The growing complexity of business-IT frameworks is forcing many organizations to reexamine the way they approach everything from systems deployments to software development. One of the frequent outcomes is a migration to a more agile framework such as DevOps.
At Total Administration Service Corporation (TASC), a leading third-party benefits administrator, this thinking has fundamentally redefined both IT and the overall business. “We have moved away from a traditional model with a single monolithic application to an agile model of continuous delivery and smaller incremental improvements,” explains DevOps engineer John Gildenzoph.
It’s no small matter. In the past, TASC had to shut down its entire IT environment in order to handle patches, updates and bug fixes. In some cases, systems were down for four to six hours. During that time, clients—typically companies’ human resources departments—couldn’t access the Web-based system and had to call a representative instead.
In addition, TASC developers were forced to handle testing manually, and various other tasks took place in a somewhat random and chaotic manner. “It had really become a pain point for the organization,” he recalls.
Solidifying the Development Environment
When Gildenzoph arrived at the company four years ago, he immediately began migrating to DevOps. “We looked to solidify the development environment,” he says. “Although we had source code versioning, there were no other major processes in place, including the ability to monitor builds.”
In many cases, developers didn’t know when a build was broken until someone stumbled across the problem. “Tending to the situation was a time hog because, when a problem occurred, we had to hunt down the person who actually built the build, figure out what broke the build and then take the appropriate steps,” Gildenzoph explains. Frequently, that required a deep dive into logs.
One of the key tools the firm uses to support DevOps is Automic Software’s Automic Release Automation product, which enables TASC to streamline and automate processes in order to support a continuous delivery pipeline. The firm recently added support for Automic’s Docker Action Pack, which further increases flexibility and portability by nearly eliminating configuration and deployment tasks.
“The combination of Automic’s release automation capabilities with Docker containers also allows us to … rapidly create a self-contained run-time environment,” Gildenzoph reports. “This solution is critical to the success of our business.”
The initiative was an easy sell to developers and others within the organization. “It was fairly apparent that we needed to automate processes,” he says, “and that this approach represented a win for everyone.
“We can now install or upgrade software and push a button, and the database refreshes in minutes. So we are equipped to move forward immediately, rather than the process taking four or five hours.”
Faster and more efficient development has allowed the team to tackle other projects that help keep the company on the leading edge of business innovation, Gildenzoph points out. “We can add requested features and incorporate requests from existing customers, as well as from potential new customers.
“We now have a level of business speed and flexibility that simply wasn’t possible in the past.”