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How can a DevOps team take advantage of artificial intelligence?

September 22nd, 2023 by Michał Kułaczkowski
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In 2022, the value of generative artificial intelligence in the software development market worldwide amounted to $25.4 million, and it is expected to reach $169.2 million by 2032. While these numbers are staggering, generative AI, which specializes in content production, is just one of the many types of AI applications adopted by software development companies and DevOps teams in particular.

What are the use cases of artificial intelligence in DevOps and what are the benefits of AI and ML adoption? This article highlights the current trend in software development.

How do machine learning and artificial intelligence help a DevOps team and support DevOps processes?

The variety of solutions based on artificial intelligence is constantly growing and can support the work of virtually any DevOps team member, as ML-powered functionality covers different DevOps processes.

Below are some of the ways DevOps teams can take advantage of AI technologies.

Predictive analytics

Implementing AI in DevOps can give teams a great advantage over their competitors by empowering them with predictive analytics capabilities.

AI solutions allow DevOps teams to leverage data generated during the development, testing, and deployment phases. AI can analyze this data and discover patterns that enable DevOps to predict issues that could affect their software.

System monitoring and security

Continuous monitoring of the health of infrastructure and applications plays a pivotal role in the work of a DevOps team. AI effectively extends the functionality of applications designed to identify areas in need of optimization or urgent intervention.

AI-driven applications are trained to detect a broad scope of anomalies and unusual behavior, including performance degradation and abnormal responses to user actions. By automating repetitive tasks involving software observation, DevOps teams can work on better scalability of their systems.

In addition, a DevOps team can use artificial intelligence empowering monitoring solutions to identify security breaches, intrusion attempts, and vulnerabilities. This, in turn, can significantly improve security measures and help DevOps teams develop and deploy software that is less vulnerable to exploits and ensure compliance with industry regulations and standards.

Resource management

As mentioned earlier, AI helps improve the scalability of the system by monitoring and identifying its vulnerabilities. However, this is only one of the use cases of AI adoption for optimized scalability.

Machine learning algorithms can effectively automate resource allocation and dynamically adjust it to changing software and infrastructure requirements. This makes the integration of AI into DevOps tools a powerful component to ensure software stability and reliability.

Automated testing

Testing is an essential part of software development and deployment as it ensures that an application works as intended before it is released. Meanwhile, the iterative approach to development and deployment used in DevOps requires even more frequent testing to proactively address potential issues.

This leads to an excessive amount of repetitive tasks that can take up a lot of time and resources and hinder the development process. Furthermore, manual work, especially for particularly demanding types of testing such as regression testing or performance testing, is prone to human error that can compromise the results.

Machine learning algorithms can support a wide range of tasks related to testing, including automatic test script and report generation as well as test execution.

AI integration into the testing routine helps minimize the associated costs, accelerate the process, and improve software quality. In addition, the above-mentioned system monitoring can be further enhanced by automated security testing.

Intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants

Natural language processing algorithms have been widely used in virtual assistants designed for various industries. DevOps tools are no exception.

AI helps improve communication and collaboration, which are key components of the DevOps approach. AI can be used in chatbots not only to handle routine requests but also to get real-time updates on development and deployment processes or the state of software that has already been released.

In addition, DevOps teams can receive troubleshooting assistance by accessing relevant documentation and historical data. Meanwhile, virtual assistants specifically dedicated to code analysis can identify issues and code duplications and provide solutions for code improvement. Some of them can generate code snippets to speed up developers' work and make it easier and clearer.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD)

Improving code quality is just one of the ways AI can enhance CI/CD pipelines. It can also offer support in the optimization of release strategies and rollback decisions.

By analyzing large amounts of historical data and comparing it to the current state of your software, AI can determine whether a DevOps team should proceed with the deployment process or whether rolling back the upcoming release would be a better decision.

Possible challenges DevOps teams willing to use AI should consider

AI has the potential to revolutionize the work of DevOps teams, but they may face certain challenges on their path to digital transformation.

Costs of AI adoption

One of the most common problems is the cost involved in the implementation and maintenance of AI solutions. First of all, not every DevOps team has sufficient expertise in Data Science and ML. Without adequate skills, DevOps teams can incur unnecessary expenses caused by building poorly performing AI solutions. To close this gap, teams must invest in hiring experts or in necessary training.

Excessive costs can also arise from challenges caused by integrating AI solutions with existing tools. Achieving software compatibility can lead to additional costs while integrating incompatible solutions can impact existing processes.

Ensuring the necessary scalability of AI solutions can also be a challenge, as processing large amounts of data requires significant computational resources.

In addition, machine learning models can become outdated and produce incorrect results, while retraining and versioning models is another issue that adds cost.

Maintenance of AI models

Retraining and re-versioning ML algorithms are just one of the issues DevOps teams can face when maintaining AI solutions.

To build a working AI model, a DevOps team must ensure it has enough data to train ML algorithms, and the quality of the data must be adequate. At the same time, the data may be subject to data protection regulations, for instance, GDPR. Teams should take the necessary steps to avoid violations of such regulations.

Once the model is built, it is also important to assess its quality, which unfortunately is not straightforward since many ML models can be considered "black boxes." This means that it can be quite challenging to understand how a particular ML model arrives at certain decisions, making maintenance and troubleshooting difficult and affecting overall trust in the solution. The complexity of AI solutions also requires additional effort during testing.

Adopting third-party AI solutions

Third-party AI solutions can save DevOps teams a lot of effort and help to avoid unpredictable costs, but they require service fees. The biggest problem with this is the lack of control over the model, which can turn out to be particularly prone to bias and provide limited customization options. DevOps teams are also risking facing vendor lock-in that can make it rather difficult to switch solution providers in the future.

On top of that, using third-party ML algorithms carries a risk, as the data often has to be shared with the software provider.

Will ML help DevOps in the future or is implementing AI in DevOps a risk?

The ways in which a DevOps team can leverage artificial intelligence are constantly evolving and becoming more and more efficient. It is safe to assume these use cases will become even more powerful in the future.

Potential scenarios for future optimization of AI-based solutions include automated security breach response, a more engaging user-centric experience, and the maintenance of advanced self-healing systems.

However, there are also risks and concerns about the widespread use of artificial intelligence in DevOps work. One of the greatest fears is that AI will become a replacement for manual labor, capable of taking on not only repetitive, rule-based tasks but also cognitively demanding and creative ones.

Intellectual property concerns are also growing, as more and more authors of various types of designs and content complain about AI engineers using the results of their work for training ML algorithms without consent.

Other common concerns include the disclosure of private data to machine learning algorithms and algorithmic bias.

The integration of AI and ML into DevOps processes can significantly enhance IT operations and development processes due to numerous applications of intelligent models that include automated testing, system monitoring, predictive analytics, and more.

At the same time, the use of AI to support DevOps teams should be a well-thought decision whether it concerns building an in-house solution or choosing a third-party AI model. This way, teams can avoid excessive costs, inefficient ML algorithms, and the violation of data protection regulations.

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