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DevOps vs Agile: What’s the difference?

Eric Pulsifer
Eric Pulsifer

Agile and DevOps have shaped the way software is developed today. They’ve become so widely adapted and revered as to permeate beyond the world of software development into shaping project management and org charts in businesses of all stripes.

DevOps and agile can be tricky to define, and the lines between the two often seem to blur.

  • At a basic level, DevOps is the combination of two teams (software development and IT operations) to create a more powerful, efficient software development process.
  • Agile is a series of methodologies around iterative development designed to make tasks smaller and more manageable and increase collaboration.

But what are the deeper differences between DevOps and agile? Is DevOps better than agile? Or can DevOps and agile be implemented together? In this post, we’ll dive into some common agile and DevOps FAQs.

DevOps vs Agile

What is the difference between DevOps and agile?

Agile and DevOps are both used in the development of software. While they’re both designed to improve the software development process, they seek to do so by taking different approaches. But they’re not mutually exclusive. (More on that below.)

Agile is essentially about giving software developers a shared set of principles to drive decision-making and allow for more responsiveness to change.

DevOps is about a culture change intended to drive collaboration between software developers and IT operations.

It’s often said that DevOps is agile applied beyond the software development team.


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What is agile?

Agile is an iterative software development approach that focuses on collaboration and quick, rapid releases. It’s a set of values and principles that can be used to help drive decisions in software development. 

When it comes to agile, it’s tough to define it more concisely than the original micro manifesto itself, which was written back in 2001. (No TL;DR version needed. It’s only 68 words.) It states:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

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

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more

The manifest is paired with 12 agile principles to help make better decisions. 

Copying agile approaches and investing in agile tools doesn’t make your team agile. It’s not just about doing two-week iterations or building out smaller teams. In agile, the what a team does is less important than the why they do it.

Agile (as the name implies) is about the flexibility and adaptability to build software with ever-changing needs and toss set-in-stone plans out the window.

This includes better connecting the dev team with end-users. (You could sort of think of that a bit like the “What would you say you do here?” scene from Office Space.)

What are the benefits of agile?

  • Agility –  More quickly respond to market changes or customer feedback.
  • Quality – A focus on testing and sustained customer involvement means the chances of a product’s overall quality being high are greater.
  • Collaboration – Agile is about people. By placing value on human interactions over processes and “that’s just the way it’s done,” organizations are able to let employees act guided by their experience and a shared set of values rather than being micro-managed or shackled to detailed documentation.
  • Ownership – The trust required from leadership to have agile teams can create an increased feeling of ownership.
  • Customer satisfaction – With a focus on finding and fixing problems quickly and a direct line between customers and developers, customers are more likely to be satisfied and come back for more.
  • Predictability – By doing away with big plans that are set in stone and often detached from reality, organizations can get a better picture of what’s going well and what’s not working right away rather than months down the road when it’s too late to do anything to correct it.
  • Increase productivity – Regularly used planning tools like Kanban and Scrum help teams keep tabs of work and progress toward goals.

How can a company be agile? 

Many organizations are used to working in a waterfall model. A waterfall model is a linear approach is a sequence of events that starts with a heavy upfront investment of time and resources in scoping out requirements and budgeting before moving into development, testing, and production.

Moving this paradigm to agile and running agile at scale can be difficult and complex. This isn’t helped by the fact that “agile” is less of a thing you do and more of a basis for decision-making. For organizations guided by process above all else, this can require a major shift and definitely takes some backing from management.

What is DevOps?

With a name that sounds like a covert military team and the kind of goofy capitalization you’ve come to expect from tech terminology, DevOps combines software development and IT operations. Take the “dev” from software development and the “ops” from IT operations and you get this portmanteau, which is the fun-to-say term that describes mashing together of multiple words, like spork, phablet, brunch, jorts, and bromance.

DevOps isn’t just a process. It’s a shift in workplace culture. It’s a collaboration between teams. Doubling down on automation and installing all of the right software won’t get you there alone. Like agile, people are the key component.

AWS offers the following definition of the DevOps model:

DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increases an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity: evolving and improving products at a faster pace than organizations using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes. This speed enables organizations to better serve their customers and compete more effectively in the market.


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Why combine software development and IT operations?

How did these two groups get combined into one? And why would you want to combine development and IT operations? 

Way back when (around 2007 or so), IT operations teams were separate from development teams. Then, people in the development and operations communities realized there was some issues in the way these teams were structured and how they interacted (or didn’t interact).

  • Development and IT operations teams had different objectives
  • Development and operations teams had different performance indicators
  • Development and operations teams were siloed physically in different rooms, buildings, or offices

So they started talking. This gave birth to DevOps and the DevOps engineer

Patrick Debois, often called the Godfather of DevOps, brought these groups together at devopsdays in 2009 where they discussed ways to bridge the gap between the two fields. Now, thousands of enterprises have adapted or are working toward adapting these practices.

These new approaches basically make ops everyone’s job to a degree, which makes the future of ops jobs very interesting. 

DevOps concepts and key terms

  • Container – A lightweight, standalone, executable piece of software. It includes everything needed to run that software.
  • Continuous delivery (CD) – The ongoing and manual or automatic release of software to production. It’s aimed around new cycles. Some orgs release a new version with any changes.
  • Continuous integration (CI) – The ongoing programming, building, and testing of code. This is done before turning it over to the continuous delivery (CD) system for deployment. With CD, it makes up CI/CD.
  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC) – Defining infrastructure you want to use with programming code that can be understood by cloud services. These cloud services then create the infrastructure for you based on this code. This allows you to define standards and reuse code, which saves time.
  • Microservices – Application architecture that is broken into multiple small pieces. Containers are often used to deploy microservices.
  • Open source – Computer software code released under a license for free, like Linux or Kubernetes.
  • Pipeline – A set of connected processes where the output of one process is the input for the next.
  • Serverless – Running a service or microservice on cloud-based infrastructure without worrying about the servers running your code. You simply provide the code, and the cloud provider runs the code and gives you the results. See more on the Function as a Service (FaaS) services of AWS, Azure, and GCP.
  • Source code repository – A place to upload and track the history of your code, like GitHub or AWS CodeCommit.
  • Unit testing – Breaking your application down into small parts to test that each features works.

What are the benefits of DevOps?

DevOps is all about producing higher-quality software faster and saving a lot of time and money. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the benefits.

  • Speed – Release updates and new features faster, adapt to the changing market, and become more efficient.
  • Rapid delivery – Increase deployment frequency and the pace of releases. Respond to customers’ needs faster and build a competitive advantage. 
  • Reliability – Automatic testing is built-in. Ensures rollouts are of the highest quality and that you have less downtime because you build for stability and test before deploying.
  • Scale – Implements automation. With the use of cloud and container technology, you can scale usage up and down and save money while you do so.
  • Collaboration – Allow teams who used to be apart to work together. Workflows can be combined, inefficiency is reduced, and time is saved.
  • Security – Allows infrastructure to be created by code, just like software. By doing this (instead of doing it manually), you can define policies to stay compliant no matter how many servers will be deployed.

Want an overview of the benefits with a heavy dash of sarcasm? Check out our post 5 reasons to NOT move to DevOps.

Is DevOps a replacement for agile?

DevOps and agile can speed up the delivery of and increase the quality of software. Agile replaced the old-school waterfall model, but DevOps isn’t a replacement for agile.

DevOps exists because of agile, and the two can coexist and be used together. You don’t have to choose between DevOps and agile. Ideally, your organization will practice both. 

See the top DevOps skills people are learning at ACG right now

What is CI/CD?

Continuous integration and continuous development (or CI/CD) is a DevOps tactic — a way to deliver apps to customers with the introduction of automation into the agile development process. 

The CI/CD pipeline (as it’s called when these practices are combined) has become an integral part of DevOps culture. A variety of tools and techniques are used for implementing such a pipeline. (More on those tools below.)

The CI/CD pipeline is supported by teams working in an agile way with either DevOps or a site reliability engineering (SRE) approach. 

Read more about why you need SRE skills to thrive in a serverless world and check out our Site Reliability Engineering Concepts or Google Cloud DevOps and SREs courses.

What are the benefits of CI/CD?

CI/CD pipelines smooth and speed up the flow of code from development through operations and QA into production by automating manual processes and increasing confidence in your releases. 

This is the exact opposite of the waterfall release approach still practiced by many large organizations, where developers throw code “over the wall” to ops, devs don’t get access to production, and ops doesn’t have much inside knowledge of how the code works.

CI/CD allows organizations to:

  • Build faster
  • Decrease code review time
  • Automatic
  • Faster fault isolation
  • Additional deployment features

As mentioned before, you can be doing the right things and using the right tools and still not be agile or properly implementing DevOps. A broken and messy team can result in broken and messy CI/CD pipelines. You can almost predict how your CI/CD pipeline looks based on how your dev and ops teams work together.


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What are some common DevOps tools?

Here are some of the most popular DevOps CI/CD tools you might use if working in an AWS cloud environment.

  • Git – Free open-source version control system. It stores the entire history of your code that your developers will continue to push new code to It has a tiny footprint and fast performance. It also supports branching, allowing others to work on features separately without having developers trip over code.
  • AWS CodeCommit Fully managed server for hosting Git repositories. It’s secure and encrypted, highly available, and easily integrated with other AWS services.
  • AWS CodeBuild Fully managed continuous integration code that complies code, runs tests, and produces software packages. When developers write code and push it into Git, CodeBuild compiles that code and produces a software package. It scales automatically and can process multiple builds concurrently.
  • AWS CodeDeploy Fully managed deployment service that takes the software package (or files you updated and pushed into your Git repository) and deploys it to AWS or on-premises servers. It integrates well with AWS services and your own servers. It completely automates software deployment, eliminating error-prone manual operations.
  • AWS CodePipeline Fully management continuous delivery service that helps you completely automate your release pipeline. It can automate the build, test, and deploy phases of software development and it can integrate with CodeCommit and GitHub, giving you the flexibility to use the source-control system of your choice. Read more about automating CI/CD with AWS CodePipeline.

Other common DevOps tools include Docker, Jira, Jenkins, Puppet, Chef, Splunk, Ansible, Kubernetes, Bamboo, and Nagios

See how to get rid of configuration drift woes with Puppet.

How can I learn more about DevOps?

A Cloud Guru offers a wide range of courses, learning paths, and resources to help individuals and organizations tap into the power of DevOps, including some of our current batch of free courses. Get started now with a free account or start a 7-day free trial.

DevOps and agile FAQs

What is the difference between DevOps and agile?

Agile and DevOps are both used in the development of software. While they’re both designed to improve the software development process, they seek to do so by taking different approaches. But they’re not mutually exclusive.

What is agile?

Agile is an iterative software development approach that focuses on collaboration and quick, rapid releases. Agile provides a set of values and principles that can be used to help drive decisions in software development.

What are the benefits of agile?

There are many benefits agile brings to the table. This includes being able to adapt to market changes, improved quality testing, optimized collaboration within teams, gaining predictable insights for products, and so much more.

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a portmanteau of “development” and “operations” — as in “software development” and “IT operations.” DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increases an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity, evolving and improving products at a faster pace than organizations using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes.

What is CI/CD?

Continuous integration and continuous development (or CI/CD) is a DevOps tactic — a way to deliver apps to customers with the introduction of automation into the agile development process.


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