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IT Orchestration And Automation Key To Accelerate Business Value


Written by  Sudheer Raju | 28 February 2013
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mark slaterOrganizations are seeing a huge benefit adopting to DevOps and Continuous Delivery and a variety of ALM applications have come to light in the recent past supporting the very concept. Serena Software is one of the leading player within the pack and no one better than Mark Slater, regional director for the UK and Ireland at Serena Software to have a quick catch up with.

Mark is responsible for developing sales of Serena Software's solutions for managing application development, release management and IT service management in the UK and Ireland with both existing and new customers.

What trends do you see in ALM and its adoption within enterprises for immediate future? How is Serena geared up to address these trends?

We recently undertook a survey at the Gartner AADI Summit that revealed delivering applications faster is the top priority for development for the third straight year due to increasing demand from the business. Release management was cited as a major challenge that needs to be overcome to achieve this.

This problem is one that the DevOps approach tries to solve: bringing the Dev and Ops teams together so they can keep pace with business requirements. Serena offers Serena Release Manager, which is a product dedicated to helping IT release and deliver the right apps at the right time. If you can automate the release management process and keep track of resources, this helps to increase the flow of releases and cut down on problems like downtime or unnecessary rework.

Continuous Delivery and DevOps, how does it really matter to businesses and does it bring quantifiable business benefit?

The number of custom applications that businesses use to differentiate themselves are mushrooming. Requests for changes and development are coming through thick and fast; unsurprisingly, IT is finding it hard to keep up.

Though the Dev and Ops teams share the common goal of providing applications that meet business needs, they both have different priorities when it comes to doing this. Dev wants fast development and deployment, whereas Ops is concerned with application stability and avoiding problems for users. Adopting DevOps principles helps the two teams to work together and overcome challenges caused by conflicting priorities. This helps to deliver the best possible applications for the user and for the business as a whole.

By automating process steps to achieve continuous delivery, businesses can speed up deployment and improve time-to-value. Ultimately this helps reduce costs and increase revenues.

However, these approaches won’t work for all businesses and one size doesn’t fit all. When you look at individual applications within an organisation, continuous delivery might not be the appropriate application delivery methodology.  Often, organisations have some applications that require a hand-off from development to operations before deploying changes into production or earlier in the testing cycle, such as into User Acceptance Testing (UAT).  For these applications, continuous deployment, which is logically a subset of continuous delivery, is the application delivery methodology of choice. DevOps and continuous delivery both have sound business benefits – but only for the right release. Part of automating this is understanding how far different releases should go through continuous delivery, and where is the right place for teams to collaborate.

There are many products that Serena offers which includes Agile Planner, Demand Manager, Development Manager, Release Manager and more. How is integration architected among the products and to external products?

As we work across the entire software development lifecycle, all of our products are designed to work together, from the IT front office through development and into production. Customers have access to a single Orchestrated IT platform that gives visibility across the different processes. This includes looking at both the development and support sides, so that the IT team can see the whole problem, not just bits of it.

When it comes to external products, customers appreciate that rip-and-replace isn’t always the best answer. They may have a best-of-breed testing product in place, or a heavily customised service desk. Our approach is based on integration with other ALM platforms so that change becomes incremental.

Serena is in a competitive space, so who do you think are your competitors and what sets you apart?

The application lifecycle management is mature and there are the usual big enterprise vendors that provide solutions in this area. We differentiate ourselves from them by being focused on change and release management. This focus means we can be more agile when it comes to developing our products, and keep in touch with what the enterprise development audience is after.  With Serena Change and Release Management, application owners, application development, and IT operations all have improved visibility into the request – release process, increased change volume, reduced release failures, and improved production uptime.

At the other end of the scale, there is a clutch of smaller vendors offering flavours of release management too. Compared with these offerings, with Serena Release Manager customers enjoy unmatched release management flexibility of deployment methods (continuous delivery, continuous deployment, and traditional stage gate), flexibility of deployment environments (virtual, real and cloud), and access to release management information (application development teams, IT Operations, business, and the IT Front Office).  Additionally, what differentiates Serena from this group is the level of support on offer: we have a robust follow-the-sun service desk in place, alongside a global professional services organization that can help with implementations. Having the ability to be nimble whilst still providing 24/7 support is what sets Serena apart.

From a product perspective, there are four other elements of our offering that differentiate it from others on the market:

  • Orchestration – our process-based approach to IT management means that users get the most efficient approach to handling releases
  • Compatibility – Serena’s ability to integrate with other tools as part of workflows means no need to rip-and-replace existing tools
  • Comprehensiveness – by looking across the whole app delivery value chain, organisations can see the business value that their projects deliver, from demand to deployment to service
  • Visibility – end-to-end dashboarding across disparate tools

What are the three key differences between the enterprises successfully adopting Continuous Delivery/DevOps and the ones that fail in their journey?

The first challenge when adopting DevOps is the way in which the relationship between Dev and Ops is managed. For success, enterprises need to take stock of the tools and people currently in place and then orchestrate them across the whole application delivery process. DevOps is all about a joined-up approach; a lack of understanding about what each resource is doing will undermine any efforts to create business value from it.

Secondly, relying on manual processes leaves ample room for failure. In the case of release management, errors and associated delays can be common however skilled the DevOps team is. Enterprises moving away from manual processes should find that their application delivery strategies become better, faster and more efficient.

Finally, enterprises that successfully adopt DevOps generally see the IT department as a generator of revenue for the business, rather than a back-office function. These days, technology is key to creating a more productive enterprise and can increase sales and growth. Businesses with this mindset are more likely to make DevOps work as they understand the value it can bring.

Part of this is about scale: Dev Ops has started within smaller teams that are normally located together. For enterprise organisations, where teams can be located in multiple places and / or be outside the business, the communication and people skills side becomes even more vital.

Orchestrating and automating processes can help ensure that all those teams are unified in their approach, but it is important that the lines of communication are clear and that the overall objectives for each project are visible to everyone as well. This not only makes teams feel ownership of their work, but also ensures that everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Sudheer Raju

Sudheer Raju

Founder of ToolsJournal, a technology journal on software tools and services. Sudheer has overall accountability for the webiste product development and is responsible for Sales and Marketing. With a flair to write, Sudheer himself writes for toolsjournal across all journal categories.


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