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Does DevOps Need Coding?

August 11th, 2023 by Michał Kułaczkowski
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The DevOps approach encourages collaboration between operations and development teams, which leads many newcomers to question whether all specialists involved in the development process and software delivery are expected to know how to code.

Is coding required for DevOps? Read this article to learn whether a DevOps engineer's work is really impossible without coding and technical skills.

Roles in a DevOps team that require coding skills

How does DevOps help an organization deliver high-quality software? Development and operations teams have several tasks that are critical to building and deploying applications, all of which involve programming.

The software development process is the responsibility of developers, who also take care of testing and maintaining applications. Their programming skills usually affect the final quality of the software.

DevOps engineers create, maintain, and automate the infrastructure required to develop and deploy applications and services. DevOps adoption in the production environment includes programming and working with scripts and configuration files.

Operations engineers, also known as system administrators, and quality assurance engineers also work closely with DevOps. Although they do not need to code as much as software developers, their programming skill and knowledge can increase their efficiency.

How can coding improve important DevOps KPIs?

DevOps typically require programming skills to improve automation, which in turn reduces the time required for software deployment and provisioning and significantly reduces the lead time from initial product planning to its launch. They can also increase the frequency and reliability of the deployment of modifications in an application.

Coding skills are also required to verify application logic, which can reduce error rates, while teams can enjoy more effective management of infrastructure with the Infrastructure-as-a-Code process. This, in turn, improves the scalability and reliability of an infrastructure.

The integration of coding practices provides a better understanding of security vulnerabilities and helps DevOps teams address them effectively. In addition, a DevOps expert can use coding to develop and deploy custom solutions for monitoring metrics and improving collaboration in a team.

The best programming language for coding and scripting

To pass some of the most popular DevOps certification exams and increase one's chances of earning more than an average salary, a DevOps engineer needs to learn one of the programming languages. It is quite difficult to name a single best language as there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

If you want to learn programming languages that are useful for implementing DevOps principles, you should choose between Python, JavaScript, Ruby, Bash, PowerShell, and Go. Many development and testing tools rely on Python for automation, while Node.js is also useful for building server-side applications. Ruby helps work with configuration management tools like Puppet and Chef. Go can be used to create custom microservices.

Meanwhile, Bash and PowerShell are commonly used to automate and manage cloud resources on Unix-like operating systems and Windows environments, respectively.

You may also consider learning PHP, Java, or PERL, which have their own use cases in DevOps.

Is it possible to become a DevOps engineer if you do not learn coding?

Although it may seem that tooling and automation in DevOps are not possible without technical knowledge and programming skills, many DevOps tools aim to abstract source code management, reducing the need for coding and making careers related to DevOps more accessible to those without a solid technical background. This is especially true for low-code and no-code tools based on graphical interfaces, as well as solutions that leverage artificial intelligence.

Many tools such as GitLab CI/CD, Jenkins, or the aforementioned Chef and Puppet, which are used for automation and configuration management, can be operated without deep coding due to their graphical user interfaces.

How can a DevOps team take advantage of artificial intelligence?

Test automation, intelligent incident management, and security analytics powered by machine learning algorithms can significantly reduce human supervision and the need for coding. Other areas where artificial intelligence can optimize work and boost important DevOps KPIs such as predictive analytics, intelligent monitoring and alerting, performance optimization, anomaly detection, and many other tasks.

It is also worth noting that some of the specialists in the DevOps team may focus more on critical tasks that can potentially be handled without coding skills. This is especially true for operations engineers and site reliability engineers who specialize in monitoring and managing infrastructure. In addition, large DevOps teams, particularly those working for enterprise-level companies, also need professionals focused on project management, strategy, and project improvement.

In general, DevOps is about bringing together experts from different disciplines and fostering a mix of expertise and skills, not necessarily excluding those without programming knowledge.

Other knowledge required for the DevOps career path

To deliver software products and manage them properly through their entire lifecycle, DevOps need more than mere coding skills. It goes without saying that effective communication is central to DevOps culture, making the interpersonal skills of team members critical who need to collaborate effectively.

Other particularly important skills include problem-solving and critical thinking. The DevOps work environment is fast-paced and requires quick and accurate decisions and a proactive approach.

Moreover, DevOps professionals should be willing to continue learning throughout their careers. Software development and delivery are rapidly evolving, and DevOps teams should be ready to adapt to new technologies and tools.

Conclusions: the role of coding in the DevOps culture

Coding is a necessary part of software development, testing, infrastructure management, and integration. For this reason, DevOps teams need skillful programmers to develop successful applications, while the ability to code can increase the DevOps engineer salary. That said, programming skills are not the sole determinant of a successful DevOps career.

On the one hand, the DevOps approach brings together specialists from different fields, and many of them can contribute to the project even without programming skills. On the other hand, modern tools, especially those based on artificial intelligence like automation tools, help DevOps teams deploy applications with minimum programming effort.

Finally, the DevOps culture is focused on communication and collaboration, as well as problem-solving, which are just as important as programming expertise.

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