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53 essential resources for DevOps practitioners

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Christopher Null, Freelance writer

The problem with creating any guide to DevOps resources is that the word resources means different things to different people. Is a resource a book? A software tool? A Twitter account?

It’s all of those things, of course, and with that in mind, we’ve set out to create a compendium of essential DevOps referencesa list of critical books, blogs, conferences, tools, and more, all part of the DevOps landscape. This guide isn’t intended to offer the last word on DevOps, but rather it aims to provide the DevOps novice with a variety of starting points to begin the process of mastering the discipline. 

So without further ado, let’s dive into the DevOps world.

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Books

Get grounded on the basics of DevOps with a few of these well-received books that smartly break down the topic:

Designing Delivery: Rethinking IT in the Digital Service Economy: Jeff Sussna offers perspectives on making organizations customer-centric by revamping the product delivery lifecycle, a core DevOps value.

Leading the Transformation: Applying Agile and DevOps Principles at Scale: Gary Gruver and Tommy Mouser offer a CxO-level handbook for executives who want to take the reins in leading organizational transformation. How do you move from legacy thinking to a truly collaborative environment?

Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation: Jez Humble and David Farley’s 2011 text is a classic from the early days of DevOps, one that set out some of the core principles of integrated testing and improved collaboration between development and operations.

Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale: This is another book from Jez Humble, with Joanne Molesky and Barry O’Reilly, this time taking a fresh look at lean principles, with a focus on instilling these practices at every level of an organization, no matter how large and complex it is.

The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win: This really is a novel about DevOps, written by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford. If dry tech textbooks aren’t helping to win hearts and minds over to the DevOps camp, maybe this lively work of fiction comparing IT to a manufacturing plant will.

DevOps for Dummies: Claiming to take a business-centric approach to DevOps, this book by Sanjeev Sharma and Bernie Coyne of IBM is geared to executives but also valuable to practitioners who are new to DevOps and its relationship to the concerns of the front office.

Some additional lists of worthwhile DevOps books include: 

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Conferences

There’s only so much you can learn from books. To really get in the trenches, you need to spend some time hearing from the experts in person and interacting with colleagues. Conferences offer the perfect opportunity for this. Here are six DevOps conferences worth considering, along with the location and timing of the next installment of each. (Note that many of these conferences take place several times a year in different, often international, locations.)

DevOps West (Las Vegas, June 2016): Collocated with Agile Dev West and Better Software West, this conference includes both hands-on tutorials and training, plus executive-level sessions, over six days.

Velocity (Santa Clara, California, June 2016): This is a performance- and availability-focused conference that brings in some of the biggest names on the web for four jam-packed days.

DevOps Summit (New York, June 2016): This tight, three-day event packs in loads of sessions with a focus on cutting-edge design and production strategies—a solid pick for those in the trenches.

Agile2016 (Atlanta, July 2016): This conference is “where Agile tribes meet”—and that means DevOps tribes are rarely far behind. Its broad, five-day exploration of agile topics is relevant to everyone, from the development organization to the C-suite.

O’Reilly Software Architecture Conference (New York, April 2016): A broad-ranging conference with a little bit for everyone, this is a deep, four-day dive into the future of software design.

DevOps Enterprise (TBD): At DOES, some of the top names in DevOps come together for panel discussions and presentations about the IT value stream and ongoing transformation of development work. This year's dates have yet to be set.

Want more? The TechBeacon article "A comprehensive list of the top DevOps conferences in 2016" offers an exhaustive list of dozens of additional conferences, including some highly specialized ones that are worth checking out.

 

Blogs

You might be surprised, but DevOps-focused blogs are tough to find. While a number of bloggers tend to write about DevOps, few do so with any sort of regularity. Some of the biggest names in DevOps have blogs that have been wholly ignored for years. Here are a few that are more regularly updated.

The Agile Admin: A group blog written by four web admins and software developers, updated regularly, with an intense focus on DevOps, agile, and other disciplinary topics.

DevOpsGuys: James Smith is Dev, Steve Thair is Ops. Together they’re the DevOpsGuys, and they write extensively about their adventures in the DevOps game.

XebiaLabs Blog: One of the more heavily updated vendor blogs, XebiaLabs has an intense focus on continuous software delivery, serving up tips and case studies about how to make it happen.

Code as Craft: The dev blog of online merchant site Etsy, which offers an unprecedented, no-holds-barred look at the development practices—and performance metrics—of the popular website. Extremely detailed, it’s a don’t-miss DevOps blog.

Esther Derby: An agile-focused consultant and speaker, Derby blogs infrequently, but when she does, her insights into collaborative development processes are biting and perceptive.

Dominica DeGrandis: LeanKit’s director of learning and development writes semi-regularly about big-picture issues impacting the DevOps world.

DevOps SubReddit: This is not exactly a blog itself, but rather a daily updated list of blogs and other resources that fosters discussion with the community of DevOps enthusiasts.

The Netflix Tech Blog: Another essential corporate dev blog to watch, this regularly updated site takes readers on a deep dive through one of the web’s most complex and highly trafficked infrastructures.

Another lengthy (though quite dated) list of DevOps blogs can be found at StackDriver.

Forums

Got a question about DevOps? Don’t shout it into the ether. Find a kind soul to offer guidance, or share your DevOps lessons learned with others, on one of these web forums.

Spiceworks: A good first step into DevOps includes this all-things-DevOps professional resource forum.

Scrum.org: This forum isn’t DevOps-specific, but the high activity level and overall focus on improving the software development process make it a good place to search for answers and ask for more general advice.

DevOps Meetups: Can’t find help online? Try the real world at a meetup event near you. The original meaning of forum was "out of the house, or out of doors." Getting out and meeting people is a great way to learn and make new contacts.

If your question is tool- or vendor-specific, most DevOps software vendors and consultancies operate robust forums that deal directly with questions about their specific products—for example, IBM, HPE, Docker, Puppet, and Chef. A quick web search will turn up the specific resource you need.

DevOps papers and reports

There are a number of useful whitepapers and other online resources that aren’t just full of marketing hype. This selection will get you started.

World Quality Report 2015-2016: Based on research findings from 1,560 interviews conducted March-May 2015, this includes loads of information about the state of DevOps and DevOps principles. 

Puppet Labs State of DevOps report: This report is based on responses from more than 20,000 tech professionals worldwide. It includes information on DevOps fundamentals, such as organization and management, and focuses on high performance within DevOps via real-world examples.

Top 5 predictions for DevOps in 2016: This report from HP Enterprise describes five key developments that take into consideration a number of factors related to current DevOps practices.

How Mastering DevOps Enables Speed With Quality and Low Cost: This report from Forrester Research helps you understand DevOps, the secret to successful, speedy application delivery, without sacrificing quality.

Twitter

The relative inactivity on DevOps blogs has an upside: increased chatter on the Twitter feeds of DevOps enthusiasts. While you could spend all day digging up insights about #DevOps, let’s boil it down to a smaller number of essential accounts to follow. Some of these names may sound familiar.

Adrian Cockcroft @adrianco - Best known as a cloud architect at Netflix.

Andrew Clay Shafer @littleidea - Director of technology at Pivotal and a DevOps nut.

Martin Fowler @martinfowler - Prolific author and chief scientist at ThoughtWorks.

Gene Kim @RealGeneKim - One of the best-known DevOps enthusiasts, and co-author of The Phoenix Project, noted in the Books section above.

Andi Mann @andimann - A DevOps.com blogger and Sageable’s business technology strategist.

Jez Humble @jezhumble - An author, mentioned in the Books section above, and a VP at Chef.

Charles T. Betz @charlestbetz - Author and pundit on IT architecture topics.

If that’s not enough, check out these fine folks and their Twitter feeds.

Tools

When it’s time to get down and start actually doing DevOps, you’ll probably need some technical help to get things going. This collection of tools represents the most commonly relied upon technologies used in DevOps environments. But remember that they are exactly that: tools, a means to an end.

Configuration management—the creation and deployment of consistent virtual systems, often hundreds at a time—is a major focus of DevOps tactics. A number of software tools can help you manage this, with Puppet and Chef currently the most talked about. You will also want to consider two other categories of software: continuous integration management (dominated by Jenkins), and container-based virtualization (dominated by Docker). Both Jenkins and Docker have considerable followings in the DevOps universe.

Here’s a brief look at some specifics for each of these tools.

Configuration Management

Puppet - This long-running, widely supported cross-platform configuration management tool has been successfully deployed across a vast array of enterprises. Generally considered more focused on the Ops side of DevOps, it is known to be stable, with a large support community.

Chef - Another major config manager, Chef is generally seen as more Dev focused in comparison to Puppet. Chef gets its name from the concept of writing its configuration schema as “recipes” in Ruby. (That makes you the chef.) It supports all major cloud services, making it popular with cloud-centric infrastructures, though some complain about the steep learning curve.

Ansible - A free, Python-based platform for configuration management and software deployment, the Ansible platform has a reputation for simplicity and minimalism so admins can get it running quickly—though that's said to come at the expense of some of the product’s overall capabilities.

SaltStack - Also known simply as Salt, this platform has a focus on modularity that the administrator can leverage based on specific needs. As with Chef, some say mastering the system can initially be difficult.

CFEngine - Perhaps the original configuration management tool (dating back to 1993), CFEngine maintains a vast user base of very large enterprise customers.

Vagrant - A slightly different category of configuration manager, Vagrant creates virtual development environments rather than production environments, which are the domain of all of the above. Vagrant is in a sense a tool for creating replicable sandboxes in which development can take place and is commonly used so development staff members can all work in an identically configured development space.

Continuous Integration

Jenkins - A leading continuous integration tool, Jenkins does the back-end work of merging code files at regular intervals during the production day.

Container-Based Virtualization

Docker - A Linux-oriented deployment automation system, Docker pioneered the concept of containers, which are in essence a more advanced and compact version of virtual machine technology. In a Docker container, everything needed to make an application run is packaged together, ensuring it will operate no matter what environment it is in.

Let us hear from you!

As noted in the introduction, this guide isn't intended to be exhaustive. Rather, it provides essential guidance that can get you started with DevOps or help you in your current journey. Please comment if you think there are any essential resources we've missed—especially those that have been important to you and your team.

 

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