Michael Lippis from the Outlook Series recently interviewed David Landsberg and me about DevOps, and the importance of enterprise-wide collaboration, visibility, transparency, and end-to-end traceability. You can listen to the interview here.
I encourage you to listen to the interview, but here’s the transcript of the interview if you prefer to read our conversation.
Michael Lippis: We’re here for another edition of the Outlook Series, and I’m your host, Michael Lippis.
Businesses today are required to deliver software to their users at an ever-increasing pace. But at the same time, they must keep quality consistently high. The need to comply with corporate, industry and even government regulations together with demand for a superior user experience, leads organizations to adopt a holistic approach to application delivery. The application delivery toolset must include management, testing and monitoring. But crucially, these tools must be able to communicate with each other and provide visibility, transparency and end-to-end traceability, and enable collaboration across the whole team and beyond.
Now joining us to discuss DevOps are David Landsberg and Malcolm Isaacs. David is a Director of Product Management for Application Delivery Management at Micro Focus, and Malcolm is a Senior Solutions Marketing Manager at Micro Focus. Gentlemen, welcome to the Outlook Series.
Malcolm Isaacs: Thank you!
David Landsberg: Hi, it’s great to be here!
Michael: Hey there! So Malcolm, DevOps adoption has been increasing over the last few years. Is that still the case?
Malcolm: Yes, I believe it is, and I believe it’s more so than ever. We have some evidence from this year’s World Quality Report which stated that somewhere around 88 percent of companies that were surveyed are either using or experimenting with DevOps, and that number is still growing.
But the 88% actually covers a wide spectrum. There are teams that are at the start of their transformation, and there are teams that are pretty much fully embracing DevOps. But the agile transformation itself is a stepping stone to DevOps, and we’re seeing a lot of that out there.
Michael: Now David, what are some of the biggest challenges facing teams making that transition today?
David: Well, some of the challenges revolve around culture and process, they’re not related to tools at all actually. I’m not going to go into the whole Agile Manifesto, but it’s important for teams to understand that such a transformation is a mindset one as well. But we do see a few teams struggle with testing. Even if they do have a lot of automation, they need to make sure that their pipeline is flowing smoothly, and testing cycles have to run fast, and they have all of those environments and devices that they need to test on so that’s certainly a challenge to get that done quickly.
Industry regulation is yet another challenge. We have verticals, such as financial, pharma, and so on, that need to deal with quite a few regulations. GDPR is a big one in EMEA now that everyone is talking about. We do see a lot of tools. So I mentioned tools at the beginning of my answer, but really just having such an ecosystem of different tools and making them all play together is a challenge that our teams face today.
And scale – just in general, running DevOps at scale is not trivial. You know, a single team can run DevOps without a lot of help, but when you’re trying to do it in an enterprise environment, in a large organization, with interdependencies, that’s already not so simple.
Michael: Now, Malcolm, DevOps is often seen as a panacea. What holds teams back from getting to full DevOps?
Malcolm: Well, I don’t think that all organizations necessarily want to, or need to, get to the mythical levels of Google’s or Amazon’s or Netflix’s levels of continuous everything. So there are some things that are maybe holding them back to a certain extent, like regulation, which can be federal regulation, or industrial as David mentioned, in the Pharma and Financial industries, and there are also internal corporate regulations, and all of that regulation means that certain processes must be followed and complied with. So, you know, when you talk about DevOps and Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to deploy to production every hour or every minute, but it does mean that you have to have the processes and tools in place so that you have the choice of whether or not to push code to production.
But even those highly-regulated organizations can reduce their cycle times and they’re able to increase their collaboration between dev and ops and become more DevOps-y.
One of the issues that we see is that larger organizations are often siloed, and that prevents teams from effectively sharing information and collaborating well. So you tend to find that different silos are using different toolsets, and that makes it even more difficult to communicate. So the ability to integrate information from different sources, and then maybe present it in a common dashboard, it can help mitigate some of those communication issues, and obviously it would allow management to make effective decisions on their strategic investments and their resource distribution etc.
Michael: So how would that work in practice?
Malcolm: I think there are a number of points we can focus on. First of all, the goal of DevOps would be to reduce your cycle time, and at the same time you’ve got to keep quality high. So you have to identify the biggest bottlenecks that you have in your delivery pipeline and you’ve got to remove it; you ensure that you don’t break anything, by doing Continuous Testing. And you keep doing that until there are no more valuable gains to be had – if that is, of course, at all possible. So there are considerations like: Treating your infrastructure as code, making sure that your infrastructure is defined in code so that it’s checked in as part of your source code system, and whenever you need to make a change to your infrastructure, it’s done through code; You have to make sure that you have continuous testing in place, all the way through the pipeline, so that would be functional testing, performance testing, security testing; And in production, you have to ensure that you have continuous monitoring going on, so that you can continuously assess the user experience and make sure that the application is performing as expected on all the various devices and platforms that you support. There are also steps that you can take to schedule your tasks more efficiently and make sure that you track them across the end-to-end lifecycle. So really, you want to invest in increasing that end-to-end visibility of progress and quality across that pipeline, so get some lifecycle management in place, get some portfolio management tools and share information across and up and out of the organization.
Michael: So David, can you give our audience an example?
David: Sure! So I’m going to give you two examples, one internal and an external one. Internally, inside Micro Focus, we used to deliver our own products about every 18 to 20 months, it took us a while to get it. We were very Waterfall-driven. Today, after a very nice transformation, going through many of the things that Malcolm mentioned, we’re able to deliver about twice as many products as we used to develop, and we are able to deliver this two weeks. So our install-base, our customers, are really feeling the effect of that, and our Product Managers have the flexibility and the agility to decide whether they want to release something to production or wait for the next value drop to come out, and we were only able to do that with a lot of automation and leveraging of the cloud, for example, one of the things that certainly helps reduce the cycles.
And the external one is that we have a customer, a large European telco company, that was able to add visibility and governance across both their agile dev projects as well as their more legacy ones, their waterfall projects, and they’re doing this in a single tool, so they are able to have multiple types of testing practices, multiple types of infrastructure, environments, all governed within this single dashboard, allowing them visibility across all the pipelines on all these projects.
Michael: Do you have something to offer in case an organization is looking for a quick start?
David: Well, certainly we do. Not everyone needs to start from strategic planning exercises and large themes. We also have lightweight, SaaS only solutions, that can quickly kick start DevOps teams on their way. It has the core basic needs such as backlog management, continuous testing, production monitoring. All you would need for a DevOps team to really get off the ground and start running.
Michael: So how is Micro Focus addressing the need to release high-quality applications at scale?
David: Well, we help ensure that our customers’ applications deliver a great user experience, and that’s really regardless of how many people are using it, or how much load there is on the system. For example, our Functional Testing suite ensures that the customers’ apps really work as expected. That’s what you want to achieve. One of the biggest known challenges is the amount of devices, operating systems, browsers, and form factors, that you really need to validate that your application works against, and we’re able to provide these environments, literally at the click of a button, allowing the testing teams to do cross-browser testing, cross-device testing, across all these platforms, running automatically, leveraging the cloud. Our Performance Testing [solutions] also help our customers prepare for real-life conditions, by generating load, again leveraging the cloud, or your own data center investments at a click of a button. And by testing real-life conditions, I’m referring to, it’s not enough to test in great lab-like environments where the connection is great. You really need to make sure that the application is going to work well in production, and users might be leveraging different network profiles – 3G, 2G, busy, and so on. So our tools allow you to make sure that quality is as you expect it to be under all those conditions.
And of course, we also have our monitoring suite, which monitors the user experience in production. So they let our customers know their products are really performing well, and they would be the first to find out if there is an issue, and not the end user who might be consuming the product. Just optimize and improve the user experience continuously.
Michael: Alrighty! Now Malcolm, what features do you have for lifecycle management?
Malcolm: We actually have a platform, an enterprise software lifecycle management platform designed for modern agile and DevOps teams, called ALM Octane. At the same time, it enables hybrid development by integrating with waterfall teams as well. So that lets you get to the type of management that David was talking about earlier, with the Telco company that’s doing this kind of hybrid development. So you can use it to manage backlogs across a small number of teams, or even tens to hundreds of teams in a larger enterprise. You can keep track of the status and the quality of the implementation of each of your backlog items, whether you have defects in there, features, epics, etc. And it also supports both automated and manual testing. I mentioned defect management; there’s also traceability, from user story all the way through to actual code change, so you can see what the quality of any given code change is and the traceability across the pipeline. And of course it’s designed to integrate with the developers’ IDEs, so that can help them identify and resolve issues as they happen, without having to leave their IDE.
There’s also a pipeline module in ALM Octane and that helps teams manage their continuous integration and continuous delivery by providing visibility into their CI system, the continuous integration system’s pipeline.
Really, that’s just a very, very small taste. It’s packed full of features, and it’s pretty intuitive and easy to use.
Michael: Does Micro Focus offer Functional Testing as a Service?
David: Yes, it does! We actually recently released StormRunner Functional, which is our functional testing in the cloud, and it performs functional testing for web and mobile applications. It’s an on-demand service, and you can use that whenever you need, when you need, just on those environments that you need. We provide real mobile devices, browsers of different versions. It integrates with the rest of the DevOps toolchain, so Jenkins, our own ALM Octane, analytics offerings, our mobile solution. It allows you to run scripts, whether open source such as Selenium, or Appium, or our own Micro Focus tools such as UFT, which is Unified Function Testing, and LeanFT scripts. We’re very proud of this offering.
Michael: Now when it comes to ROI, or Return on Investment, what can StormRunner Functional deliver?
David: Well, it’s a SaaS product, so you can test your app directly in your browser. You can get started in minutes, literally. You run tests against hundreds of browser or device combinations with just a few clicks. Another point is that you really should stop wasting valuable time on managing a lab of environments. You tell us what you need and we'll set it up for you. Important to remember is that you can leverage existing test assets. So you don't start from scratch. You can run scripts that exist today. You can run them remotely on the cloud, you can just upload them to StormRunner Functional for faster execution.
We also have advanced root-cause analysis, so that’s going to save you time. The level of reporting that we do identifies exactly what went wrong, including the steps and the crashes, and you can quickly submit a defect directly to your favorite lifecycle management tool.
And the assets themselves, they can be either open source, like Selenium and Appium, or our own Micro Focus tools, UFT and UFTPro.
Michael: How can an organization proactively resolve application issues to reduce user abandonment?
Malcolm: Yeah, that’s a great question! So I think first of all you need to understand know how your application is being used out there by your end-users. So you need to look at their usage habits, monitor the way that they’re using the product, you see the kind of business processes, the flows that they’re taking, and what they’re actually trying to achieve with the application.
Then you work with your UX engineers, and you have to ensure that the users are getting the help that they need from the front-end design so that they can achieve their goals quickly and directly without having to, you know, go to the help, or look up how to use a feature.
And during your testing cycles, you have to make sure that the user experience is tested under real world conditions. So it’s not just running performance or load testing. You also have to test under real network conditions. So David mentioned earlier the importance of Network Virtualization, which lets you see, or simulate the way that networks are behaving in the real world, and it will take not just a single network type, it’ll take multiple network types, because not all of your users are all on the same actual network. They’re generally well-distributed and very often distributed geographically as well, so you make sure that you have a good representative sample and you want to have the ability to, you know, scale that up as well, to make sure that the application is behaving, even under extreme conditions. So you get from those kids of tools, you get an analysis and even recommendations on what you can do to improve the performance of your app, either before you roll it out to production, or once it’s in production, there are changes you can make in production to improve the user experience and preempt users abandoning the application.
So basically you want to make sure that you’re measuring the performance and user experience scores on a continuous basis, and you act on any drop that you see in the score.
Michael: Alright. Now would you like to add anything to our discussion before we wrap up here today?
David: Sure! One thing that I want to add is that we recently released at Micro Focus a DevOps Suite offering. This suite consists of lifecycle and pipeline management, continuous functional and load testing in the cloud, as well as production monitoring. So the solution is really designed for agile teams that are looking for a great toolset to help them in their agile and DevOps transformation.
Michael: Where can our audience get more information about the Micro Focus DevOps Suite?
Malcolm: There are two places I’d recommend: Go to http://microfocus.com/devopssuite (all one word), and that will take you to a page which describes the Suite, and there are some resources that you can download from there, and you can learn more about the Suite there, you can also sign up for a free trial or get a demo, or you can contact David or myself via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael: OK gentlemen, well I certainly appreciate you joining us here today, and I wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors over there at Micro Focus.
David: Our pleasure!
Malcolm: Thank you very much!
Michael: Thanks for joining us today, and be sure to log on to the Outlook Series site for your business and technology needs.
Contact us now for a free trial or demo of the DevOps Suite!
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