May 23, 2022

What Are GitOps Principles?

Table of Contents

GitOps is an approach for declarative control of application infrastructure and versions. Definitions are stored in version control, Git, and applied automatically with software agents.

In the ever-changing world of software development, it can be overwhelming to keep up with the ongoing demands associated with application deployments. That's where GitOps can help alleviate the challenges associated with getting code in production environments. In this piece, we'll introduce you to the key principles of GitOps and how it can become a game-changing tool for helping development teams minimize production issues.

Created in 2017 as an operational framework for initiating organizational infrastructure changes, GitOps acts as a single source of truth for code to provide total control over production environments. Implementing GitOps workflows is an easy way to provide users with a way to simplify and automate processes.  

If you've heard the term GitOps but aren't sure how it can be used within your application development strategy, we're here to help.

Introduction to GitOps

Many organizations face a number of issues related to managing developer tools and deploying new features to cloud-native applications. Accounting for infrastructure management and using increasingly complex deployment strategies has added additional burden on development teams. Application code changes, firewall updates, and system architecture modernization are commonly faced with ongoing delays and inefficiencies. Long story short, traditional teams struggled with change management and adopting a standardized set of practices.

DevOps teams now use GitOps projects as part of their infrastructure automation strategy. GitOps allows team members to simultaneously collaborate with one another, making new changes from the observed state to the desired state in real-time. As a developer-centric experience, Git keeps an audit log of everything that occurs. 

Does your team want to learn more about how GitOps principles can help your team deploy environment updates in faster time? Harness is here to provide you with a crash course in how to best optimize development using the GitOps approach. 

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What Is GitOps?

The GitOps model seamlessly ties actions taken in source control to downstream systems such as Kubernetes. GitOps provides developers with a tool to create and deploy new software features and services while achieving the desired state of the system.

The foundational elements of GitOps include the following:

  • Declarative infrastructure: Organizations have typically followed a very siloed approach to infrastructure provisioning, where there are teams and gatekeepers for everything, long approval cycles, etc. Declarative infrastructure breaks down these barriers and allows developers to directly access what they need. This is necessary for GitOps, as they are able to write down what they need as code in source control, and they immediately get it.
  • Version control: As a single source of truth, Git helps teams conveniently make development changes within CD pipelines. Software developers can spin up prior versions of applications or reconcile changes as needed.
  • Automate change approvals: Automated processes allow for system infrastructure modifications to be deployed as seen best fit by teams. Feedback control loops can then be integrated into Continuous Deployment pipelines for initiating and automating deployments.
  • Using software agents: If the desired state doesn't match the system's actual state, changes can be reconciled from what’s in the environment to what it should be. Software agents monitor the state of the system (and what’s in version control).

In the next section, we'll dive deeper into how each of these GitOps principles can initiate a simplistic approach for the work of software developers.

For more in-depth information about GitOps, we have some articles for you: What Is GitOps, Benefits of GitOps, and GitOps Best Practices. Please feel free to read these to deepen your understanding of GitOps. 

What Are GitOps Principles?

Many consider GitOps to be the most revolutionary paradigm shift in the software development age since configuration as code. However, the proper implementation of GitOps requires understanding the principles of GitOps. Let's take a more in-depth look at how each of these principles of GitOps can help your team optimize your software development processes.

Declarative Infrastructure

Infrastructure as code can be seen on a binary scale—either at an imperative or declarative level. The differences between the two come down to one basic element: imperative deals with how something is done, while declarative deals with what is being done. Using a declarative approach involves defining the desired end state of the infrastructure by focusing on achieving the end result. On the other hand, the imperative approach deals with how an end result can be achieved.

In the most simple terms, declarative programming is like giving someone a project to complete without specific instructions. You don't care how the end goal is achieved, you simply want it to be completed. Imperative programming is like giving someone a project with specific steps to take and how you want the final project to be presented. Although there are unique advantages to each of these methods, the declarative approach is often seen as favorable as it can significantly simplify programming languages.

GitOps can use Kubernetes as a modern cloud-native tool that allows for configuration to be exemplified through facts rather than instructions. As a single source of truth, Git allows applications to be deployed and reconciled. If problems occur, teams can react expeditiously to reproduce and manage changes to infrastructure as needed. Doing so can help software developers achieve the desired state of the entire system without being burdened by manual overhauls and tedious tasks.

Version Control

As the name implies, version control allows developers an efficient approach to code management. Utilizing Git as a single source of truth where each and every code element can be traced allows for simplified rollbacks. Teams can initiate pull requests to automate and track all changes. 

Having version control capabilities allows software development teams to collaborate on code development in a timely and efficient manner, helping to initiate quicker change times with fewer disruptions and outages. If one member makes a mistake or a systematic error occurs, one can revert to earlier versions without interrupting the rest of the team's workload. 

Automate Change Approvals

Using a declarative approach to coding can help to ease and automate the change approval process. Once the desired state is declared within Git, any additional changes will be automatically applied throughout the entire system. Cluster credentials are not needed to make changes, which in turn can help reduce the time to deployment. 

The automated source control system allows for easy management throughout the software creation process. GitOps provides an environment that allows for easy delegation of tasks throughout the change management process. Developers can centrally manage their CI/CD infrastructure, making environment changes on the desired state defined in Git. 

Using Software Agents

Once the declared state of a system has been realized under version control, software agents can provide immediate alerts if expectations aren't reached. These software agents provide instant alerts regarding configuration changes using a self-healing approach. If nodes or pods fail—or a simple case of human error occurs, these agents provide an immediate feedback and control loop for your operations teams. 

Within GitOps, software agents help ensure correctness by providing immediate alerts on divergence. These agents automatically pull the desired state declarations from the source, comparing a system's actual state to its desired state. In doing so, GitOps provides an operating model for easily managing system architecture and environments.

How Can GitOps Improve Your Workflow Environment?

GitOps provides developers with a simple approach to managing application infrastructure and configurations. Acting as a single source of truth, Git gives teams the tools needed to increase productivity and improve automation within workflow environments. These GitOps practices help developers optimize application development while enhancing collaboration. 

GitOps uses a developer-centric experience to seamlessly manage cloud-native applications. As one of the best tools/approaches for providing an operational framework, it seamlessly manages the developer experience


If you're looking to begin your GitOps journey, Harness is here to help you every step of the way. The most important thing to remember is that taking an initial step today can pay great dividends for your organization tomorrow. Harness is here to help: sign up for a GitOps Demo today!

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