Unlocking the Power of GitOps and DevOps

Hi there! I‘m thrilled to walk you through the symbiotic relationship between two of today‘s most important software innovation movements: GitOps and DevOps. Both approaches have become essential pillars of modern infrastructure, so understanding how they fit together is crucial for engineers and leaders.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll unpack exactly how GitOps and DevOps complement each other to enable unprecedented velocity, reliability and collaboration. I‘ll share insights from my experiences helping implement these practices at enterprise companies.

Let‘s get started!

What is GitOps?

First, a quick overview for any unfamiliar with the term…

GitOps refers to a powerful way of managing infrastructure and applications using Git as the single source of truth. Core components like Kubernetes clusters, CI/CD pipelines, cloud configurations and more are described in Git as code.

This brings DevOps advantages like version control, validation, compliance guardrails and access permissions to critical systems automation.

Infrastructure changes and app deployments are applied by reconciling the desired state in Git with the live state. For example:

  1. A developer updates infrastructure spec in Git repo
  2. Continuous integration systems create/update environments accordingly
  3. The GitOps operator syncs any drift from the Git definition

The key benefit is developers can make changes just by updating Git, while centralized automation handles testing and promotion to production. This massively accelerates deployment velocities.

Other major advantages you gain include:

  • Enhanced stability and disaster recovery through robust declarative infrastructure management
  • Built-in policy enforcement and controls to reinforce reliability
  • Improved collaboration for distributed teams via shared Git flow

Powerful stuff! Leading tech giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Spotify use GitOps practices extensively in their stacks.

Adoption is skyrocketing overall as well:

+-------------+--------------+---------------+
| Year        | Companies    | Growth        |  
+-------------+--------------+---------------+
| 2019        | 1,200        | N/A           |
+-------------+--------------+---------------+
| 2020        | 4,800        | 300%          |    
+-------------+--------------+---------------+
| 2021        | 11,500       | 140%          |
+-------------+--------------+---------------+

Statistics from State of GitOps Report 2021

Now that you have the basics, let‘s contrast this approach with DevOps culture…

What is DevOps?

While GitOps refers specifically to infrastructure automation, DevOps represents an entire cultural movement centered on building software.

The core DevOps vision is developing and operating applications collaboratively, instead of having detached teams and siloed processes. This cross-functional approach enables companies to build better products faster by evolving development, operations, QA and security together.

Some key ways DevOps breaks down barriers:

  • Joint requirements planning incorporating all needs
  • Developers owning code through production instead of "throwing it over the wall"
  • Shared operational responsibilities across teams
  • Security and compliance integrated across cycles
  • Automating manual tasks like deployments and testing

Combined, this brings phenomenal increases in speed, stability and innovation!

On the technical side, popular DevOps advancements include:

  • Infrastructure as code to enable automation
  • Agile development processes like Scrum
  • CI/CD pipeline tools like Jenkins and Spinnaker
  • Monitoring and observability stacks
  • Containers and orchestrators like Kubernetes

Culturally, DevOps also instills extremely impactful principles like empathy, shared goals and blameless problem-solving.

The proof is clear – top performers adopting DevOps ship code up to 30x more frequently while maintaining world class quality and compliance. It‘s revolutionized software!

Alright, now that we‘ve defined each approach, let‘s contrast them…

Comparing GitOps and DevOps

While the concepts seem closely related, GitOps and DevOps take very different perspectives:

Declarative vs Imperative

First, GitOps only focuses on the desired system state, not discrete steps to get there. The platform handles reconciling drift and fixing issues.

DevOps directly runs scripts and commands to walk infrastructure through steps imperatively.

For example, a DevOps process for updating capacity might be:

1. Developer requests new servers
2. Engineer runs terraform script to create servers 
3. Wait for provisioning, configure networks
4. Deploy app containers to new servers
5. Test services on new infrastructure

The same application deployment via GitOps would simply be:

1. Developer updates capacity spec in Git repo
2. Continuous integration creates/updates to match 
3. GitOps sync reconciles any drift

So while DevOps focuses on procedures, GitOps worries solely about outcomes.

Precision vs Collaboration

Further, GitOps centers on maintaining an extremely precise record of system state in Git. This single source of truth provides the reliability and auditability.

DevOps instead emphasizes flexible collaboration, shared ownership and visibility across integrated teams. Cross-functional workflows and culture create organizaitonal alignment.

Open Environment vs Strict Git Workflows

That brings us to environment design. The DevOps model promotes open flows of feedback/communication between all teams. Testing, security, operations – everyone participates jointly.

GitOps however, forces all changes through Git via pull requests and commits. No exceptions. This strict workflow, while limiting, provides safeguards.

Software Lifecycle vs Infrastructure Automation

Finally, While GitOps focuses narrowly on infrastructure automation, DevOps principles apply much more broadly across the entire software lifecycle. Requirements, coding, testing, release – all facets evolve together in a DevOps model.

So in summary:

  • GitOps centers on precise infrastructure state through Git
  • DevOps focuses on flexible development and operations collaboration

Hopefully that breakdown makes the distinction more clear! Now let‘s get into how they work together…

How GitOps Complements DevOps Workflows

While their approaches differ, GitOps and DevOps actually complement each other perfectly.

Some key ways GitOps strengthens DevOps:

  • Reliable infrastructure through declarative management and sync
  • Built-in controls and guardrails reinforce stability
  • Accelerates innovation velocity via self-service provisioning
  • Automates policy enforcement natively in systems

Essentially, DevOps empowers the speed and collaboration, while GitOps provides the safety rails and production controls. This is incredibly powerful!

Concretely, integrations typically look like tying GitOps operators into CI/CD pipelines for progressive test environments. Merge to main deploys to production via GitOps automated sync.

Let‘s walk through exactly how you leverage both together…

Best Practices for joint implementation

Luckily, combining these approaches is straightforward. Generally I coach teams through three phases:

1. Ensure DevOps Culture & Processes

FirstPriority one is instilling values of shared responsibility, empathy, accountability and continuous learning. Break down barriers between contributors across the lifecycle.

This powers joint requirements planning, collaborative coding practices and integrated ops.

2. Automate Testing & Infrastructure Provisioning

With aligned culture set, leverage core DevOps automation like:

  • Infrastructure as code via Terraform/CloudFormation
  • Declarative Kubernetes clusters with Git ops-ready templates
  • CI/CD pipelines with automated policy checks
  • Progressive test environments

This forms the foundation for smooth GitOps integrations later.

3. Implement GitOps for Production Environments

Finally, incorporate specialized GitOps tooling like Flux or Argo CD for pre-production and production.

Configure via:

  • Dedicated production Git repo for single source of truth
  • Lock down permissions to core team
  • Automatic sync on commit for rapid development
  • Policy guardrails enforced before promotion

Following this approach, you garner all the speed and collaboration of DevOps, while GitOps secures and streamlines real-world rollouts. It‘s an unbeatable combo!

Now that you‘ve seen how the approaches work together, let‘s recap key differences…

Core Differences Between GitOps and DevOps

While the concepts align well, some central distinctions remain between GitOps and DevOps:

Infrastructure vs Software Focus

Fundamentally, GitOps centers on infrastructure automation whereas DevOps expands across the entire software lifecycle.

Precise vs Flexible

GitOps focuses on maintaining an extremely precise record of desired infrastructure state. DevOps promotes flexible collaboration across integrated teams instead.

Git-based vs Open Tooling

GitOps relies solely on Git for modifications. DevOps incorporates open toolchains based on need.

Limited vs Holistic Scope

GitOps solves a narrow problem space: infrastructure provisioning/management. DevOps reforms broad organizational culture.

Declarative vs Imperative

GitOps defines end state goals rather than procedures. DevOps executes scripts/commands to drive incremental progress.

Whew, we covered a ton of ground! Let‘s wrap up…

Conclusion: Better Together

In the end, GitOps and DevOps form a profoundly powerful combination.

DevOps breaks down barriers and accelerates application development through product team collaboration and ruthless automation. Cross-functional ownership and continuous improvement fuel innovation.

GitOps integrates with these workflows by adding reliability guarantees. Declarative infrastructure states act as precision guardrails locking in stability. Environments snap to desired configuration.

Together they present the best-of-breed solution: uphill developer velocity without sacrificing an ounce of compliance, security or recoverability.

I passionately encourage software leaders to pursue both DevOps culture AND GitOps patterns in tandem. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions!

All the best,
Bradley