Agile vs DevOps: What’s the difference?

Difference between Agile and DevOps

The key difference between Agile versus DevOps is that Agile is a philosophy about how to develop and deliver software, while DevOps describes how to continuously deploy code through the use of modern tools and automated processes.

Agile’s Manifesto

If a software developer is Agile, they behave in a manner that is consistent with the values and principles defined in the Agile manifesto.

Written and signed by software development leaders in 2001, the Agile Manifesto defines the twelve principles and four fundamental values and that Agile practitioners must embrace, including:

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

While it’s important to the software development community can’t be understated, the Agile Manifesto is remarkably short in length.  It’s is less than 500 words in length.

Other than insisting that the continuous delivery of software to the client is Agile’s highest priority, the manifesto does not provide any concise guidance or recommend any specific processes to follows. It is purely a philosophical exercise.

How do you define DevOps?

In contrast to Agile, which is entirely defined by the manifesto, there is defining document for DevOps. DevOps has no universally accepted definition.

It’s not even exactly clear when DevOps made its way into the lexicon, although many point to John Allspaw and Paul Hammond 2009 Velocity conference presentation entitled 10+ Deploys Per Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation at Flickr as it’s birthplace.

Many also consider Gene Kim’s book The Phoenix Project as a driving force behind DevOps adoption as well.

Agile versus DevOps Comparison Chart
Comparison Agile DevOps
Inception 2001 2007
Inventors John Kern, Martin Fowler at al. John Allspaw and Paul Hammond at Flickr and The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim
Highest Priority Continuous delivery of software Continuous deployment of software
Founding Artifact Agile Manifesto 10+ Deploys Per Day conference session and The Phoenix Project
Implementation Frameworks Scrum, Kanban, ScrumBan, Lean, XP CAMS, CALMS, DORA
Alternatives Waterfall Silo based development and deployment
Team Size Used by small teams of 10 or less Implemented as a company wide strategy
Scope Focuses on the development of a single application A corporate wide approach to software deployment

In this presentation, the Allspaw and Hammond describe how confidence in their software testing routines had created so much trust between development and operations that the company had implemented a process that would automatically deploy code into production over 10 times per day.

Many things have changed in the software development industry since 2009, but the cornerstones of DevOps continue to be:

  • Trust and collaboration between Dev and Ops teams
  • A heavy reliance on comprehensive software testing routines
  • The integration of modern tools to simplify development and operations tasks
  • The automation of deployment into production without any human intervention or checkpoints

Agile and DevOps culture

While many argue over exactly what DevOps is, most definitions include the term ‘culture.’ Which begs the question: what is culture?

Generally speaking, culture can be defined as any group of likeminded people who use a common set of tools and follow a repeatable set of processes.

In essence, culture boils down to these three things:

  • people
  • processes
  • and the tools they use

Agile and DevOps goals and outcomes are closely aligned.

DevOps Tools and Processes

In the world of DevOps, popular tools the practitioners use include:

  • Git and GitHub
  • Docker and containers
  • Jenkins and other CI tools
  • Kubernetes for orchestration
  • Chef and Puppet
  • Static code analysis
  • Terraform
  • The public cloud

The process that emerges from the use of these is the continuous integration and deployment of code (CI/CD).

How are Agile and DevOps similar?

What’s unique about people who do DevOps?

What is the prerequisite for a Digital Transformation to be a success?

This is precisely where Agile and DevOps intersect.

To make DevOps work, all DevOps practitioners must embrace an Agile mindset. All DevOps practitioners believe in:

  • The automation of manual tasks and the importance of work not done
  • The importance of working with self-organized teams made up of motivated individuals
  • The continuous delivery of software to the client as their highest priority

Every single one of these points maps directly back to one of the twelve principles outlined in the Agile Manifesto.

Agile and DevOps Differences

The DevOps infinity loop shows an iterative dev process often embraced by Agile teams.  

How to do Agile and DevOps together

DevOps people must be Agile. To do DevOps right, DevOps practitioners must embrace an Agile mindset.

And not only to Agile and DevOps practitioners share a common mindset, but their goals are aligned as well.

The ultimate goal of a DevOps transition is to fully automate the deployment of working code into production. This represents full DevOps enlightenment.

The Agile manifesto states in no uncertain terms that its highest priority is the continuous delivery of software to the client.

Both Agile and DevOps share the belief that the best way to build software, ensure transparency and promote sustainable development is to get working software into the hands your clients.

Agile and DevOps have the exact same goal. It is for dev and ops teams to use modern tools and invent processes that get software into the hands of your clients as soon as it’s humanly possible.

Agile versus DevOps differences and similarities

So summarize, here are the most common differences and similarities between DevOps and Agile:

1. Agile is defined by the Agile Manifesto, while there is no universally accepted definition of DevOps
2. DevOps defines a work culture, while Agile is a software development philosophy
3. Agile’s highest priority is continuous delivery, while for DevOps it’s continuous deployment
4. DevOps insists on the automation of all manual tasks, while Agile values ‘the amount of work not done’
5. DevOps practitioners embrace an Agile mindset, while Agile demands participants be self-organized and motivated

Agile and DevOps combined

Agile and DevOps are not conflicting ideals. In fact, the opposite is true.

Together, people with Agile mindsets who embrace a DevOps culture share a common goal, which is the continuous delivery and deployment of valuable software to the client.

To do DevOps right, all participants must embrace an Agile mindset. It is only when this happen that DevOps based digital transformations are a success.