they are interdependent, can increase the time needed for configuration, customization, and updates.
Your choice of software development methodology can also influence project speed and deadlines.
- Waterfall sequential approach provides a clear structure, but delays in one phase can cause ripple effects on the entire project timeline.
- Agile development with Scrum, Crystal, extreme programming (XP), and feature-driven development (FDD) prioritizes flexibility, collaboration, and an iterative approach that can all speed up development. Nevertheless, poor Agile implementation creates friction that slows down production and delivery.
- Rapid application development (RAD) aims to deliver high-quality functional prototypes quickly, allowing users to provide feedback early in the development process. This works well with small- to medium-size deliveries with well-defined objectives, but can choke or stifle larger projects.
As you can see, the choice of methodology can either benefit or hinder development speed. To streamline custom software development, it's vital to choose the right methodology based on a project's nature, goals, team size, and requirements.
This section has summarized just some of the reasons software development slows down. But since these things are intertwined, you can't just take one problem, fix it, and expect to move faster. To improve the pace of development, you need to consider your entire workflow and adopt more efficient coding practices.
This is where cloud-enabled DevOps comes in.
Understanding Cloud-Enabled DevOps
Cloud-enabled DevOps is the practice of integrating cloud services, infrastructure, and automation into the traditional DevOps workflow. It aims to streamline and optimize the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC), from coding to deployment and monitoring.
Cloud-enabled DevOps offers several advantages over traditional DevOps practices:
- Scalability. Cloud hosting and resource management ensure optimal performance as resources can be scaled up and down on demand.
- Abstract infrastructure management. Developers can focus on writing code rather than managing hardware, as cloud services abstract the underlying infrastructure.
- Global accessibility. Cloud environments remove geographical boundaries and enhance collaboration among distributed teams. With eight in ten people working in a hybrid environment or remotely, accessibility is a significant advantage.
- Flexibility. With cloud-enabled DevOps, development teams can define infrastructure as code (IaC) to deploy and configure resources automatically (we will expand on it later). This ensures consistent and repeatable deployment processes, which minimizes errors and speeds up application release cycles.
While cloud-enabled DevOps lays the foundation for streamlined development, choosing the right cloud platform and tools is essential to get the full benefit.
Cloud Providers and Tools for DevOps: A Comparison
Leading cloud solutions such as AWS, GSP, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud can help you implement DevOps practices in cloud environments. Let’s take a closer look at what they offer.
AWS is known for its robust ecosystem and community support. It provides tools for securely storing and versioning your application's source code and end-to-end DevOps automation. It takes over manual tasks, which allows developers to easily control and manage complex environments.
AWS also offers IaC, which lets you quickly and easily provision, configure, and manage your infrastructure resources using code and templates. Finally, Amazon DevOps Guru is an ML-powered service that helps detect abnormal application behavior and identify operational issues before they affect your product performance.
Formerly known as Visual Studio Team Services, Azure DevOps offers integrated planning, development, testing, delivery, and monitoring tools. It also provides native support for Agile processes (Scrum and Kanban), reporting, and configurable dashboards.
Azure DevOps includes features like version control, CI/CD pipelines, work item tracking, automated testing, and monitoring. The platform supports flexible Git hosting with effective code reviews, unlimited free repositories, and built-in advanced security and compliance.
GCP is currently the smallest among the three major public clouds. It offers a suite of tools and services that support DevOps practices, allowing organizations to develop, deploy, and manage applications efficiently.
With GCP, DevOps teams can use services like
- Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) for container orchestration
- Cloud Build for CI/CD pipelines
- Cloud Source Repositories for version control
- The Google Cloud Operations suite for monitoring and logging
GCP's emphasis on automation, scalability, and integration facilitates seamless team collaboration, helping software development companies deliver faster and more reliably.
IBM offers several tools and solutions that support DevOps practices for streamlining software development and delivery. With IBM DevOps Services, teams can collaborate, manage code, automate builds, and monitor applications. Furthermore, UrbanCode Deploy allows for automated application deployment across different environments.
IBM also supports continuous testing and integration with its Rational Team Concert and Rational Quality Manager solutions.
As you can see, all four cloud providers offer comprehensive support for cloud-based DevOps. As a result, your final choice may come down to aspects such as pricing, scalability, or ease of use, as summarized in the following table.
How Cloud-Enabled DevOps Accelerates Software Development
As code progresses to production, it passes through many different environments. Cloud-enabled DevOps speeds up the journey by providing tools and automated processes for seamless deployment, testing, and monitoring at each stage.
Here’s a look at the main features of cloud-enabled DevOps.
Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment/Delivery (CI/CD)
CI/CD practices use automation to ensure swift and consistent integration, testing, and deployment of code changes throughout the SDLC. With CI/CD, development teams can make frequent changes to the codebase and rest assured that each change undergoes automated validation before delivery.
Continuous integration ensures constant testing of code changes to detect issues early in the development cycle. Continuous delivery and deployment, in turn, automate the process of packaging and deploying code changes to different environments, ensuring reliability and efficiency in software delivery. Working together, these practices minimize the need for manual intervention, reduce human error, and accelerate deliveries to the production environment.
CI/CD lies at the core of our DevOps processes at Techstack. As an example, for one partner project, we use a pipeline that builds Node.js applications, places them in different Docker images, and deploys them to the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) Cloud Run service.
The pipeline runs on the CircleCI platform, which is simple, intuitive, and user-friendly. CircleCI is a SaaS solution, which means we don't need to worry about maintaining, updating, or patching the tool itself—all these tasks are handled under the hood.
Software Configuration Management (SCM) branching
Сode branching involves creating separate lines (branches) of development within a codebase to work independently on different features, fixes, or experiments. Branching helps facilitate parallel coding, minimize conflicts, maintain code quality, and make faster releases. Once the code is tested, it’s merged into the main codebase (master branch).
Code branching is essential when multiple developers are working together and pushing code changes simultaneously. The right branching strategy can save time and effort as well as prevent the deployment of broken code.
At Techstack, teams adopt different branching strategies based on the project and team size. For instance, we use GitHub as our SCM system, with GitFlow branching in one of our larger projects. With this setup, when new changes are introduced to the development branch, they’re automatically deployed to the development environment where the QA engineers run tests.
For projects in the early stages, we often use a Proof of Concept (PoC) to demonstrate feasibility. In each case, we use automation CI/CD tools (like Jenkins, GitLab, GitHub Actions, or already mentioned CircleCI) and a trunk-based development strategy to rapidly showcase results. As a project progresses, the branching strategy can evolve based on team size and product complexity.
Infrastructure as Code
IaC entails using a high-level descriptive coding language that automates IT infrastructure provisioning.
IaC helps create and version infrastructure to:
- Avoid inconsistency among IT environments
- Prevent configuration drift by provisioning the same environment every time
- Reduce the risk of errors (especially for large projects with hundreds of simultaneous deployments every day)
- Seamlessly manage updates, ensuring consistent infrastructure growth
- Help businesses quickly respond to developer and user demands
Tools like Terraform and CloudFormation are useful for defining and managing infrastructure as code. While CloudFormation primarily focuses on provisioning resources within the Amazon Web Services ecosystem, Terraform is designed to work across various cloud providers, including AWS and on-premises environments.
Both tools promote reusability and allow developers to version-control their configuration code or templates. This ensures that all changes are tracked and documented and can be easily reverted.
For example, the IaC approach enabled a four-member DevOps team at Techstack to effectively manage an entire GCP infrastructure for multiple tenants of a large corporation. We used Terraform and handled orchestration through Terraform Enterprise (TFE). This approach offered us numerous advantages, including
- Great organization of infrastructure within the code
- A rollback option in the event of deployment issues
- Code reusability through Terraform modules
- The ability to provide user granular access to a workspace (GitHub repository with code) and fulfill specific actions (e.g., demonstrating how the infrastructure would be deployed without carrying out the actual deployment)
As a result, we can maintain consistent environments for testing and production.
Logging and monitoring
In DevOps, logging and monitoring ensure the reliability and security of software applications. Monitoring helps you track real-time software performance metrics, resource utilization, and software health indicators. Logging, in turn, is all about capturing and storing the data inside logs, giving you insights into the behavior of your applications and infrastructure.
For instance, we used Google Cloud Platform for logging and monitoring in the aforementioned project. It allows us to capture, store, analyze, and visualize logs and metrics from various resources and services within the GCP ecosystem. This happens without additional effort, deployment costs, or management of third party logging/monitoring apps.
We used GCP operations monitoring and logging when deploying ML models on different devices located in the plants. We tracked the product quality and defects on a conveyor to capture important metrics and logs related to software performance and behavior. The captured data was sent to the cloud, where we set up alerts based on predefined thresholds (e.g., CPU, RAM, disk utilization, camera temperature, fps drop, etc.) or application errors.
This allowed us to monitor the model's performance and get notified via email, Google Chat, and Slack when it deviated from expected norms. In addition, advanced SRE observability provided by GCP allowed us to track the product efficiency and performance by predefined SLI and SLO.
Cloud-enabled DevOps integrates automated security testing, such as static and dynamic analysis. Also, when used during the CI stage, these tests help detect security weaknesses before they become critical issues in production. Automated alerts and predefined response actions allow developers to react quickly and minimize the impact of security incidents.
Cloud platforms facilitate efficient security management through automated updates and patching. This ensures that software components are up to date and reduces vulnerability. In addition, DevOps practices let you perform regular penetration testing without disrupting production systems.
Finally, automated alerts and predefined response actions allow faster incident response, minimize the impact of security incidents, and shorten recovery times.
At Techstack, we use GCP’s Security Command Center to get comprehensive insights into:
- Areas of infrastructure improvement
- Firewall rules worth considering (misconfiguration, overlapping rules, etc.)
- Areas where the least privilege principle might be violated
Additionally, we use SonarCloud to scan code, enhance code quality, and identify vulnerabilities.
Adopting cloud-enabled DevOps isn’t the only option to accelerate development pace. Let’s check what other tools and practices can cater to that need.
Other Ways To Accelerate Your Software Development Process
Fast software development with frequent updates is never a risk-free endeavor. While DevOps lays the foundation for efficient deployment of new features, it lacks tools to monitor how updates affect product stability. This is where Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) steps in.
Site reliability engineering
SRE uses tools to ensure applications deploy smoothly and maintain high availability, performance, and robustness in projects with frequent code updates. SRE is especially useful for managing large systems, as it automates tasks like system management and application monitoring.
SRE uses the concept of error budgets to achieve a balance between system stability and developer agility. An error budget quantifies the maximum acceptable level of service disruption. When an error budget is exhausted, operation teams restrict changes and updates to maintain a positive user experience.
SRE is responsible for
- Incident management. It mitigates incidents to minimize downtime and disruptions, and uses postmortem to understand root causes.
- Observability. SRE establishes metrics such as SLIs (Service Level Indicators) that show how well a service is doing (in terms of availability, latency, throughput, etc.) at a particular instant, and SLOs (Service Level Objectives)—the desired SLI value over a specific period.
- Demand forecasting and capacity planning. SRE ensures you have enough resources to meet demand and your reliability goals.
- Change management. SRE supports planning, implementing, and tracking system or application changes to ensure they are introduced smoothly and do not negatively impact reliability.
At Techstack, we implement SRE practices in large projects to enhance monitoring and incident management. We measure SLIs to monitor aspects like app availability and business efficiency.
For some projects, we use SRE incident response practices. This involves assigning an incident commander—a main person who handles the incident response, and involving other team members when necessary. After an incident, we conduct a postmortem to analyze its causes and progression, which helps address similar incidents in the future.
Adopting cloud-enabled DevOps promotes collaboration, takes over manual configuration, and streamlines software releases. It gives you tools to coordinate different tasks and stages logically, boosting your productivity and ensuring compliance with security standards. All of these advantages accelerate time-to-market and ultimately increase your profits.
Nevertheless, implementing cloud-enabled DevOps on your own is challenging, especially if you’re a company aiming high with limited resources. A reliable software development company and partner can set you up to get the most out of the process and enhance your productivity.
At Techstack, we provide the full spectrum of cloud application development services. We’re here to help you streamline development through IaC, advanced security, and the principles and practices of site reliability engineering. Contact us to begin streamlining your product development journey.