Businesses want both stability and agility in their software releases. To achieve this goal, IT organizations draw on two forms of software development and modernization: DevOps and Build and Release Engineering.
The two aren’t in any way conflicting approaches; rather, DevOps and Build and Release Engineering work together in CI/CD (Continuous Integration & Continuous Delivery) software development environments.
The Difference Between Build and Release Engineering and DevOps Engineering
The Origins of DevOps Engineering
In the old days of software development, the typical organization had two main IT groups.
First, you had UI developers who mainly focused on building software products with the latest features and technologies. Second, you had IT operations people who, above all, had focused on keeping the software build stable.
In those old days, the developers and IT ops people continuously clashed. The developers asked, “Hey, why aren’t we updating our apps?” And IT ops responded with, “because you haven’t tested your code, and it isn’t ready for release.”
If we step back, neither side was wrong. To stay ahead of your competitors, you must update your applications with new features consistently. But on the other hand, if your new software build triggers downtime, you might end up losing a lot of customers.
So, to reconcile these opposing forces, the industry came up with ‘DevOps.’ Basically, DevOps started out with the developers and IT operations people teaching each other their trade, and above all, collaboration to reach a common goal.
With DevOps, organizations managed to cut down on the finger-pointing between developers and operations. Moreover, they developed a system that made the developer accountable for their code throughout the process (i.e., development, testing, production, etc.).
However, since then, DevOps evolved into much more than developer-operations teamwork — the ‘DevOps Engineer’ is an automation specialist.
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DevOps Today: The Automation Specialist
Today’s DevOps person is responsible for automating cloud deployments. They do this by managing CI/CD pipelines, writing IaC (i.e., Infrastructure as Code), and configuring tools.
Cloud automation is an integral piece of cloud-native software engineering. If the goal of DevOps was to reconcile software stability with faster delivery and output, then with automation, DevOps takes both to a higher level.
As an example, DevOps ensures stable release management by automating your backups and disaster recovery. The DevOps specialist will write an IaC script that’ll make recovering the data a swift process and, in turn, reduce downtime.
This is only one example. With DevOps’ configuration management support, you can set-up a wide range of tools to automate testing, quality assurance, disaster prevention, etc.
Build and Release Engineers
As you can see, there are a lot of roles you can do within DevOps. One of those roles is Build and Release Engineering. You’ll find a lot of commonality between this role and the role of the stability-focused IT operations people of the past.
The goal of a Build & Release Engineer is to release better quality software at a consistent and frequent rate. In other words, achieve stability and stay ahead of the market (together).
Some of the work Build & Release engineers do include, among others:
They’ll add traceability to the code to make it more reliable. Also, they’ll use Git and other tools as version control repositories.
Automate Build & Release Processes/Pipelines
Build & Release Engineers will integrate CI/CD to raise the speed and reliability of your software releases.
These engineers will also ensure consistency across your software cycle: development, testing, staging, and production.
Production & Deployment
Finally, Build & Release Engineers will also help with troubleshooting and bug-fixing by tying all of your production-stage releases to their origin. So if there’s a problem, the engineers will trace it back to the source, and in turn, solve the problem from that point.
In terms of software engineering, Build and Release requirements center on automation. A key method of releasing consistently stable software is to eliminate human error.
So when it comes to testing for quality, bugs, etc., you want automated systems to check, not people. Why? Well, people make mistakes, machines don’t.
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Next Steps to DevOps, Build Engineering and Release Management
DevOps and Build & Release Engineering play a vital role in driving the development of cloud-native applications. However, to achieve that, you need a complete team of experienced DevOps engineers who know how to use a lot of CI/CD tools, cloud hosting environments, etc.
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