What Is GitOps and Why Should You Adopt It in Your Software Project?
Our guest blogger, David explains what GitOps is and why it's important when building software
GitOps is an architectural design pattern that can be applied to many infrastructure and cloud-native applications. It involves using Git as the primary and sole source of information for coding infrastructure, and using it to implement continuous delivery systems.
GitOps is rapidly being adopted as a primary way for software development teams to manage and deliver code. The concept of having a single source of information about your code can improve the software development process, and in particular, improve the way development environments are provisioned.
Before GitOps, it was very frustrating for developers to configure, configure, and manage environments and servers according to their needs. Previously, it was possible to do this by writing many shell scripts, but the amount of infrastructure that can be configured on demand was so limited that the process was fragile. With GitOps, it is possible to define declarative configuration and deploy entire environments in a consistent and repeatable manner.
GitOps relies on version control tools like Git, GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket. These platforms serve as centralized repositories of IaC and orchestration files.
A key idea in GitOps is to use declarative configuration for all environments in the software development lifecycle, to describe the desired state of the system. These environments include test, staging, and production. Declarative configuration files are stored in the same repository as your code, so they can be accessed by all members of the project.
Another element of GitOps is observability. Observability is the ability to measure the internal state of a system by examining the output it provides. Monitoring is observing the behavior of a system over time, while observability measures how well it is possible to infer the state of a system from external outputs. Observability allows the user to decide what to monitor, to find the best metrics that predict system performance over time.
Finally, GitOps relies on a mature Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline that automates the building, testing, and deployment of applications and services.
What Are the Benefits of GitOps?
Single Source of Truth
Anyone who has had to join an engineering organization knows the hassle of dealing with multiple sources of truth. One system is for the firewall, another is for the DNS and another is used to configure the computing infrastructure (on-premises or cloud), the version control system, and finally the CI/CD pipeline tools. Unless your organization has a cultural commitment to documenting everything, knowing where to look for answers can be difficult.
One definition of GitOps is that developers can use their version control system as a source of truth for configurations of interest. The benefits range from easier onboarding of new developers to improving the developer experience, and avoiding context switches that waste valuable developer time.
Democratizing Infrastructure Management
Historically, each system had a different set of gatekeepers. Network team, security team, operations team, etc. In the pre-GitOps world, continuous deployment automation often depended on no less than six different teams, each with their own complex processes. Updates required a lengthy request process from specific system owners, and careful documentation of changes.
Provisioning cloud resources by developers is the first major change for enterprises to manage their infrastructure. Then there is the infrastructure as code (IaC), and finally there is the GitOps pipeline, closing the loop from idea to implementation.
Organizations are increasingly standardizing metrics to measure software delivery effectiveness—the DORA metric is the most widely used. A key metric it measures is lead time, which means how long it takes to actually commit your code and bring changes into production. The GitOps automation approach reduces the continuous delivery cycle to a minimum time, dramatically reducing the time required to push new changes and features. This can significantly increase development velocity.
GitOps can significantly improve the security of your enterprise software projects. DevOps teams leverage GitOps capabilities to shift security left, meet audit requirements, improve response times, and strengthen their security posture in the cloud.
GitOps treats everything as code, including security processes. Shifting security to the left allows you to identify security-related changes to application state early in the development process. GitOps settings make it easy to fix security-related bugs and redeploy applications as soon as they are fixed, reducing the attack surface.
GitOps can provide protection against cyber threats by providing a secure and auditable method for managing infrastructure and applications. With GitOps, all changes to infrastructure and applications are made through pull requests to a version-controlled repository, rather than directly on the production systems. This means that all changes are traceable, auditable, and can be easily rolled back if necessary.
Implementing GitOps Workflows
Your DevOps team probably already has the essential components of a GitOps workflow: a Git repository and a CI/CD pipeline covering all stages of the software development lifecycle.
For Kubernetes, you also need a GitOps operator, running as an intermediary on each cluster. Common tools for enabling GitOps on Kubernetes include Flux and ArgoCD.
GitOps workflows begin by declaring the state of everything, including infrastructure configuration files and application source code. Merge requests are made on the central git repository, and when these are approved, code from the Git repository is picked up by the CI/CD pipeline.
The output of the pipeline is passed to the Git operator. It is common for GitOps operators to constantly check the status of Git and pull changes. Because the CI/CD pipeline doesn't need direct access to the cluster, it is safer to fetch changes.
As changes arrive, the Git operator adjusts the underlying infrastructure to the desired state. Pull-based operators can also detect and correct drift—the deviation between the desired state and the actual state in the production environment.
GitOps workflows can be extended in many ways. For example, they can combine intermediate infrastructure deployments for pre-production testing or staging. GitOps pipelines also offer many possibilities to scale and consolidate infrastructure to meet specific needs.
GitOps is a modern software development and operational methodology that leverages the power of Git as a single source of truth for declarative infrastructure and application configurations.
By adopting GitOps, organizations can improve collaboration, automate deployments, improve security, increase agility, reduce configuration drift, and improve reliability. Implementing GitOps workflows involves defining the desired state of your infrastructure and applications in a version-controlled repository, integrating with a CI/CD pipeline, monitoring and rolling back changes, integrating security tools, and regularly auditing the repository.
GitOps provides a secure and auditable method for managing infrastructure and applications, and is becoming increasingly popular among organizations looking to improve their software development and operational processes.