“I have been building retail software for 15-years,” says Harper Reed, CTO, Modest, CTO emeritus, Threadless, and former CTO, Obama for America. “With the advent of DevOps, development is now about how we can make the online experience better for the customer,” says Reed. It used to be about taking care of the systems.
Today, the infrastructure is in software with Amazon and the Cloud, with what DigitalOcean is doing with Docker, and with what CoreOS is doing with server deployments. Before cloud-based infrastructure, the enterprise used the data center, which was a fortress that operations had to protect. It wasn’t as easy to think about the customer with those kinds of concerns to look out for. Now everyone has time to think about the customer.
“With the cloud, you can start to have the same lifecycle with infrastructure that you had with the software that actually ran your ecommerce,” says Reed. Teams can leverage a uniformity of tools for measuring performance. Because everyone is using the same tools, it becomes easier, more uniform, to test the software. “We can all be thinking about the user,” says Reed.
With DevOps, infrastructure in software is making the online Holiday shopping experience easier by scaling up in the cloud using very simple scaling rules. “In 2007, 2008, I was CTO of Threadless and we had very good software, but we had to plan months ahead in order to scale things up during the Holidays,” says Reed; “today we don’t have to think, what is our capacity going to be, how am I going to add 15 more servers? We just turn up the budget on Amazon and away it goes.” Of course, scaling keeps shoppers from experiencing server time-outs and slothful transactions.
Because scaling is already addressed, teams can focus on development efforts on the front end, on making the user experience better. The time teams would have spent scaling the back end they now spend ridding bugs and adding and improving services and features, and doing it all much more quickly thanks to continuous deployment.
As a result of a stronger commitment on the front end, efforts become possible such as you see today where stores like Everlane , an online clothing retailer has partnered with Postmates, an on-demand delivery service to drastically cut order delivery times, including same day deliveries http://blog.postmates.com/post/104856354257/powering-on-demand-logistics using Postmates API.
“I visited a pretty well-known ecommerce startup in the Valley a couple of weeks ago. I can’t name the company, but their technology team had zero ops people because they are able to manage all of the ops that they need through software,” says Reed. This retailer hires developers who handle the ops and they don’t have to split their team up, which means more people are building better features.
They’re not spending their time managing hardware sitting in a data center somewhere. They don’t have to manage their bandwidth consumption as much. “They can do it through a control panel in software rather than by making calls to a data center,” says Reed.
And the faster the ecommerce site is, the better the conversions will be. “If your site is very quick, which goes hand in hand with scaling and how you handle capacity, the better the experience will be for everyone from the consumer who is purchasing the products to the retailer selling them to the shipper shipping them out,” says Reed. This all adds up to increased customer satisfaction.
Through continuous integration / deployment, DevOps is able put customer feedback into action very quickly, creating and testing fixes to customer experience issues, which teams can then immediately deploy. “Since we started using DevOps concepts in development, the product development cycle has decreased the time it takes to get things done and into the marketplace,” says Reed.
Before if you were a user and you reported a bug, the enterprise might well have said, “well, okay, we’ll get to it after the Holiday season because we don’t want to change anything at this critical time for fear of introducing more issues”. “Now,” says reed, “we’re able to do some testing and make sure it works and that it’s the right path for us. We’re able to get there very quickly and then we can make a more educated decision on whether now is the right time to make the change.”
Further, the online retailer has the opportunity to consider whether making the change immediately might save a significant amount of sales that would have been lost.