There are many reasons why DevOps is becoming a more popular approach in today’s development landscape. Over the last three years, adoption has increased by an average of 7% in organizations, with 2019 set to see even more growth. The methodology is designed to allow for rapid iterations without sacrificing flow, improve cost-effectiveness (and productivity in general), and increase quality and accuracy. As more companies adopt this development approach, the demand for capable DevOps engineers is increasing.
Unfortunately, there is still significant ambiguity between what companies expect from DevOps engineers—the requirements that need to be met to be effective in this role—and what today’s DevOps engineers can provide. From experience, I’ve seen the most common knowledge gap lie with having an understanding of Linux and how it sits as the foundation of DevOps on an enterprise level.
Linux and DevOps: A Relationship
It’s important to remember that the majority of enterprises today are running development projects which already have Linux supporting their operations. Although I realize there’s areas of DevOps that focus on Windows, the majority of projects in your DevOps future will, at their core, be Linux-based. Some companies even go as far as developing their own Linux distro with custom capabilities.
Admittedly, there are opportunities out there for Windows DevOps engineers. After all, we now have a huge increase in the number of startups and new companies entering the software development world. However, the majority of employers are using a form of operating system based on Linux. Which is why knowledge of Linux is an essential component to have within your background as part of a solid foundation of experience to succeed as a DevOps engineer.
Which brings us to our next point.
Covering the Basics
Before I get flamed for this article, I want to be clear: you don’t have to be an expert in Linux to be a DevOps engineer, but you cannot neglect the operating system either. Aside from a general understanding of Linux, you also want to be able to cover some detailed aspects of the platform, system administration, and networking.
The reason behind mastering these three basics is simple: you will be asked about them when you have interviews for DevOps roles. DevOps engineers are required to demonstrate a wide breadth of both technical and cultural knowledge. Part of that comprehensive know-how should, therefore, include understanding how to best maintain a healthy development environment during the early stages. Engineers are also required to keep working systems stable—all while preparing for testing and deployment.
It doesn’t stop there. Networking knowledge means you can configure the network to better suit the needs of the applications in development or its microservices. The latter may require complex communication, routing, and rules, especially when the microservices are designed to work across multiple cloud environments.
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Getting Started with DevOps and Linux
In order to be a great DevOps engineer, mastering the basics we covered earlier is crucial—even if you won’t work within a particular OS for certain projects, you should be able to convey your understanding of it as part of the interview process. A good DevOps engineer is a well-rounded technical and cultural software developer/operations individual. Part of what makes someone ‘DevOps’ is their adaptability and wide comprehension of the technology value stream from different perspectives.
For those on the path toward becoming a DevOps engineer: the learning process should begin with a DEEP understanding of the cultural side of DevOps. Remember that DevOps is more than just a technical approach or a set of best practice methodologies. It combines cultural philosophies, business know-how, and constant evaluation to create an effective development environment. As a DevOps engineer, to be able to create/support and maintain such a productive environment requires the right mindset.
Knowing programming languages is another vital part of DevOps. A DevOps engineer needs to know his or her way around the technical side of the development process without bias. Python, Node.JS, Ruby, and Go (Golang) are all good foundations to have as part of your repertoire. In addition, gain practical experience using your skills to build tools rather than software too.
The next step is where it gets interesting. This is when you can expand your knowledge about server setup and management, which includes learning about Linux and how it is used as the operating system for your development and deployment environments. To become an exceptional DevOps engineer, you can also expand your skillset to cover microservice and serverless architecture.
If you are not sure about where to start, set up a Linux box using services like Digital Ocean to practice more. A desktop computer that uses Linux—configured to mimic the configurations of a development server—is also handy for practicing with hardware and server administration. Personally, I learned the most about Linux when I changed my laptop OS to the operating system. I’ve never looked back and wholeheartedly love it over Windows.
Creating the right development environment is only the start. Next, you need to know about networking protocols and how they work. This is when you learn about how to set up your server for networking, adding support for protocols like HTTP and FTP, and ensuring the services are stable.
Once again, you have the ability to take your DevOps skills to the next level by mastering more advanced networking skills. Learning about load balancing, advanced information, and server security—mastering the art of security testing will make you exceptional. Studying a for a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certificate will give you a great understanding of networking.
A Continuous Learning Experience
As a DevOps engineer, an inherent part of your role is to always seek continuous improvement—as part of the development pipeline, for the processes your team/colleagues work with, and for yourself too. More advanced skills such as having strong experience of deployment management, security, and automation are what will separate you from others aiming for the same job.
Being a DevOps engineer is about continuous learning, but learning Linux isn’t just a way to begin your learning process—it is also a way to align your skills with the requirements of future employers.
For more on finding the balance between the technical and cultural aspects of the DevOps methodology in our blog post The DevOps Equation.
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