October 6, 2022

Solutions to the 3 Biggest Challenges with Enterprise GitOps

Table of Contents

Key takeaway

Software delivery tooling and process changes have grown exponentially over the past decade with the rise of the cloud, containers, and microservices. Amid all this change in IT, the adoption pattern of emerging technologies is one constant. New tech starts with individual contributors where it progresses to gain acceptance on the team level, eventually leading to enterprise-wide adoption. 

Two prime examples of this are source control (or version control) and cloud computing. For two decades, developers commonly stored code in folders and drives. Source code management was first adopted by individuals on the leading edge, who then introduced it to their team, and then enterprise organizations took notice and started standardizing source control across the board. 

Similarly, with cloud computing, developers started adopting it in the early days out of frustration with sluggish IT operations teams in order to move faster. Then, individual teams started adopting the cloud on a per-project basis, and now practically every organization has a dedicated cloud team. 

I see GitOps on a similar trajectory as a breakthrough technology growing in popularity that is primed to hit widespread enterprise adoption in short order. 

A Quick Intro to GitOps

For those new to the concept, GitOps is an approach for companies looking to simplify deployments of cloud-native applications. Whether it’s adding a firewall rule, defining a VPC, or fixing a UI bug, all of it should come from the central plane of source control.

On a more technical level, GitOps is a framework, or a set of practices, to achieve Continuous Delivery for cloud-native applications. GitOps uses a declarative syntax and leverages Git as a single source of truth to automate infrastructure and application development, taking into account DevOps best practices to bring security, reliability, and consistency to Kubernetes deployments.

While GitOps as a concept has been around for about 5 years, which is a pretty long time in IT, it has evolved from a paradigm to a concept that is most synonymous with tools like Flux and ArgoCD. If we have to look at where GitOps sits on the emerging tech adoption curve, it has been stuck at the team level for quite some time. 

Enterprise GitOps Challenges

What’s holding GitOps back from being a true enterprise service like cloud computing? While there are plenty of challenges to enterprise GitOps, the three biggest technical hurdles that we see preventing GitOps from being adopted enterprise-wide are:

  1. Managing Scale 
  2. Enforcing Governance 
  3. Lack of Confidence 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these challenges, and some solutions that allow enterprise organizations to adopt GitOps at scale. 

Managing Scale for Enterprise GitOps 

It’s actually really easy to deploy a GitOps tool in a single cluster and start pushing changes with a small team. Its ease of adoption is one of the reasons it’s so popular. Where it gets very challenging is trying to implement a GitOps approach at scale across hundreds of clusters and thousands of developers. It is no easy task to do GitOps at scale, and most GitOps tools live in a “magical world” where everything is in a container running in Kubernetes. In the enterprise, GitOps must be able to exist with services outside Kuberetes and be able to scale across a variety of platforms. 

How GitOps Can Scale for the Enterprise 

Simply put, GitOps cannot exist on an island anymore. Just like the source control server sitting under my desk 20 years ago, it's no longer sustainable to run bespoke GitOps patterns. GitOps needs to be a first-class enterprise service that is natively unified with CI/CD pipelines. Enterprises need to be able to manage GitOps at scale. GitOps services need to be able to coexist with pipeline deployed services, ad especially cloud services that exist outside the realm of Kubernetes.

Enforcing Governance for Enterprise GitOps

Governance is a challenge with any automation tool. Once you have the ability to replicate changes at scale, with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of governance capabilities baked into most homegrown GitOps implementations or open-source solutions. It’s important to make sure that no new security vulnerabilities are introduced with a GitOps-induced change, and any enterprise looking at adopting a GitOps approach should consider policy-based governance. Enterprise-grade GitOps cannot bypass change management and security. 

Solving for Governance with Enterprise GitOps

The shared service dilemma is one of the biggest problems facing enterprise IT today. Simply put, shared services teams want to empower developers as much as possible without sacrificing security and reliability. The modern way to solve this dilemma is by implementing policy-based governance via Policy as Code. The standard for modern governance is the Open Policy Agent (OPA), which is a CNCF-backed project. Policy-based governance is something that needs to be embedded natively in any software delivery process; it can’t just be an afterthought. 

Lack of Confidence in Enterprise GitOps

How confident are you that the change you’re about to make is not going to have an adverse impact on your customers? This fundamental question is why Harness invented the concept of continuous verification to automatically validate deployment health with the help of AI/ML. Lack of confidence is the number one reason why releases are delayed, and why teams work late at night and on weekends doing releases. GitOps is an amazing new paradigm, but it doesn’t fix the fundamental confidence problem that brings so much toil to the lives of DevOps engineers. 

Instilling Confidence Into GitOps for the Enterprise

While policy-based governance can ensure security, testing, and change management policies are enforced, only continuous verification can dynamically ensure that a change does not impact the customer experience. GitOps with legacy release strategies and manual verification is not true GitOps. It’s like putting a monolith in a container and acting like it's a microservice. 

Scale Your GitOps for the Enterprise with Harness

GitOps is one of the most exciting trends in DevOps today for good reason: as the single source of truth for container-based continuous integration and continuous delivery, GitOps allows development teams to increase velocity and improve system reliability. 

GitOps has reached the point of adoption where it needs to be treated like a true enterprise service. Unifying GitOps with CI/CD, integrated policy-based governance, and continuous verification are three fundamental requirements of any enterprise GitOps offering. 

Harness offers Continuous Delivery & GitOps-as-a-Service, built on the popular Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)-incubated open source Argo CD project, delivering lightning fast deployments and lightweight operation developers love with enterprise-grade security, governance, and scalability.

Wherever you are on your GitOps journey, from initial exploration to seasoned professional, we hope this blog was helpful for you. If you’d like to see GitOps-as-a-Service in action with Harness, request a demo to see how we’re tackling the challenges.

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