Survey: The State of Database DevOps

Content By Devops .com

Enterprises are undergoing rapid changes. Throughout the past year, companies have been pressed to learn a diversified set of technologies and methods to remain agile in a changing economy. In this digital-first world, data plays a heightened role; in tandem, so does the delivery of data and the persistence of the database layer itself.

Applying DevOps principles and automation throughout the software life cycle is critical to maintaining a high level of efficiency. As with application development, databases are not immune to the DevOps takeover. Database DevOps is a discipline that considers the processes used to automate database changes and deployments — a field growing in mindshare as databases diversify.

Seventy percent of companies now use more than one database in their stack. Many organizations now use a blend of on-premises and cloud databases. Styles are diverging, too, as non-relational databases like NoSQL gain favor, and new open-source databases emerge to fit niche circumstances. All of this means database operators may require an increased emphasis on database DevOps to handle additional complexity.

The 2021 State of Database DevOps report, conducted by Redgate, surveyed 3,200 database professionals on the general state of their DevOps adoption. The survey also inquired about database change automation and deployment and underlying database technologies. Now, five years in, the study continues to reveal shifts in practices across industries.

Below, we’ll review the report’s main takeaways to see how companies implement database DevOps in practice.

DevOps Adoption Increases Across Projects

To meet pressing digital innovation needs, DevOps has surged in importance across all industries — 74% of organizations have adopted some form of DevOps, and 26% of respondents reported applying DevOps practices across all projects — a significant uptick from previous years. The report acknowledges a slight increase in DevOps adoption among larger company sizes.

So, which DevOps practices are companies employing the most? Well, in terms of DevOps for application development, the majority of organizations (50% or above) have adopted version control, automated builds, monitoring, automated unit tests, static code analysis and semi-automated deployments in production. Only 41% of organizations surveyed have fully automated deployments to production. These methods can be viewed as a basic benchmark for modern DevOps.

The study demonstrated that in most organizations, DevOps is a communal undertaking. More respondents reported adopting a community of practice, rather than relying on individual decision makers, to disseminate DevOps strategies and direct planning. According to the report, a community of practice is a group of people that “makes decisions, provides recommendations, or is consulted.”

Lack of Skills Tops DevOps Obstacles

The pressure is on engineers to produce to meet digital transformation demands. However, organizations experiencing a developer drought may not possess the talent to introduce DevOps practices. It’s no surprise that the common obstacle hindering DevOps adoption was a “lack of appropriate skills in the team.”

Other cultural barriers to DevOps adoption include disruption of existing workflows and a lack of alignment between teams. Interestingly, a lack of executive support was cited as the lowest hurdle to DevOps adoption, indicating universal consensus on DevOps goals. If we consider what technical barriers prevent improved software delivery and operations, 41% noted insufficient automation in release processes and 39% expressed hindrances due to legacy code.

Continuous Delivery For Databases Increases

Database DevOps appears to be growing in production use too. For the purpose of this study, Database DevOps is defined as “automating the delivery of database changes.” According to the report, 51% of respondents are already automating some parts of their database deployment process.

Though growing year after year, database DevOps is nowhere near ubiquitous. Compared to DevOps in application development, database DevOps has lower overall use. For example, only 36% are implementing automated builds. And, only 22% adopt continuous delivery (CD) for all databases. Nevertheless, this could quickly change, though, as 80% of respondents are working to implement CD for database changes or have already implemented it.

Setting up a CD process for database changes could increase overall software delivery speed. The top two drivers for adopting database automation are increasing the speed of database changes and freeing up time for other work. The third top reason, minimizing application downtime, rose in rank this year — which makes sense, as the desire to create more reliable systems is an ever-present concern.

However, to reap these rewards, organizations must overcome some significant challenges, like synchronizing application and database changes and maintaining high speeds for database automation, among other concerns.

Organizations Adopt Hybridized Database Approaches

Companies increasingly use a mix of different database technologies and styles. We also see an increase in cloud and hybrid database estates.

In terms of database styles, relational databases still make up the majority of market share — 98% of respondents have at least one relational database. However, non-relational databases, like NoSQL, are gaining popularity. Forty-seven percent of database professionals have a NoSQL database in their enterprise. Interestingly, only 2% use non-relational databases exclusively, indicating it’s a niche use case.

Enterprises are now using more databases than ever before. Seventy percent of database professionals reported having more than one database in their stack. This figure rose nearly 10% since last year. Database types are multiplying too — 45% have more than one type of database. In terms of database management systems, Microsoft SQL Server holds the most use, at an 82% usage rate. Others like MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB trail behind.

Enterprises are also increasing their use of cloud and hybrid database deployment models. Eighty percent of respondents host a cloud database, and 65% report a mix of cloud and on-premises estate.

One possible explanation for the diversified database effect is an increase in public cloud provider usage, combined with the rise of multicloud strategies. Database options are increasing as well — many free, open-source databases can cater to unique project needs.

This “polygot persistence” could also simply be a natural occurrence within large enterprises supporting many application nuances. As Martin Fowler describes, “… any decent sized enterprise will have a variety of different data storage technologies for different kinds of data.”

Quality Database Ops = Quality Software Performance

In summary, non-relational databases are gaining steam, cloud and hybrid database models are becoming more common, and large organizations are increasingly using multiple database types. The landscape is forecasted to diversify further, meaning database DevOps is stepping up to manage this complexity.

The report indicates a correlation between quality database Ops and overall software quality, noting that organizations that release more frequently typically deploy database changes in much less time. To achieve these goals, “… the next area for database DevOps is in the data engineering and analytics space,” writes Pramod Sadalage, director, data & DevOps, ThoughtWorks.

While it’s important to take a vendor-endorsed study with a grain of salt, it’s safe to say we will likely see more interest in database DevOps, especially as DevOps themes continue to permeate through the entire spectrum of software development and delivery.

For more information, you can download The State of Database DevOps report behind an email gate here.

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