Software development, at its most complex and dynamic is a full-court press of effort, knowledge, patience, and hard work. Anything that can reliably and cost-effectively reduce the huge number of tasks, redundancies, reports, and delays associated with the application release process is something to be embraced.
In particular, many organizations today are turning to the agile development methodology, DevOps, in order to rapidly produce software and improve operations performance. According to research by Gartner, by 2016 DevOps will become a mainstream strategy that will be employed by 25% of Global 2000 organizations. Moreover, by 2019, Gartner predicts 50% of enterprises will implement automated configuration and release management as a result of DevOps initiatives.
What many in the development community don’t realize is that solutions exist, using current technologies, to automate many of the routine—and even not so routine—elements of the application release process needed for DevOps. Instead of adding multiple application-specific automation tools, resulting in a confusing and expensive array of various silos of automation, organizations can take advantage of their existing automation suite to automate their application release processes. What we’re talking about is not simply scheduling workflows, but the actual execution of tasks, from administrative duties to build deployments, release management, and more.
Using modern IT workload automation solutions, it’s possible to offload the manual execution of a number of processes to improve overall DevOps agility. Many actions necessary to go from code to production, not to mention maintenance and cleanup tasks, can be taken off the backs of developers and operations, thus freeing them for higher level projects.
With a modern workload automation solution, organizations can automate routine and time-consuming build kickoffs and installations. For example, using pre-built job steps for Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS), organizations can create an automated workflow that deploys builds onto machines, installs the kits onto production environments, verifies installation files are correct, and then sends an alert to the proper users that the build is ready. After QA performs testing of the individual stories, the automation solution can then close the stories and merge them in time for a daily or weekly review meeting. Teams can also integrate TFS with a QA/test system, in order to automatically create a new work item with TFS every time a bug is logged.
On the Operations side, one of the biggest challenges in application release management is making sure machines are correctly architected. Excessive instances and regression tests can cause machine slowdowns that create havoc with development schedules. Again, workload automation comes to the rescue via workflows that purge databases, increase CPU, or anything else necessary to ensure a properly-provisioned testing environment.
Adding to this, many popular tools used in software development lack even basic scheduling capabilities. If you wish to create a work item or trigger a build, for example, you probably have to do so using a Web service or the TFS Task Scheduler Service. Even then, all you likely have at your disposal is date/time scheduling. This is where advanced workload automation really shines, since it can trigger tasks according to a pre-defined event, or even a complex combination of events. As a result, DevOps teams can avoid unnecessary project delays or lag time due that would otherwise occur with manual handoffs between teams or individuals.
While workload automation has been around for many years, today’s IT departments are increasingly using workload automation as a foundation for their wider IT systems. As new methodologies and strategies like DevOps and Big Data emerge, automation provides a foundational piece upon which to automate essential processes needed to support these new initiatives. In the area of DevOps, workload automation is helping both developers and operations build and automate release processes more effectively, with capabilities that can make the difference between headaches and headway. Don’t fall into the DevOps tool trap.
About the Author/ Jim Manias
Jim Manias is Vice President at Advanced Systems Concepts, Inc. and is responsible for the overall market strategy and planning for a range of products including ActiveBatch® Workload Automation and Job Scheduling. Jim has been with Advanced Systems Concepts since 1991 and has held multiple senior management positions in the enterprise software and hardware market. Jim can be reached at JManias@advsyscon.com