In this article, we embark on a journey to explore the world of GitOps, its principles, benefits, and real-world applications. We delve into the key concepts and components of GitOps, understanding how it differs from traditional DevOps practices and its potential to enhance the software delivery process.
1. What is GitOps
GitOps is an operational framework that takes DevOps best practices used for application development such as version control, collaboration, compliance, and CI/CD and applies them to infrastructure automation. Being an evolution of IaC (Infrastructure As Code), it is a modern concept that was initially introduced by the Kubernetes management system Weaveworks.
While the traditional approaches to maintaining an Infrastructure demanded a runbook to manage the steps, GitOps is the full operations lifecycle of infrastructure management, living as a code in a git repository. This model uses Git, an open-source, distributed version control system, to track any changes to a system and who has made them.
The GitOps model uses a Git repository as the single source of truth (SSoT), improving collaboration between developers and operational team members. This, in turn, allows organizations to automate the deployment process.
2. How it is different from DevOps
We must be very clear on the similar buzzword – called DevOps, and how the GitOps differs from DevOps – which has been in existence for more than a decade now, and that is a de-facto standard for Software Development in Enterprises of any size (small, medium or big).
DevOps is a set of practices that combines software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) to improve collaboration, communication, and efficiency in the software delivery process. It focuses on breaking down silos between development and operations teams, promoting automation, continuous integration, and continuous deployment.
GitOps, on the other hand, is a specific methodology within the broader DevOps framework. It introduces the concept of using Git as the single source of truth for managing infrastructure, application code, and configurations. While DevOps encompasses a wide range of practices and principles, GitOps focuses specifically on the declarative and automated management of systems using Git as the central hub.
In summary, GitOps is a specific methodology within the DevOps space that leverages Git as the central source of truth for managing system configurations, while DevOps is a broader set of practices and principles that aims to improve collaboration and efficiency in the software delivery process. Additionally, GitOps is typically used in conjunction with containerization technologies like Kubernetes, while DevOps can be used with any type of application.
GitOps is not a replacement for DevOps, as the CI process still relies on DevOps tools. However, GitOps can improve the effectiveness of the DevOps Team.
3. Should we use GitOps only for Infrastructure Automation?
Though most part, GitOps was perceived and conceptualized to be used for the Infrastructure Automation, it can, however, be used for managing both application deployments and base infrastructure made up of systems needed regardless of the applications deployed (i.e. networking, security, etc.), as the orchestration is type agnostic – to plan, review, approve and release the configuration (code) into the target environment.
If performed right, GitOps will let engineers constantly apply updates to infrastructure to meet all the needs of the applications in a continuous delivery format, with properly logged-in / recorded steps with the transparent audit trial. It will make it easy to revert problematic changes, becoming a single source of truth about what is happening in the system from both the software development and infrastructure perspective.
4. Where to use GitOps
You can use Git Ops in the following scenarios and environments, where a declarative source of truth is efficient, simple, and seamless.
Cloud-native Applications: For managing deployments of containerized applications in Kubernetes or similar container orchestration platforms, GitOps provides a streamlined approach for managing the desired state of the applications.
Microservices Architecture: Typically, in a microservices architecture, we need multiple services need to be deployed and coordinated. GitOps allows for centralized control and consistency while enabling the independent deployment of individual services.
Multi-Environment Deployments: In an enterprise dealing with several different environments – like Development (DEV), Staging (QA), UAT, and Production (PROD), GitOps provides a unified approach for managing deployments across these environments. With GitOps, you can define and manage the desired state of each environment in a centralized Git repository, thereby avoiding the hassles of doing things manually based on environments.
Infrastructure as Code (IaC): GitOps complements infrastructure as code (IaC) practices, making it easier to manage and version infrastructure configurations alongside application deployments. It brings consistency and reproducibility to infrastructure management.
Team Collaboration: Since all changes are version-controlled in the Git repository, it becomes easier to review, track, and collaborate on deployments. Different team members can work together on the same codebase and contribute to the desired state.
Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD): GitOps integrates well with CI/CD pipelines, enabling continuous deployment practices. By triggering deployments based on changes pushed to the Git repository, it automates the deployment process and allows for rapid and frequent releases.
Compliance and Auditing: Though appears to be least known, but certainly it is a secret savior, especially during the critical challenging moments when GitOps provides an auditable and traceable deployment process. As all changes are made through code commits, it becomes easier to track and audit the modifications made to the infrastructure and applications. This is particularly beneficial for organizations with compliance requirements.
5. When to use GitOps
You can favor Git Ops in any enterprise that prefers the following – where each of them is self-explanatory.
- IaC – Infrastructure as a Code
- Consistency and Reproducibility
- Self-Documenting Deployments – GitOps allows you to manage deployments completely from inside your environment without having a need to share the credentials with your peers.
- Auditable and Traceable
- Continuous Deployment
- Collaborative Deployment
- Rollbacks and Roll-forwards – easy to navigate (switch) to any stage of the infrastructure as every snapshot is recorded in a version control system.
- Shared Knowledge in Teams, by avoiding unwanted dependency on the individuals.
GitOps ensures that a system’s cloud infrastructure is immediately reproducible based on the state of a Git repository. Pull requests modify the state of the Git repository. Once approved and merged, the pull requests will automatically reconfigure and sync the live infrastructure to the state of the repository. This live syncing pull request workflow is the core essence of GitOps.
The Architecture of Git Ops consists of the following key four components/steps.
* Set up a Git repository for your organization’s codebase. It need not be always GitHub, but any client that is Git compataible will do the job. * Connect this repository to a CI/CD tool. * Configure the tools like Jenkins, Circle CI etc., to deploy automatic changes to your development environment. * Set up monitoring and alerts for your target environment (Dev/QA/UAT/Prod).
It should be noted that the CI part of GitOps still needs to go through your DevOps tool, whether it’s GitHub Actions or AWS CodeBuild.
The architecture follows a pull-based model, where the GitOps operator continuously pulls the desired state from the Git repository and takes actions to align the system with that state. Any changes made to the system are done through code changes committed to the Git repository, triggering the GitOps process to update the system accordingly.
Overall, the architecture of GitOps combines the declarative nature of Git repositories with automation and continuous integration to provide a consistent, auditable, and reproducible approach to managing infrastructure and application changes.
7. Pros of GitOps
With the advent of automating Infrastructure management, GitOps offers improved efficiency and security, a better developer experience, reduced costs, and faster deployments.
Using a version control system lets a team track all modifications to the configuration of a system. This gives a “source of truth” and valuable audit trail to review if something breaks or behaves unexpectedly. Teams can review the GitOps history and see when a regression was introduced. Additionally, this audit trail can be used as a reference for compliance or security auditing. We can also find out the potential milestones like Security / Encryption Certificates being installed or updated in the Systems.
With GitOps, organizations can manage their entire infrastructure and application development lifecycle using a single, unified tool. This allows for greater collaboration and coordination between teams and results in fewer errors (caused by humans) and faster problem resolution.
8. Cons of GitOps
Like every other tool/technology, GitOps also has certain limitations, which we should be aware of and better prepared to tackle it.
Though GitOps embraces DevOps, it has its own learning curve on the tools and concepts plus the best practices, and the complexity if not properly attended to. On large-scale enterprises dealing with intricate architectures or complex environments, a well-thought-through and carefully reviewed and maintained roadmap, CI/CD pipeline is very essential for a successful Infra Automation.
Even though GitOps is centrally running around Git, maintaining a proper version history is essential to avoid version conflicts, which might impact the availability of the applications if not properly tracked and handled.
Another subtle point to note is that Git always demands connectivity to the repository, and any outage will cause the unavailability of environments and/or applications, as GitOps was not perceived with a completely offline execution.
In conclusion, GitOps is a powerful operational framework that brings the benefits of version control, collaboration, automation, and continuous deployment to infrastructure management. It leverages Git as the single source of truth, allowing teams to manage the desired state of infrastructure and application deployments in a declarative and auditable manner.