Balancing the Art and Science of Application Release Management
February 07, 2017

Derek Langone
XebiaLabs

Since the start of this decade, Agile development patterns such as Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum and Feature-Driven Development (FDD) have been all the rage. That shift has led to massive gains in developer productivity, resulting in more applications and associated updates being delivered at increasingly faster rates. The increased volume of sheer code being moved into production environments has fostered the rise of a new approaches to managing the roll out of applications based on the principles of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD).

As part of that process, IT operations teams have embraced a plethora of technologies, ranging from open source CI tools like Jenkins, to IT automation frameworks like Puppet Labs. CI tools ensure the consistent building of application code based on developer changes, while infrastructure as code tools are employed to programmatically and consistently provision IT infrastructure.

The problem that many IT operations teams now encounter is that all these tools are not especially well integrated, which results in limited visibility into the overall application development pipeline. More applications are being built and deployed faster than ever. And more often than not, individual development teams are choosing their tools to deliver their application changes. But overall, there's not much in the way of real governance being applied to how applications are being released into production, to which team and on what schedule.

IT leaders need to be able to manage application development at scale using a factory metaphor that requires lots of instrumentation. The challenge is that, in the case of applications, the actual products being manufactured consist of as much art and craft as they do science. Optimizing the application release cycle requires adding a layer of software abstraction above and around the application development process that serves to make the overall process more efficient without adding more friction.

Application Release Automation Brings Scale and Speed

Stepping into the void is a new category of application release automation (ARA) tools that provide the framework required for managing the roll out applications at unprecedented levels of scale and speed. Application release automation frameworks provide hooks into all the products and services that make up the application development and release process. IT operations teams not only gain access to dashboards that enable them to precisely determine the status of any application development project, they can model those processes in a way that drives a desired set of best practices. In effect, application development and operations teams can now orchestrate the entire application development process on an end-to-end basis to drive development of higher-quality applications faster than ever before.

Historically, the core challenge many IT teams face when trying to implement such an application pipeline process is that it's not feasible to force a development team or IT manager to use a specific set of tools. Each developer and IT manager has their favorite set. Retraining them to use another only generates resentment and lost productivity.

Rather than trying to overcome that resistance, IT operations teams need to be able to impose order from above in a way that creates as little disruption as possible. A modern approach to application release automation requires flexibility. The days when IT leaders could impose highly-structured approaches to building and deploying applications are long over. Each team has its own core skill set that needs to be incorporated into the greater application release management process.

The good news is that most modern tools are based on open interfaces that make it simpler to gather data in a way that is unobtrusive. Instead of requiring everyone in the process to fill out reports that take away time from their core job function, a modern application release management platform automatically gathers all the relevant data based on the information surfaced up through multiple application programming interfaces (APIs). That data is then organized via a series of dashboards that enable everyone in the IT operation teams to see the status of any given project at a glance.

A New Era of Release Management

In effect, the days when project managers needed to directly interrogate or harass developers and IT managers for updates are part of a bygone era. So too are those nasty surprises that occur any time an application development project falls behind schedule with little to no warning. IT operations teams will be informed of any potential issue likely to adversely impact the application development pipeline as it happens. That not only provides peace of mind for everyone involved, it ultimately results in better applications being developed and deployed faster every step of the way.

Best Practices for ARA

Derek Langone is CEO of XebiaLabs.

Derek Langone is CEO of XebiaLabs
Share this

Industry News

February 02, 2023

Red Hat announced a multi-stage alliance to offer customers a greater choice of operating systems to run on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).

February 02, 2023

Snow Software announced a new global partner program designed to enable partners to support customers as they face complex market challenges around managing cost and mitigating risk, while delivering value more efficiently and effectively with Snow.

February 02, 2023

Contrast Security announced the launch of its new partner program, the Security Innovation Alliance (SIA), which is a global ecosystem of system integrators (SIs), cloud, channel and technology alliances.

February 01, 2023

Red Hat introduced new security and compliance capabilities for the Red Hat OpenShift enterprise Kubernetes platform.

February 01, 2023

Jetpack.io formally launched with Devbox Cloud, a managed service offering for Devbox.

February 01, 2023

Jellyfish launched Life Cycle Explorer, a new solution that identifies bottlenecks in the life cycle of engineering work to help teams adapt workflow processes and more effectively deliver value to customers.

January 31, 2023

Ably announced the Ably Terraform provider.

January 31, 2023

Checkmarx announced the immediate availability of Supply Chain Threat Intelligence, which delivers detailed threat intelligence on hundreds of thousands of malicious packages, contributor reputation, malicious behavior and more.

January 31, 2023

Qualys announced its new GovCloud platform along with the achievement of FedRAMP Ready status at the High impact level, from the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP).

January 30, 2023

F5 announced the general availability of F5 NGINXaaS for Azure, an integrated solution co-developed by F5 and Microsoft that empowers enterprises to deliver secure, high-performance applications in the cloud.

January 30, 2023

Tenable announced Tenable Ventures, a corporate investment program.

January 26, 2023

Ubuntu Pro, Canonical’s comprehensive subscription for secure open source and compliance, is now generally available.

January 26, 2023

Mirantis, freeing developers to create their most valuable code, today announced that it has acquired the Santa Clara, California-based Shipa to add automated application discovery, operations, security, and observability to the Lens Kubernetes Platform.

January 25, 2023

SmartBear has integrated the powerful contract testing capabilities of PactFlow with SwaggerHub.

January 25, 2023

Venafi introduced TLS Protect for Kubernetes.