- Introduction: Why DevOps for SaaS is necessary
- DevOps for SaaS: best practices and their benefits
- Defining cases when DevOps is useful
Why DevOps for SaaS is necessary
SaaS companies pass stages of their development from a startup to a successful mature company, like any other business. Okay, okay, this is not news. BUT their growth and evolution are highly dependent on the product life cycle and development life cycle, as, in essence, SaaS is a web-based product hosted on the Internet and users get access to it via a browser.
At the startup stage, a core team suggests a software solution that solves the problem meeting the user's needs, often in the form of an MVP. By the time the MVP grows into a product that fits the market need and provides a competitive service, it experiences the majority of changes. At this stage, the development team plays a very significant role, but the startup may experience the risk of dependency on money that covers operational costs. So maximum changes here should be made:
- in the shortest possible time (e.g. the reduction of development cycle by automation)
- without bloating staff (e.g. no need to hire extra team members)
- avoiding irrational use of human resources (for instance, developers instead of coding are troubleshooting on the servers).
If you've come to learn how DevOps can be of help for SaaS, you can start reading from here. =)
The need for a DevOps specialist arises from the very beginning of the project. Why so? They can consult on the server architecture, as they know how to build it from the point of view of effective performance. They can assist and set up environments for development, testing and deployment, and also perform a range of other essential tasks.
Those specific tasks that DevOps can solve in a couple of working days, programmers who have not encountered them before, will solve much longer, sometimes up to 1-2 weeks. Of course, sooner or later a mid-or-senior developer will find the solution, but it may not be an optimal one, or not following the DevOps best practices.
Completing your development team with a DevOps specialist for full-time makes sense if the team grows and reaches 5-10 members and the project scales.
What is so special a DevOps can do?
DevOps for SaaS: best practices and their benefits
Continuous Integration. The key goals are to find and address bugs quicker, improve software quality, and reduce the time it takes to validate and release new software updates.
Continuous Delivery. Code changes are automatically built, tested, and prepared for deployment.
Microservices architecture. The main benefits are hosting facility, solution stability, quick recovery, it gives flexibility in using different frameworks or programming languages to write microservices and deploy them.
Infrastructure as a Code
Infrastructure is provisioned and managed using code and software development techniques, such as version control and continuous integration.
Monitoring and Logging
Fine-tuned log management ensures quick identification of the fault, while monitoring will help to timely respond to conditions of the system - CPU load, free space on the server, etc.
Finally, we came up with the benefits of the introduction of DevOps best practices in your SaaS organization. They boil down to things in the picture below.
Defining cases when DevOps is useful
The cases suggested below are provided as examples of what DevOps engineer can do on the project. The variety of DevOps tasks on the project is enormous, and the aim of giving these examples is to provide an approximate understanding of the DevOps functions and how a SaaS can benefit from them.
At the very start of the project
Case #1 At Zero sprint, a DevOps specialist can help with the definition of the tech stack and architecture of the SaaS solution while planning future functionality.
Case #2 They can set different environments for testing and production.
On the ongoing project
Case #3 Commonly, on an existing project, DevOps starts one’s work with the research of the system and its documentation. To perform specific tasks, like setting up CI/CD, they need:
- to look at what technologies are used
- what kinds of databases are there
- what networks are configured, servers, etc.
This step is needed to get an understanding of what to improve or fix. This phase takes from a few hours to a couple of days, depending on the case.
Case #4 A common goal of the SaaS project is to improve infrastructure and security. To achieve this goal, a DevOps specialist first researches what works well and what needs to be fixed. They conduct tests and review the infrastructure and evaluate the security measures taken to protect data. Often, the omissions in security are evident immediately without deep immersion, e.g. security groups are poorly configured. While working on these improvements, the downtimes of an app are possible, so coordination and approval from the customer’s side are needed.
Case #5 There are cases when against the backdrop of these improvements, DevOps is asked to make Infrastructure as code (IaC). How to make it in detail, you may find out by contacting our DevOps team. But in a nutshell, IaC automates the development process and speeds up changes. For a SaaS company, this service means the simplification of infrastructure management.
Case #6 A DevOps consultation also is useful while making a decision of changing the level of a server class. A DevOps expert can suggest options of the server characteristics. They make a comparative analysis, estimate costs, risks, etc.
Case #7 One of the DevOps tasks, which is constant server monitoring and health-checking of the system, helps timely respond to conditions of the system - CPU load, free space on the server, etc.
Case #8 A great option for a SaaS project is autoscaling. To set it up correctly, DevOps engineer makes an analysis of the historical data - how many servers and of what type they are, what was the load on the processor, what was the peak load, etc.
Case #9 A fine-tuned log management is essential as it helps to identify the malfunction quickly and start solving the problem faster. Log management is one of the best practices that makes development more effective.
As you can see, the range of the tasks is really diverse - from moving your project to a new server, or rebuilding the architecture to microservices, to DNS and database management, troubleshooting in case of a crash, and much more.
Thus, the presence of DevOps shortens the development cycle and frees developers from non-core tasks. But more often, the need for DevOps starts to be evident when it becomes obvious that the development team lacks the specific expertise, faces difficulties, and loses time on troubleshooting.
For the evolution of a Saas product, recognizing the need for DevOps is a very important step that can significantly affect the quality of the product. DevOps as a Service (part-time or episodic DevOps services outsourcing) is a good answer for SaaS startups and developing companies. DevOps as a Service provides the possibility to effectively improve the existing state of affairs on the project without the staff bloat. The positive effects boil down to improved system performance, reduction of time to market, cutting down of operational costs, a rise in the development team’s productivity, fast troubleshooting, and more secure and reliable infrastructure.