DevOps Interview Questions in 2019
What is DevOps?
Traditional IT organizations were rooted in the practice of separating Development from Operations since each had very distinct goals and objectives. DevOps originated out of the need to integrate Development and Operations in organizations with a product-centric approach instead of focusing on siloed areas. By unifying their mission, both areas are empowered to deliver products faster and with higher quality.
Amazon defines DevOps as “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.”
To add to this definition, it’s important to think of DevOps as a shift in culture where collaboration becomes key, and people and processes come together to create a strategy of success between two of the most important areas in IT operations. Some of the most crucial practices of DevOps include Agile planning, continuous delivery, continuous integration, application monitoring, and more.
There are two roles that can be confusing when talking about executing DevOps: DevOps engineers and system admins. A DevOps engineer focuses on working closely with software developers, system operators, and other IT professionals who deal with product delivery. A system admin is responsible for maintaining, configuring, and overseeing the reliable performance of a system’s operation. The roles have two specific differences:
- A DevOps engineer focuses on high-level collaboration while the system administrator focuses on updating and configuring servers and computer systems.
- System admins concentrate on a specific target while DevOps engineers work on a product from end-to-end.
Let’s explore the crucial DevOps interview questions that help find the best candidates for the job.
Main technologies and tools used in DevOps
With a new perspective to Development and Operations, it’s only natural to see software development in a different light. This entails the use of specific tools and technologies that make up the technology stack that is best suited for all the DevOps practices involved in the process.
Here are some of the main technologies and tools used in DevOps:
- Gradle: Reliable build automation tool that allows developers to build upon the foundations of Apache Ant and Apache Maven and write code in Java, C++, Python, and more.
- WhiteSource Bolt: Free and open-source security tool that locates and corrects source vulnerabilities within the native GitHub or Azure DevOps environment.
- Git: Considered one of the most popular DevOps tools, Git is a world-class, distributed source code version control system used to manage projects with speed and efficiency.
- Jenkins: Open source automation server tool that provides numerous plugins that support building, deploying, and automating software projects. It focuses on continuous integration and continuous delivery.
- Bamboo: Atlassian’s solution for continuous integration and continuous delivery that is similar in functionality to Jenkins.
- Vagrant: Tool that enables users to create and configure lightweight, repeatable, and portable development environments.
- Docker: Combination of software-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service that help develop and deliver software in packages called containers.
- Kubernetes: Open-source container orchestration system that automates application development, scaling, and management.
- Ansible: Open-source software provisioning, configuration management, and application deployment tool that runs on many Unix-like systems and includes its own declarative language to describe system configuration.
- PagerDuty: Incident management solution that supports a continuous delivery strategy in delivering high-performing applications.
- Prometheus: Open-source monitoring system that includes a dimensional data model, query language, time series database, and an alerting approach.
- Capistrano: Remote server automation tool that supports scripting and the execution of arbitrary tasks.
- Stackify: Lightweight tool that shows real-time logs, error queries, and more, directly in a workstation. It excels at being a key component of intelligent orchestration for software-defined data centers.
- Nagios: Free and open-source tool that is popular for its monitoring offerings. It monitors the infrastructure of an application to detect and correct problems by keeping event records, outages, and failures. It’s got a rich plugin ecosystem and it includes four monitoring solutions: Nagios Core, Nagios XI, Nagios Log Server, and Nagios Fusion.
- Puppet Enterprise: Cross-platform configuration management platform that allows users to manage infrastructure as code and automate infrastructure management.
Popular programming languages for DevOps
Now that we are familiar with some of the key players that are part of a comprehensive DevOps technology stack, let’s review the most popular programming languages for DevOps that are essential in any DevOps engineer arsenal and thus, should be part of DevOps interview questions.
With hundreds of programming languages available, it’s challenging to pinpoint the best ones for DevOps, which is why we selected some of the top options. Also, it’s important to note that DevOps engineers look for programming languages that help with scalability, efficiency, modularity, high-performance, and portability.
While there is no single language that serves all DevOps needs, let’s review some of the most popular ones:
- Go: Also known as Golang, this programming language has grown side-by-side with DevOps. As it is built on C, Go provides top performance and is designed to leverage concurrency and portability.
- Python: All-purpose scripting language that helps manage infrastructures. It includes large libraries of modules and stylistic requirements that help enforce healthy programming practices.
- Ruby: High-level and general-purpose programming language that is cross-platform and helps manage infrastructures. Like Python, Ruby has a wide variety of modules available to incorporate into applications to add functionality without writing new code.
- Scala: Object-oriented and functional programming language that helps avoid bugs in complex applications. It provides language interoperability with Java so that libraries can be written in any language.
- Bash: Sh-compatible command language interpreter that executes commands from standard inputs.
- Perl: Short for Practical Extraction and Reporting Language, Perl is a group of languages that are interpreted and dynamic.
- PHP: General-purpose programming language that allows web developers to create dynamic content that interacts with databases.
- SQL: Domain-specific language that is designed to manage data contained in a relational database management system or used for stream processing in relational data stream management systems.
So far, we’ve covered the technology stack and programming languages that DevOps engineers should be familiar with. Let’s examine the types of DevOps engineer interview questions that should be considered when hiring a new engineer.
DevOps engineer interview questions
Here’s a list of some of the most important questions to ask during a DevOps engineer interview:
What is the definition of DevOps to you and why is it necessary?
While there is no right answer, this question helps understand how a candidate views himself/herself in the overall DevOps culture. Additionally, it’s very valuable to identify candidates who are knowledgeable about the need for DevOps in the current digital landscape, from delivering faster and better applications to simplifying the deployment process, with several layers in between.
What technologies are you interested in?
As we reviewed in a previous section of the article, there are numerous technologies and tools that are important for the DevOps technology stack. By having the candidate list out the ones they’re most interested in, interviewers can identify if applicants are up to date with the latest, most modern trends and to see if they can identify the business value that each one brings to the table.
What steps are you taking to learn about technologies that interest you?
This question is designed to understand the drive and go-getter attitude of each applicant by knowing the methods and resources they are implementing to learn about new and exciting technologies.
What are the fundamental differences between DevOps and Agile?
Candidates should understand that DevOps is designed to provide agility to both the process of Development and Operations while Agile focuses on bringing agility to the Development process only. Other differences include the processes used such as continuous improvement (DevOps) vs Kanban (Agile), the key focus area, release cycles, feedback, and more.
What scripting languages do you know/use?
Candidates should be familiar with the programming language that is in line with the project needs and, more than a specific language, they should understand specific design patterns and development paradigms such as object-oriented and functional programming.
With confidentiality restrictions in mind, what is the most complex system architecture you have managed?
With this question, applicants can let interviewers know they are informed about the full system architecture rather than just individual pieces. By explaining the high-level aspects of requests, data, scaling factors, potential failure points, and more, candidates can separate themselves from the regular applicants and show that they are outstanding applicants.
What are the advantages of DevOps?
Candidates should talk about the benefits associated with DevOps such as continuous software delivery, reduction in problem complexity, fast delivery of features, stable operating systems, and more.
How does DevOps approach people, processes, and technology?
This trifecta of key elements are necessary and should be well described by the DevOps engineer to gain insight into how they approach each of these vital components. This question also sheds light on whether the candidate understands that DevOps is a cultural change rather than a limited practice.
What is your experience in bridging the gap between Development, QA, and System Administration?
Because DevOps is all about collaboration and bringing siloed areas together, it’s important to see the approach of each candidate to bridging the gap between areas that used to be separated from one another and creating a collaborative workspace that communicates and integrates effortlessly.
What do you find most challenging in a DevOps role?
This question should be aimed at discovering candidates who know how to rise above challenges and deal with them successfully. This question enables candidates to highlight their best assets and their attitude towards embracing challenging situations.
Do you consider DevOps a domain or a culture?
The basis of this question is to identify applicants who understand that DevOps is a cultural shift that is geared towards breaking down barriers between development and operations to gain the best of the two.
What is continuous integration and how do you implement it?
Continuous integration is closely related to DevOps so it is only natural to have candidates talk about their interpretation and definition of continuous integration within the DevOps framework.
Extra questions for a senior DevOps interview
These are a few extra questions to ask during DevOps interviews when looking for senior and experienced candidates.
With your experience, are you capable of recommending the best-suited DevOps tools for specific client needs?
Seasoned DevOps engineers shouldn’t only be familiar with the available tools and technologies, but they should be competent enough to recommend the most well-suited solutions for different and unique scenarios.
From all the projects you’ve worked on, what do you consider the best practices for DevOps implementation?
Senior DevOps engineers have a strong technical and business background that has been acquired over years of experience with different and unique projects, which in turn gives them insights about the best practices to implement DevOps. They should describe how each organization is different and their requirements, goals, and objectives should be addressed with a DevOps implementation strategy that is in line with their needs. Additionally, tools should be selected with deep and effortless integration in mind. Also, candidates should talk about how DevOps implementation cannot thrive without continuous integration and continuous delivery practices.
Have you implemented an effective monitoring solution for a production system?
DevOps engineers understand that monitoring solutions can be challenging to implement, which is why this is a good question to ask during a DevOps interview as it helps identify outstanding applicants who know the ins and outs of getting monitoring solutions implemented successfully. Based on your experience, what are the best methods to implement DevOps in large-scale information systems?
Traditionally, large-scale organizations are late adopters of new IT technologies, but DevOps has gained momentum as one of the most sought-after approaches in technology. Through a series of best practices, DevOps engineers can implement DevOps successfully. These best practices include: having a centralized DevOps unit that creates and owns all DevOps tools for consistency across all departments, automating as many tasks as possible to reduce duplicate work, developing a comprehensive continuous delivery/continuous integration pipeline to ensure all tools and technologies are in line with the overall DevOps strategy.
What is your opinion of the role of AWS in DevOps?
AWS plays a significant and powerful role in DevOps as the de-facto cloud-based service provider from Amazon that ensures scalability via unlimited computing power and storage. AWS empowers DevOps processes by deploying applications on the cloud.
What is your background in DevOps implementation in the cloud?
Applicants will do well to demonstrate their knowledge in some of the most commonly-used cloud computing platforms such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.
For cloud-based infrastructure deployment, what are some of the biggest challenges?
Experienced candidates should highlight their expertise in creating deployments for cloud computing providers, from designing the deployment, planning a budget, evaluating the complexity of the infrastructure, securing the system, preparing for possible issues, and more. Additionally, the candidate should emphasize their communication methods and other valuable soft skills that demonstrate their approach in handling challenging situations within the DevOps deployment framework.
Additional skills to have in your DevOps tool belt
DevOps is shifting the way applications are being made. By bringing together the areas of Development and Operations, companies are beginning to reap the benefits of having a more streamlined, effective, and quick delivery process.
Finding strong DevOps engineers is crucial in carrying out the vision of DevOps, which is why it’s important to keep in mind some of the crucial questions to ask during an interview to have a focus. Besides the technical and business points we’ve touched on in this article, it’s important to address the fact that there’s more to a candidate than their responses to this list of questions.
Candidates have technical backgrounds and soft skills that must be addressed during the interviewing process. From project management, time management, leadership, communication skills, and SDLC knowledge, to name a few, candidates and interviewers should talk about these elements to fully understand the scope of work and the extent of capabilities the DevOps engineer can bring to the table to implement and carry out DevOps successfully across different types of organizations.
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