What is GitOps and why does it matter to your business?

Tom Finch, Solutions Architect at cloud native delivery platform Appvia, demystifies GitOps and explains why it’s an important part of the bigger technology and digitalisation play for businesses

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For business leaders it can seem that every few months a hot new tech trend hits the market. This solution is often positioned as something you really need to know about or your business will fall hopelessly behind. Invariably it is cloaked in complex jargon or buzzwords that can make the average person entirely unsure what exactly it is that they are missing out on. With so much hype and complexity floating around, sometimes the most useful thing to do is to go back to basics and explain things as clearly as possible and, crucially, why it could matter to your business. Enter: GitOps

GitOps is an approach your development team can take to effectively manage Kubernetes clusters and delivering applications. That in and of itself is probably not that useful a definition, so let’s drill down into what each segment of the term means. Firstly, what is Git? Git is an open source software for coordinating work among developers. It enables version control when they are working on the same code. This is important because oftentimes numerous developers are working on the same project at the same time or separate projects are using the same code base. Also, if a project changes or someone makes a terrible error, you can roll back to an earlier version.

Next up, Kubernetes - which is an open source container management system. A container is a package of code which also contains everything needed to run the application including settings and tools. We don’t need to go into too much detail, but what you need to know is that Kubernetes can make development faster, more efficient, less heavy on your tech infrastructure and it is ideal for cloud computing. However, for containers to be stable, scalable and secure, they need to be managed. For example, if one container fails, you want an identical one to automatically take its place or your application will be buggy and crash-ridden. This is where Kubernetes comes in, it makes that and a whole host of other processes happen that make containers work in practice.

So what we have here is essentially two big systems for developing, launching and maintaining an app for your business - Git and Kubernetes. The natural question is how do you ensure that Git and Kubernetes can work together? After all, as we’ve touched upon, version control in development is incredibly important. Without it, things can go wrong quickly. This is where GitOps comes in. Git is used as the single source of truth to manage Kubernetes and application delivery. If there’s a divergence on Kubernetes, a well-functioning GitOps process will alert your IT team and enable safeguards such as the automatic roll back of Kubernetes to kick in.

This may sound like an incremental benefit, but in practice it means your dev and IT teams gain huge advantages in terms of simplifying operations, time savings in development and greater stability in your company’s infrastructure. The long-term result could be significant time and cost savings for the average business. Not to mention, greater user experience for their team and customers, with product and service updates more reliable and easier to implement. It also plays a very important role in enabling companies to become cloud native.

Of course, understanding the theory is one thing, but how do you actually ‘get’ GitOps? In practice, it is an extension of your DevOps function. We won’t go too far into the long grass of what is technically required, save to say that it means designing and implementing a whole host of best practice procedures which your infrastructure team adheres to. Numerous solutions are now available that work in conjunction with GitOps.

From a business decision making standpoint, what is required is determining whether your company would benefit from a GitOps approach. This means deciding whether, for example, your business strategy involves becoming cloud native, what your application delivery pipeline looks like and if you have plans to update or upgrade your infrastructure. By engaging with your DevOps or IT teams you can decide if adopting GitOps is the right next step for your business. From there, it is a matter of planning the most efficient way to make it happen. This could involve instructing external consultants, leveraging the existing knowledge of your team - supplement with training, hiring a specialist or a combination of all three.

For senior decision makers, GitOps may seem like an opaque, technical consideration that is only of interest to their IT teams. However, the reality is that it could play a critical role in enabling your business to achieve its commercial goals. After all, for nearly every business, its infrastructure and ability to develop, deploy and scale new apps and solutions is fundamentally linked to its success. Understanding how GitOps could make life easier for your business is well worth the time - your DevOps team will thank you for it.