Session Name: DevOps When There's No Dev
The principles of DevOps have demonstrated benefits to application development and operation, but what about when you don’t write the code? Within higher education, many of our core applications are commercial products, often software-as-a-service. We have been exploring ideas and concepts from DevOps practice to renew and modernize our approach to managing cloud-hosted or other third-party applications. By taking pieces from the automated CI/CD pipelines of our code development and release practices, we can improve configuration, validation, and on-going operation of applications like our learning management system (LMS), course evaluation tools, and advising platform. These practices enable us to be more effective and deliver better value, more quickly to our users.
We are focusing on three areas–automated testing, configuration management, and microservices. We are looking to the automated testing and validation tools and processes used in a pipeline for our own-built web apps and adapting the to validate new releases from our SaaS vendors. Writing unit and regression tests to confirm basic functionality with Behat leads to a higher level of trust with our products, easier and quicker confirmation that new features and releases are compatible with our ecosystem, and fewer glitches for end-users to trip over. For configuration management, we take concepts seen in infrastructure-as-code operations of servers and containers and looking for ways we can extract, save, and version configuration elements within our application environments. Lastly, in cases where we need to extend the functionality of a major application or automate service delivery, we look at a microservices model. Using basic scripting and using available product APIs, we can produce a microservice to function along side the application that both frees up our administrative team’s time and delivers better, faster service to our users.
David Blezard oversees the Academic Technology infrastructure for the University of New Hampshire, including public computer lab and classroom spaces, learning management systems, student success and advising tools, media and collaboration services, and web hosting infrastructure. Recent focuses include working to transform practices and tools in support of student success and improved operation of services, especially via DevOps practices. David has been with UNH since 1994 and is also active within the regional and national IT organizations working within higher education, often presenting at conferences and organizing professional development activities.