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Predicting Application Release Automation (ARA) Trends in 2015 with Electric Cloud

A Contributed Article by Wesley Pullen, General Manager & Vice President, Deployment Solutions at Electric Cloud

What once was considered a grassroots movement in the software world, Release Automation/Deployment Automation is now at the heart and soul of the largest and most innovative companies in the world. The transformative benefits of this practice are now critical for the organizations to facilitate in order to scale and automate the lifeblood of the digital age - better software faster with greater quality and innovation.

A critical piece of the software delivery  process within large and small IT organizations focuses on something called Application Release Automation (ARA), which helps enable the consistent, repeatable and auditable process of packaging and deploying an application(s) or update of an application(s) from development across various environments, and ultimately into production. ARA is increasingly important for many reasons, as organizations struggle with long release cycles, configuration-related errors and not being able to track processes for audit and compliance purposes.

Beyond the key benefits of implementing ARA, here are five tips/trends that we see at Electric Cloud that demonstrate the reasons why enterprises (from financial services and retail to telecom and healthcare) are adopting ARA tools and strategies:

1)      Root Cause Analysis: As development and operations teams have begun working together (via DevOps), in 2015 these teams still have an opportunity to try new methods to accelerate and automate processes. For example, they can be doing things like comparing servers, snapshotting the servers, etc. In the event of finding a difference between those servers, these teams have an opportunity to provide a delta package which is deployable to the server of concern. Instead of needing to deploy dozens of pieces of an application(s), if there's only two pieces that are different (out of sync...), you just deploy those two pieces. This will reduce the time it takes to deploy by only needing to pull out the logs that are needed to see what those differences are.

2)      Need for Insight & Discovery into App Development: Oftentimes when companies leverage ARA or DevOps solutions, getting them stood up in middleware server environments with tons of applications can be a daunting task. But, what if you are able to point to the server and have it tell you what applications already exist so you can drag and drop those applications into a model? And then go from there to do your deployments? In 2015, there will be moves towards these types of discovery processes to make deployment faster and easier to gain greater insights in a much quicker pace. When it comes time to train the trainer or train other resources on newer technology, it can now happen in minutes versus hours or days. 

3)      Smarter Deployments: In the past, a lot of companies did "spin up" and "spin down" for testing resources, almost providing QA and development a self-service portal. It's important to have on-demand resources because when someone needs a testing instance, they'll need to layer down the firewall rules, layer down the application, the database, the middleware server and all these pieces, and then run the tests, parse the results, and then spin the resource down so that they are no longer charged. In the future, organizations will start leveraging a smart deploy methodology. Under this methodology, these "spin up" and "spin down" processes are called constructs where you can do cloud scenarios and the delta package deployments to minimize time as well.

4)      Containerization: Going forward, we will see companies start to migrate to containerization for the purposes of having ready-made containers to provide a bill of materials inside the container and manage that container through deployment automation as well.  Docker and its fast popularity is just the tip of the iceberg and many enterprises are now starting to employ Docker containers within their environments.  The reduced overhead in system resources and not having to manage hypervisors is very appealing.  Deployment Automation and working and integrating with Docker is a must for any ARA vendor in 2015.

5)      Big Data Trend Analysis: Now that software development teams have done hundreds, if not thousands of deployments to the lower environments, they can start to analyze and study those deployment trends and provide windows for smarter server allocation and reservation in the future. So if someone knows that they're doing a deployment and someone else has done this deployment 100 times in QA and Dev, by the time they get to my staging and production environment there is already some knowledge about this deployment. For example, they will know how long it will take, the kind of the resources needed, etc. So, when it's time to schedule a maintenance window, people can leverage actual, trended data versus guesswork. These types of evaluations will continue to emerge in 2015 and beyond.

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About the Author

Wesley Pullen is the General Manager and Vice President of Deployment Solutions at Electric Cloud.

He brings more than 18 years of experience in software development methodologies and design standards, applying this experience to both commercial and private sectors. Prior to joining Electric Cloud, he was the vice president of the Emerging Solutions Group and Global ARA Solutions Group within Automic Software.

Pullen earned his bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.

Published Tuesday, January 27, 2015 7:07 AM by David Marshall
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