Continuous delivery (CD) is increasingly becoming the norm in software development, with companies releasing updates more and more frequently. Those that aren’t are exploring how they can catch up. But in all of this push to DevOps and CD, it’s vital not to forget the database. Changes to applications or web services often require changes to the database, which means companies need an end-to-end process that spans both application and database development if they want to successfully embrace CD.
However, many companies still work in silos, with applications and databases developed separately. So while the ability to deploy application changes across environments is relatively common, supporting databases in a truly elastic environment remains a major challenge for organizations.
To find out the current state of database DevOps, and how it can be included in CD, Redgate surveyed 1,000 SQL Server professionals across the world. While we found companies were keen on implementing DevOps, with 80 percent saying they will have adopted it within the next two years, only 20 percent are currently applying DevOps practices such as version control, continuous integration or automated deployment to their databases.
The Need for Change
This isn’t because companies don’t recognize the need for database DevOps—37 percent said they are deploying database changes either more than once a week or daily, demonstrating a requirement for automation. Indeed, the main driver for adopting DevOps in this area is to increase the speed of database changes (cited by 26 percent of respondents), followed by freeing up developers for more added value work (17 percent).
Companies also recognize the drawbacks of continuing traditional, siloed database development practices—26 percent said it increased the risk of failed deployments or downtime when introducing changes. This was followed by slow development and deployment cycles and an inability to respond quickly to changing business requirements (both 18 percent). Sixteen percent also cited poor visibility of the change management process as another issue. This shows the vital importance of fast, successful database changes and deployments to business today.
For companies with 5,001-10,000 employees, slow development and release cycles were seen to be more of a drawback than application downtime, while for organizations with more than 10,000 employees, the inability to respond quickly to changing business requirements was deemed to be a slightly more significant downside.
Moving to DevOps for the Database
As well as understanding the business need, the survey showed that organizations are now better structured to enable continuous delivery for database changes. The old picture of companies made up of silos of developers and database administrators that don’t work together, for example, is far from the truth. Seventy-five percent of companies had teams that included developers who were working across databases and applications, with just 25 percent having dedicated database developers. In 60 percent of companies, developers were responsible for building database deployment scripts. Fifty-eight percent of companies said the integration between the two was either good (38 percent) or great (20 percent), meaning teams work together on a planned or ad hoc basis. Just 12 percent classed integration as poor, with DBAs working in silos.
However, the research highlights two challenges to overcome:
Different processes and tools—Despite the levels of integration within organizations, there is still a gap between how companies operate and automate when it comes to applications and databases. For example, while 81 percent of respondents use version control for their applications, just 58 percent apply it to database development. Thirty-nine percent use continuous integration for applications, yet only 20 percent apply the same practice to their database. Clearly, there is still more that can be done to bring the two together through common practices and the use of third party tools.
The skills gap—The greatest obstacle to moving to an overall DevOps way of working was a perceived lack of appropriate skills (cited by 21 percent of respondents), ahead of a lack of alignment between the development and operations teams (20 percent). Only 9 percent said that their executive leadership didn’t support the shift.
When it came to integrating database changes into the DevOps process, consistency was top of the list of obstacles, with 32 percent believing that synchronizing application and database changes would be the biggest challenge, followed by overcoming different approaches to application and database development (25 percent). Perhaps unsurprisingly, 19 percent also mentioned preserving and protecting business critical data as the largest obstacle to overcome.
It’s Happening Sooner Than You Think
The good news is that many companies are confident they can quickly overcome the process and skills challenges. When asked how long they estimated it would take their organization to move from traditional database development practices to a fully automated process for deploying database changes, more than half (51 percent) said it could be done within a year, with 20 percent believing it could be achieved in six months.
Digging down into the data, those that have already adopted DevOps in other processes are much more confident the switch can be achieved quickly. Sixty-eight percent of this group cite 0 to 12 months as the time it would take to move to a fully automated database development process, compared to 28 percent of those who had no plans to adopt DevOps practices. In fact, 43 percent of this latter group cited more than two years as their estimate.
Our research shows that organizations recognize the potential of applying DevOps to the database to gain all of the advantages CD brings. They see that it speeds up software development, frees developers to do more value-added work and increases the rate at which database changes are delivered.
At a time when organizations need to operate in a faster, more seamless manner to thrive in ever more competitive markets, introducing DevOps and CD to the database can transform their development process. To read more about the research and the “State of Database DevOps,” download the full management report.
About the Author / Matt Hilbert
Matt Hilbert is a technology writer at Redgate Software with 20 years’ experience working for lots of the world’s biggest tech companies – and many of the smallest. He has a particular fascination for emerging technologies and is on a continuing mission to decompile, untangle, and explain techspeak to a wider audience, and excite people about the endless possibilities technology offers.