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DevOps for e-commerce businesses

on Feb 20, 2020
The online merchant sphere is one of the most competitive industries in the world. Just look at these figures:

  • The number of e-commerce websites on the internet varies from 12M to 24M;
  • Around 95% of all purchases are expected to be online by 2040;
  • The share of e-commerce is expected to rise to 72.9% by 2021

As we see, the trend has a steady growth due to two factors like an increase in availability and affordability of devices and the world's growing tendency towards digitalization. That's why this industry is highly overloaded with its everyday popping up online stores.

The DevOps-driven approach has become a must-have for businesses if they want to stay afloat. This concerns not only giant marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy or eBay but also small stores. The reason for this is a dependency on the e-commerce platform they utilize as a framework. Each platform has its own specific peculiarities of utilization and sometimes unflexible customization. For instance, Shopify takes over server management, so for some clients it is more convinient to customize the e-commerce data pipelines by using serverless. That's why there is no silver bullet or patterned solutions for online merchant businesses.

So let's uncover what DevOps is and how to leverage its best practices for e-commerce!

What is DevOps

A term itself has many definitions encompassing everything beginning from cultural aspects, approaches in development, its main tasks, and even workflow organizational principles.

DevOps is a set of practices combining cultural philosophy within an organization, approaches to development lifecycles and tools that help to increase the ability to deliver applications and services more efficiently.

It begins with breaking the silos, the 'us and them' mentality and building cooperation both on technical and personal levels. Check out our DevOps as a Service page to learn more.

E-commerce demands in IT

Today customers' needs dictate the rules on how online stores have to run the business. Customers will not wait until the platform get the stuff right, they will just switch to alternative stores. That's why e-commerce projects have special requirements for IT:

  • short-term release cycle;
  • quick bug fix;
  • high availability up to 99.9%
  • service stability;
  • low cost on infrastructure maintenance;
  • strong feedback pipeline;
  • quick data processing;
  • data storage and security;
  • compatibility with AI / ML technologies (similar items suggestion).

All these requirements demand smooth running operational workflows and optimized usage of computing resources - what DevOps actually solves. So how can DevOps practices be helpful for the e-commerce industry?

DevOps best practices for e-commerce projects

Below we describe how DevOps helps companies avoid most common difficulties.

Continuous integration and delivery

Progressive platforms drive their business on being agile and quicker than their competitors. It is crucial to keep pace with fast-changing customer needs to stay afloat. Properly designed CI/CD pipelines enable receiving of customer feedback and its further analysis and swift product enhancement.
With CI/CD pipelines you gain

  • Fewer bugs leak to the production thank to hundred of automated tests running in a few seconds. Meanwhile, the QA team is focused on global product improvements.
  • You can release new features and updates more often.
  • There is no need to pause the development to release.
  • All deployments are automated even for small changes.
  • Due to the deployment of small batches of changes, there are fewer risks to break something down. Thus, the release process is less stressful for developers.

Infrastructure automation

Traditional manual processes contradict DevOps philosophy and cause many unforeseen failures and, thus, companies lose money and customers' loyalty while the services remain unavailable.

That's why a smart approach to infrastructure automation yield the results:

  • Faster changes - apply changes automatically within a matter of seconds.
  • Infrastructure modernization - use contemporary tools as your business accelerators.
  • Measurable results - you can see how well your e-commerce project performs and analyze data for further its enhancement.
  • Efficient time management for development teams. Having infrastructure automated, the IT department spends more time on improvement tasks rather than on the maintenance of the existing infrastructure.
  • A decrease in errors caused by human interference.
  • Reduced costs on infrastructure maintenance.
But remember, the aim of automation in DevOps for e-commerce is to set up consistent and robust builds in a stable environment. That's why automation must be smart, not "automation of everything".

Security for e-commerce

Online stores serve their clients online, that means data require to be properly stored, processed and protected. Besides, companies have to build the infrastructures compatible with strict GDPR requirements (in particular, the businesses which keep customers' personal data and banking details). Hence, DevOps practices help to build originally a secure environment.

Here is a short checklist on main security pain points for online merchant projects:

☑ Configurations and updates of the servers must be automated.
☑ Create backups regularly.
☑ SSL / TLS configurations must be correct.
☑ Strict access to the resources and role designation.
☑ Sensitive data (e.g. personal data or bank details) must be encrypted.
☑ All SSH configurations are hardened.
☑ Applications are isolated.
☑ Infrastructure and application logs are stored in a safe place.
☑ Security vulnerabilities of the code are checked on a regular basis (SAST).
☑ Service against DDoS attacks functions properly.
☑ 2-factor authentication is enforced.

Monitoring and alerting

Obviously, as your marketers use Google Analytics for campaign performance analysis, IT staff either needs analytics tools for measurement of the website performance and its service quality. Availability, functionality, and speed are three important metrics to provide positive user experience.

DevOps best practices for online merchant businesses encompass using monitoring and notifications tools. With these tools you obtain:

  • Alerts when undesirable events interfere with system operation. Thanks to this feature you will be able to eliminate the problem before it influenced the service availability.
  • Auto-scaling and load balancing set up is impossible without monitoring tools.
  • Automated decisions help predict traffic spikes and prepare the infrastructure for the unexpected load.

Сompanies monitor metrics and logs to see how infrastructure performance may impact the end-user. Monitoring and alerting are very important not only to track and analyze data but also to prevent potential issues for your customers and their shopping experience.

Conclusion

The E-commerce market is developing drastically and evolving faster than other industries. Competition is brisk and the customer became more demanding due to having too many alternatives. If companies want to gain credibility, they have to provide a modern high-performing online service with its continuous improvement.

That's why there is no place for slow-moving development. Using DevOps best practices, you can quickly respond to the market demands, enhance collaboration between teams, establish flexible and scalable infrastructure ready for quick updates and optimize your spending on IT system maintenance.

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