What Are the GitOps Principles and How to Implement Them

Today's post from our guest blogger, David Maayan, explains what GitOps is and how to implement it's principles

Written by Gilad David Maayan • Last Updated: • Cloud •

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What Is GitOps?

GitOps is a modern approach to managing and deploying infrastructure and applications through the use of Git, a widely-used version control system. It emphasizes the principle of declaring the desired state of your system in a Git repository and automating the process of aligning the actual state with the desired state using Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipelines.

GitOps enhances collaboration, transparency, and predictability in managing infrastructure and applications. It allows developers and operations teams to work more efficiently, while reducing the risk of manual errors and improving overall system stability.

Automation and continuous delivery pipelines ensure that changes are delivered quickly and reliably, while auditing and compliance requirements are met through complete audit trails.

What Are GitOps Principles?

Before you can implement GitOps effectively, it is important to understand the core principles of the GitOps process.

Declarative Configuration

Declarative infrastructure is the foundation of the GitOps approach, which treats infrastructure as code. It involves describing the desired state of a system using a declarative language or format, such as YAML or JSON. This provides a clear, human-readable, and machine-processable representation of the infrastructure and application configurations.

Kubernetes is useful for GitOps due to its declarative nature and extensibility. Kubernetes manifests, written in YAML or JSON, define the desired state of the system, including deployments, services, and other resources. Kubernetes' declarative model is well-suited for GitOps as it automatically reconciles the desired state with the actual state of the cluster, minimizing manual intervention.

Declarative infrastructure also aids in cloud cost management by streamlining resource allocation, scaling, and management. By defining the resources required by applications, developers and operations teams can more effectively manage cloud costs and performance. Additionally, declarative configurations can be versioned and reused across multiple environments, facilitating consistency and reducing the potential for configuration drift.

Version Control

Version control is another key principle in GitOps, with Git being the most common choice for maintaining a single source of truth for infrastructure and application configurations. Git repositories store the desired state of a system, enabling collaboration, versioning, and auditing.

By using Git for version control, teams can track changes made to configurations, maintain a history of modifications, and easily revert to previous states when needed. This not only provides a comprehensive audit trail but also enhances transparency and accountability in the development and operations processes.

Having a single source of truth also simplifies collaboration among team members. It allows multiple contributors to work on the same files concurrently while minimizing the risk of conflicts. Git branches can be used to manage changes and perform code reviews, ensuring that only thoroughly reviewed and approved changes are merged into the main branch.

Automated Approval

Automation is a central aspect of GitOps, and this includes the change approval process. By automating approvals, organizations can reduce human error and ensure that changes to infrastructure and applications are consistent and aligned with the desired state.

CI/CD pipelines are responsible for validating, testing, and deploying changes pushed to the Git repository. They help ensure that changes meet the required quality standards and are compatible with the existing system.

The change approval process typically involves automated testing and code reviews. Automated tests validate the correctness and reliability of changes, while code reviews allow team members to provide feedback and ensure that best practices are followed. Once changes have been approved, the CI/CD pipeline can automatically apply them to the target environment, maintaining consistency and reducing manual intervention.

Software Agents

In GitOps, monitoring and observability tools are used to detect discrepancies between the actual and desired states of the system. When deviations occur, software agents provide alerts to notify relevant teams, enabling them to take corrective action.

These software agents continuously monitor the system, comparing the current state with the desired state stored in the Git repository. If they detect divergences, the agents may either trigger automated remediation processes or send notifications to the responsible team members. This ensures that any drift in system state is quickly identified and addressed.

6 Ways to Implement GitOps Principles

Implementing GitOps properly is crucial for ensuring consistency, reliability, and efficiency in managing infrastructure and applications. Adhering to best practices and considering key aspects of GitOps implementation can prevent potential issues and maximize its benefits. Here are some important considerations for implementing GitOps:

  1. Environmental integrity: Preserving the integrity of different environments (development, staging, and production) is essential for minimizing conflicts, errors, and downtime. GitOps promotes separation of concerns by using separate Git branches or repositories for each environment. This approach ensures that changes are thoroughly tested and validated in lower environments before being promoted to production, reducing the risk of errors and system disruptions. It is also important to ensure that Git controls all environments and dependencies.
  2. Branch strategy: Adopting a well-defined branch strategy is vital for managing changes and collaboration in GitOps. A common approach is the GitFlow or feature branch workflow, where each new feature or bugfix is developed on a separate branch. Once completed, the changes are merged into a main branch through a merge request. 
  3. Merge requests: Merge requests (or pull requests) are the primary mechanism for reviewing and approving changes in GitOps. They provide a platform for collaboration, enabling team members to review code, discuss modifications, and ensure that best practices are followed. By incorporating automated tests and code reviews into the merge request process, organizations can maintain high-quality standards and reduce the likelihood of introducing errors or regressions.
  4. Andon Cord: Inspired by the manufacturing industry, the andon cord concept in GitOps refers to the ability to halt a deployment process when issues are detected. This helps prevent the propagation of errors or configuration drift into production environments. 
  5. Idempotency: Applying the same configuration multiple times should result in the same system state. This is crucial for maintaining consistency and reducing the potential for errors. By using declarative configurations and tools that support idempotency, organizations can simplify the management of infrastructure and applications, making deployments more predictable and reliable.
  6. Policy as code: Implementing policy as code allows organizations to define and enforce policies governing infrastructure and application deployments. Open Policy Agent (OPA) is a popular open-source tool for implementing policy as code in GitOps. OPA enables teams to write policies as code and integrate them with CI/CD pipelines, ensuring that deployments adhere to organizational standards and compliance requirements. 

To get started with GitOps, organizations can adopt several approaches that facilitate a smooth transition, minimize risk, and promote continuous improvement:

  • Use incident reviews to propose changes: Incident reviews provide valuable insights into system issues and areas for improvement. Organizations can leverage these reviews to identify opportunities for implementing GitOps practices. By addressing specific pain points and proposing changes based on past incidents, teams can demonstrate the benefits of GitOps, gain buy-in from stakeholders, and iteratively enhance their processes.
  • Implement GitOps in small batches: Rolling out GitOps incrementally helps minimize risk and allows teams to learn from each stage of the process. Instead of implementing GitOps across the entire organization at once, start with a small project or a specific component of the system. This approach enables teams to familiarize themselves with GitOps principles, refine workflows, and gradually expand GitOps adoption as they gain confidence and experience.
  • Enable continuous improvement: As organizations implement GitOps, they should continuously refine their processes and tooling. One way to achieve this is by adding new automated tests to validate infrastructure and application changes. By incorporating additional tests into the CI/CD pipeline, teams can increase confidence in the deployment process, catch potential issues earlier, and improve overall system stability and quality.


GitOps is a powerful approach to managing infrastructure and applications that emphasizes declarative configuration, version control, automation, and continuous feedback. By adhering to the core principles of GitOps, organizations can streamline collaboration, increase transparency, reduce manual errors, and improve overall system stability.

To successfully implement GitOps, it is essential to maintain environmental integrity, adopt effective branch strategies, use merge requests for collaboration and approval, integrate the Andon cord concept, ensure idempotency, and incorporate policy as code. Additionally, getting started with GitOps can be made easier by using incident reviews to inform changes, rolling out GitOps incrementally, and focusing on continuous improvement.

By understanding and embracing the GitOps principles and carefully considering implementation strategies, organizations can transform their infrastructure and application management processes, ultimately resulting in more efficient and resilient systems. As GitOps continues to gain traction, it is poised to become a cornerstone of modern DevOps practices, driving innovation and agility in an increasingly complex and dynamic IT landscape.

Are you using GitOps yet? Is there something David missed? Post your comments below and let's discuss.

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Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.

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