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February 09, 2017
True DevOps at reduced cost in an Agile delivery use case
By: Ada Karadumi

I “accidentally” ended up being the DevOps lead for two years on a client account coming from a Technical Architecture and Security background. I’m sharing my experience to help others working in DevOps and adopting DevOps practices regardless of the team or background they are aligned.

At my client, the architecture landscape has historically been very difficult to operate in and deliver monthly production releases to their transactional digital systems. Poor quality test environments combined with a constant push from company leadership to keep any digital sales channel downtime to a minimum during an overnight deployment made monthly releases complex. These constraints also required a large team to perform these changes. The company uses a highly-customized IBM retail suite—IBM WebSphere Commerce Server, WebSphere Message Broker as middleware and Sterling Order Management for order processing. Additionally, they have roughly 300 different systems in production and test environments, including legacy applications which are supported by different third-party providers with unique SLAs.

After completing its large-scale transformation in 2016 along with a leadership change, the company turned its focus on reducing costs, speeding up development and deployment, reducing risk as well as changing the delivery methodology to Agile development.

To help with cost constraints, I was asked to lead the team responsible for delivering consistent technology in the non-production and production landscape. This landscape was used by the Release teams to develop and test. We automated it as much as possible to enable functionality across the team, located in both the United Kingdom and India, and executed the deployments across the different applications to the production estate.

To achieve the company’s goals, we focused on:

  • Reducing the management overhead created by different technical teams and alignments (legacy environments, cloud environments, digital environments, development, test, architecture, operations etc.) and have one manager lead the team

  • Changing the team culture with all members adopting and operating DevOps leading practices independently from previous alignments. From personal experience, I’ve found that technical architects and developers are the quickest to adopt DevOps

  • Replacing experienced onshore resources with offshore on a 20-80 percent ratio to reduce cost

  • Engaging the company’s product owners in Agile and DevOps delivery to prioritize the backlog and provide support and focus for the team

  • Enhancing continuous delivery pipelines with a complicated tech stack

  • Delivering new IBM Sterling environments very quickly in production and at time to handle the peak traffic with Chef

  • Deploying 1,200+ times throughout the year on IBM retail stack on test environments and increasing the reliability of build and test. This enabled teams to be self-sufficient via self-serve by development and test

Focusing on the above brought direct revenue gains to the company:

  • Top-line revenue gains in 2016 came from lower outage releases by automation of deployments and optimization of deployment plans compared to previous years

  • Reduced time to market by over 50 percent by doubling the release cadence compared to the previous year

It is not unusual for DevOps teams to struggle to get the right level of business support and sponsorship, but if you can create a business case to show revenue gain and adapt to the DevOps practices, the support and investment in DevOps will follow.

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