What is ZeroOps?

ZeroOps is when developers spend zero time working with infrastructure and operations and instead spend all their time and creative energy on software product development. This idea is a variation of the DevOps software development paradigm.

ZeroOps is not a single product or practice. It's a business goal focusing on productivity and is all about the speed and ease of automation. Current DevOps tasks, such as provisioning, scaling, monitoring, maintaining, and meeting security and compliance standards, take away from time spent making software. Building and enabling a ZeroOps environment minimizes developer involvement with infrastructure and returns valuable time to development tasks, where skillsets and expertise are typically stronger.

Since DevOps and other Agile development approaches commonly involve deployment and infrastructure activities, ZeroOps initiatives must provide a comprehensive set of systems, tools and practices that can support operations tasks with an extremely high level of intelligent automation. This puts ZeroOps tools, platforms and services at the center of ZeroOps environments.

ZeroOps requires a complete developer-centric platform that can handle the deployment, management, monitoring and security of applications. A ZeroOps platform is often cloud-based and provides a high level of abstraction between developers and the underlying tools and capabilities needed to support automated deployments.

ZeroOps vs. NoOps

The idea of NoOps is the same as ZeroOps: apply high levels of automation to IT.

The difference is in scope. ZeroOps promotes the increased use of automation and orchestration to help facilitate software development and deployment. ZeroOps recognizes the reality that some IT tasks still require human intervention. However, ZeroOps pushes this level of human intervention toward zero.

By comparison, NoOps promotes complete automation of the entire IT environment with no human intervention at all, which is not yet technologically feasible.

ZeroOps vs. DevOps

The DevOps concept is to let software developers handle some IT operations tasks to facilitate faster provisioning, deployment and management of applications. This revolutionary idea helped speed product development lifecycles because developers no longer had to wait for operations staff and erased major development and IT operations silos. The benefits of DevOps are well-proven, but DevOps teams now carry the time-consuming burden of some operations tasks.

ZeroOps builds on DevOps by adding high levels of intelligent automation and orchestration to the operations tasks that DevOps practitioners routinely encounter. There are three key notions relating DevOps and ZeroOps:

  • ZeroOps does not change the way in which DevOps practitioners develop software.
  • ZeroOps does not change the fundamental operations tasks that DevOps practitioners need to provision, deploy, monitor and manage applications.
  • ZeroOps simply seeks to speed and simplify the operations tasks involved in the DevOps lifecycle.

ZeroOps use cases

Teams can deploy ZeroOps practices in any environment that might benefit from less operations effort. There is no preference to market verticals or application types. However, complex ZeroOps tools and platforms can demand considerable upfront investment to configure. Consequently, ZeroOps can be most beneficial for DevOps teams facing several common problems:

  • Not enough time. Organizations that are stretched thin with limited staffing may save time through the automation that ZeroOps provides.
  • Too many projects. ZeroOps automation favors repetition, and many projects that require IT provisioning, deployment and support can benefit from ZeroOps practices.
  • Inconsistencies. Human intervention can bring unwanted variations to the IT environment, such as missed configurations or skipped security settings. This can potentially cause poor performance, unexpected bugs or security issues that impact the business. The consistency of ZeroOps supports documented behaviors, which can bolster compliance and eliminate common oversights.

Automation and control can pose downsides such as restrictions or a lack of flexibility. Infrequent DevOps projects, or DevOps projects with varied deployment needs and configuration types (or any operations situation where one size does not fit all), might limit the usefulness of ZeroOps.

ZeroOps challenges

Any time a developer can avoid performing complex tasks manually can save considerable time and reduce the chance of errors. However, there are numerous potential challenges that DevOps teams should consider before adopting any sort of ZeroOps initiative:

  • No flexibility. Automation trades flexibility for speed and convenience. While teams can change or establish new environments under a ZeroOps initiative, this can take considerable time and effort to define, implement and test. Developers that need variability in their application provisioning, deployment and management may not fully benefit from ZeroOps.
  • Large upfront effort. Automation is not automatic. Automation takes substantial effort to define what's needed, establish and codify the tasks and workflows and then test everything to be sure it works as expected. Change can be exceptionally difficult once an automation flow is created.
  • Another tool or platform. ZeroOps introduces another platform that developers will need to learn and master often alongside existing provisioning, configuration, deployment and management tools.
  • Vendor lock-in. The cloud-based ZeroOps platforms hosted by providers place additional dependency on vendors and vendor support. Changes to the ZeroOps platform or provider business model can have a profound and disruptive impact on ZeroOps workflows.

ZeroOps best practices

Although there is no specific set of best practices for ZeroOps, there are some practices that can help with its adoption and implementation:

  • Evaluate the need. ZeroOps isn't a universal necessity. It's best suited to busy development environments that entail significant -- but routine -- operations effort. A business should compare previous operations costs against the time, effort and expense of a ZeroOps platform.
  • Set goals. Understand what developers need the ZeroOps platform to accomplish. This might take the form of a collective wish list or requirements that can then be shared with ZeroOps providers. Goals are the best way for a business to narrow the list of potential ZeroOps offerings and select the platform best suited for their needs.
  • Collaborate. The decision to adopt ZeroOps as well as the time and effort needed to implement and maintain a ZeroOps platform is a team effort that should include developers, business leaders, operations staff and compliance officers.
  • Consider the tools and providers. It's important to evaluate the provider as well as the tool, understand the support and uptime, and have a clear picture of the provider's business plans and platform roadmap.
  • Measure results. It can be difficult to quantify the benefits of ZeroOps in terms of time or cost. Take advantage of any available metrics and reports -- such as time saved, instances deployed, problems resolved -- to document the performance and behaviors of the ZeroOps tool. Objective measures can help a business track the effectiveness of its ZeroOps initiatives and determine whether the effort yields tangible value to the business.
  • Leave a fallback. Consider what happens if the ZeroOps platform becomes unavailable. This might be temporary through provider outages or permanent due to platform retirement or other provider-side factors. A fallback plan, such as traditional tools or an alternative ZeroOps platform, can be a lifesaver for busy organizations.

ZeroOps tools

Teams can use ZeroOps tools to automate portions of the development cycle, such as coding, testing, repository and release management, as well as operations tasks including deployment, configuration management, monitoring and reporting.

ZeroOps tools often include an automation and orchestration framework such as Kubernetes, along with related DevOps services like continuous integration/continuous deployment, source control management, code quality monitoring and enforcement, security scanning and compliance enforcement.

ZeroOps tools are increasingly utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to help scale and optimize infrastructures and respond to faults. Current products and platforms involved in ZeroOps include, Kubernetes, Docker, Lumigo, MicroK8s, Mirantis Cloud Platform and Panther.

Teams must test and evaluate any prospective tools to ensure their suitability and utility for developers. Once a platform is selected and implemented, it can be highly disruptive to change platforms in the future.

This was last updated in January 2024

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