Keeping amusement parks running and the fun flowing is Roller‘s main job. The company provides software for the leisure and entertainment industries, notably theme parks, amusement parks and trampoline parks. Its core functions are ticketing, POS and CRM. Clients include Coney Island Luna Park, Aussie World and Twinlakes Park.
When Roller decided to expand and redevelop its operations in 2015, DevOps was the main attraction. CTO Andrew Brodie led the company’s push, having worked on Roller’s original implementation in his previous role as co-founder and technical director of digital product design studio Bravo!
Automation of Roller’s processes was a major goal. Even small organizations should adopt good practices, Brodie says, and that includes automating everything that can be automated (within reason) to the point of being able to click one button to deploy a system.
In its early days, Roller used Microsoft tools including Web Deploy to deliver a monolithic application that met the requirements of a minimum viable product. Roller initially ran on Ninefold, a now-defunct Australian IaaS platform.
When the company attracted additional funding in 2015, it was able to expand its development team with people who had various skills including DevOps. Today, it comprises around 50 people—12 developers and various user experience, quality assurance and project management specialists.
The newfound expertise enabled the redevelopment of the system as a series of applications and microservices and eliminating most frequently performed manual operations.
Roller’s deployment process had become a bottleneck, so the company invested time in adopting the most appropriate tools. Several came from HashiCorp, including Packer (for creating machine images), Terraform (cross-provider infrastructure management), Consul (service discovery, configuration and orchestration) and Vault (centralized storage and control of distributed secrets such as keys).
After Ninefold’s demise, Roller became heavily involved with AWS, which “had everything we needed” in the way of APIs and toolsets “to code out our infrastructure,” Brodie says. But even though “we’re really happy with Amazon,” the company has avoided using exclusively AWS tools to retain the ability to move to other platforms such as Azure.
Implementing load balancing, auto scaling groups and so on as code took about a month’s effort. “It was a great move for us,” he says.
Other tools used by Roller include the Chocolatey package manager, and Microsoft’s PowerShell and its Desired State Configuration feature. After a machine image is tested, that’s exactly what moves into production, providing confidence that it will work as expected.
Roller uses blue-green deployment with autoscaling groups to make it easy to roll back if necessary. Deployment or rollback takes less than 10 minutes. When individual problems arise, Roller’s practice is to kill the unhealthy server and bring up a new one.
The company maintains separate deployment pipelines for each application and service, using Atlassian’s Bitbucket distributed version control system and its Pipelines feature to automate the deployment of checked-in code.
Roller can deploy code within an hour if necessary, but currently works to a weekly release schedule. The goal is to move to multiple releases in a day.
Major Australian jobsite Seek served as an inspiration for Roller’s DevOps path. “We’ve always looked at the bigger players,” Brodie notes. In addition, Meetups (“there’s something for everyone”) and conferences (he specifically mentioned DDD Melbourne and NDC Sydney) have been invaluable in being able to talk with other companies about their experiences. “We’re keen to stay ahead of the latest practices,” he says, so the company encourages its people to attend such events.
Other resources he finds useful include Stack Overflow and Plural. Plus, he recommends “The DevOps Handbook” by Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois and John Willis, which he describes as “a fantastic resource,” providing practical advice particularly around issues at the organizational level.
When asked for advice for those starting a new business or major project, Brodie recommends pragmatism:
- Consider DevOps from the start “but don’t overcook it.” In other words, begin with the basics and evolve from there.
- Aim for continuous improvement—people will keep generating new ideas, but picking the right time to implement them is important.
- Look for a mentor, and talk to people about the tools they’re using.
- Take advantage of outside organizations’ capabilities. For example, Rackspace can help architect an application for AWS.