DevOps is now the norm for many firms when it comes to building new software. This practice, which combines the development cycle and operations activities into a single methodology, offers a wide range of benefits.
Companies deploying DevOps can enjoy advantages such as a faster time to market, fewer errors, quicker resolution of any issues that do arise, improved scalability and greater productivity within their team.
However, how can you be sure that you're actually reaping the rewards of this methodology? It would be a major mistake to go to the time and expense of implementing DevOps and then simply assume it’ll deliver on its promise.
If you're not keeping a close eye on how your solutions are performing in the real world throughout the DevOps lifecycle, you could be missing out on major savings or persisting with poor practices that are harming your productivity. And this is where measuring critical metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) comes in.
The benefits of measuring DevOps
Being able to accurately measure your DevOps activities delivers a number of benefits. These include:
- Better collaboration: Understanding where your team is performing well together and where any gaps in communication are occurring helps you streamline operations and make sure everyone is working effectively.
- Eliminating bottlenecks: Are DevOps activities frequently falling behind schedule? Being able to look at the right metrics lets you pinpoint where any inefficiencies or slowdowns are occurring and what's causing them.
- Faster deployment: Measuring the right KPIs can tell you when rollouts are failing to meet expectations, allowing you to devote more resources to these efforts.
- Increased application quality: Being able to identify what type of errors are occurring and what problems this leads to lets you effectively make changes and roll out updates more efficiently.
- Reducing unplanned work: Higher quality applications means you can spot potential issues before they lead to a problem, meaning less downtime, reduced pressure on dev teams and, ultimately, happier end users.
7 DevOps metrics and key performance indicators to watch
There are a wide range of metrics and KPIs you can monitor in order to gain improved visibility into your DevOps processes. However, tracking them all can quickly lead to information overload and leave you unclear as to what the figures are actually telling you. Therefore, it pays to narrow down your focus to a few critical parameters that you should not do without. Here are seven you need to be paying attention to.
1. Availability and uptime
One of the most critical measures of how an app is performing, uptime stats give you clear insight into the availability of your app to end users - the higher the figure, the better. While full 100% availability is unrealistic, 'highly available' apps need to be reporting an uptime of at least 99.99%. The difference between 99% and 99.999% can equate to several days per year, resulting in huge variances in productivity when spread over a large organization.
2. Deployment frequency
This refers to how often changes are being made to the app to add new features or capabilities. Usually, a higher frequency is better as it means the app is being regularly improved, but this isn’t always the case, as too many adjustments in too short a time can bring in new bugs. Ideally, you want to see the number remain stable or gradually increase as smaller refinements and tweaks are made. A decrease in frequency can be an indicator of bottlenecks within your development process.
3. Deployment time
When you do make changes, how long does the update process take? Short deployment times are usually essential to the smooth running of an app, but if they're too short this could indicate speed is being prioritized over accuracy. Again, this metric should be relatively stable, with any significant increases in time being cause for concern.
4. Change failure rate
Metrics to measure how successful changes are once applied are also vital. Specifically, you should be looking at the extent to which new releases lead to unexpected outages or other unplanned failures. Ideally, top-performing DevOps teams should be reporting a change failure rate of between 0 and 15%. A high failure rate - anything above 40% - suggests serious existing issues within your processes that need to be addressed.
5. Mean time to detection (MTTD)
When things do go wrong, how effective is your team at identifying it and diagnosing the problem? Even if you have a low change failure rate, if it's taking too long to spot any issues it’ll impact performance and lead to unhappy users, as well as allow minor bugs to snowball into something much more serious and hard to fix.
6. Mean time to recovery (MTTR)
Related to the above, this measures how long it takes to actually fix an issue once diagnosed. This is an essential metric as it highlights how effectively your team is working and whether your processes are fit for purpose. A key principle of DevOps is that frequent, small changes are easier to deploy and therefore easier to fix when problems arise, so if it's taking a long time to correct complex problems, this is a sure sign your practices aren’t meeting these goals.
7. Defect volume and escape rate
Just because a change has deployed successfully, this doesn’t mean there won’t be minor issues to address. Defect volume looks at how many bugs are being recorded that, while not serious enough to result in an outage, can still harm the end user experience. The fewer of these that are being reported, the better - though recorded zero is usually an impossible goal.
A related metric is defect escape rate - how many of these bugs escape detection until the production stage of the life cycle and are flagged by users, as opposed to being picked up by the dev team during pre production. Together, these give an indication of how effective your quality assurance processes are.
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