As my regular readers know, I started a series on companies that I found intriguing who were going to Jenkins World both late (a couple weeks before the event started), and ad hoc. That meant that companies I talked to on a regular basis came to mind, simply because I knew what they were up to, and whether or not they were going to Jenkins’ World.
It turned out to be a popular few blog posts, both with readers and customers, but I was only able to fit three in before it was late enough in the event that publishing more would not achieve the goal of the series: telling you all about interesting bits to check out.
But as these things go, the more I paid attention, the more interesting stuff I found. So I’m going to do a few “What you might not have seen at Jenkins’ World” posts to kind of get a chance to talk about other ideas that hold interest.
Today, I’ll focus on a vendor I’ve followed but never actually used. That’s rare for me; generally speaking, if I’m writing about the product, I’ve used it. And no doubt I’ll snag a free license and put it through the paces, or have one of my coworkers do so. But for now, I’m covering them because I find what they’re doing to be of interest.
The vendor is Electric Cloud. For those unaware, its ElectricFlow tool is in the same application release automation/continuous delivery (ARA/CD) market space that XebiaLabs (which I also wrote about at Jenkins World) XL Deploy is in. But the point of this blog is not to compare; since I have used both of XebiaLabs’ mainstream products and not Electric Cloud’s, a comparison would be unfair. I only mention XebiaLabs to help those just starting to research understand where Electric Cloud fits.
Electric Cloud’s big bit at Jenkins’ World that intrigued me was its updates to ElectricFlow to allow better reporting. We all know when a build breaks, we have great systems on the AppDev side to notify the source of the breaks and project management of the issue. But as has traditionally been the case within IT, getting that information out to business leaders who have an interest in the application is spotty, at best. Combine that with the fact that what and how it is reported can vary project to project, and there always is a bit of confusion among the business about status of projects. This confusion translates to asking IT management about status and then, when IT management is wrong and a deadline is either missed or features are dropped from release at the last minute to meet the deadline, bad blood is created between AppDev/IT and the business. Since everyone at an org should be one team pulling toward success of the business, this bad blood is not good for anyone.
It appears, from its release (I really wish I’d been at Jenkins’ World to poke the corners of this), that Electric Cloud has begun the process of bridging that gap. The growing number and complexity of toolchains means inputs are coming in from several vectors that can give indication of the status of a project. Instead of having IT management (or business management, at some orgs) run around and try to collect these disparate datasets and determine tracking for a project, Electric Cloud has begun the process of automating status collection/aggregation.
The dashboard pictured above is a critical piece of this solution. Imagine giving business leaders access to a dashboard that doesn’t just cover the current step of a project, but tries to aggregate status from all of the steps in the DevOps life cycle. Basing this information upon release means that, over time, a library will build up that business leaders can reference to gauge this projects’ status against that of other projects, and make their business decisions based upon standardized inputs.
This data already exists across IT, but this is the first solid attempt I have seen of a vendor tying it all together and presenting it in a manner that IT and the business can discuss with an eye to delivering. The more involved business leaders are in the process, the less friction will result, and this effort seems to be getting them more involved. While there is still much to do—note that unit test success rate is shown in the above screen capture, but unit test coverage isn’t, for example—this is a good solid start to setting up an easy-to-reference dashboard to show the business side what is going on with the project.
There is also an API that can be used to set inputs to the dashboard that are not yet directly supported. While DevOps teams have plenty to do—and don’t really need to be developing plugins for tools that are supposed to improve quality while reducing workload—the ability to plug in whatever you need is useful for those shops where it is a priority.
If you’re looking for a toolset that can give more information about what’s happening in your toolchain, it’s worth checking out the changes Electric Cloud has implemented, and I’ll be trying to make time in the next few weeks to give the tool a run and see how it works out. Though I see it as inevitable that the other ARA vendors will continue to increase their offerings also, sometimes it is worth checking into the early bird.