5 questions for… Electric Cloud

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As I am working on a DevOps report at the moment, I’m speaking to a lot (and I mean a lot) of companies involved in and around the space. Each, in my experience so far, is looking to address some of the key IT delivery challenges of our time – namely, how to deliver services and applications at a pace that keeps up with the rate of technology change?

One such organisation is Electric Cloud. I spoke to Sam Fell, VP of Marketing, to understand how the company sees its customers’ main challenges, and what it is doing to address them – not least, the complexity of working at enterprise scale.

 

  1. Where did Electric Cloud come from, what need did it set out to deal with?

Electric Cloud has been automating and accelerating software delivery since 2002, from code check-in to production release. Our founders looked to solve a huge bottleneck, to address how development teams’ agile pace of software delivery and new technology adoption has outstripped the ability of operations teams to keep up. This cadence and skills mismatch limits the business, can jeopardize transformation efforts, putting teams in a constant state of what we call “release anxiety.”

The main challenges we see are:

  • The ability to predictably deploy any application to any environment at any scale they want.
  • The ability to manage release pipelines and dependencies across multiple teams, point tools, and infrastructures.
  • A comprehensive, but simple way to plan, schedule, and track releases across its lifecycle

In consequence, we developed an Adaptive Release Orchestration platform called ElectricFlow to help organizations like E*TRADE, HPE, Huawei, Intel and Lockheed Martin confidently release new applications and adapt to change at any speed demanded by the business, with the analytics and insight to measure, track, and improve their results along the way.

  1. Where’s the ‘market for DevOps’ going, from a customer perspective?

Nearly every industry now is taking notice of, or participating in the DevOps space – from FinServ and government to retail and entertainment – nearly every market, across nearly all geographies are recognizing DevOps as a way forward. The technology sector is still on the forefront, but you’d be surprised how quickly industries like transportation are catching up.

One thing we find invaluable is learning what critical factors are helping our customers drive their own businesses forward. A theme we hear over and over is how to adapt to business needs on a continuous basis.

But, there is an inherent dichotomy to how companies are expected to achieve the business goals set by leadership. For example, the need to implement fast and adapt to their changing environment easily – including support for new technologies like microservices and serverless. The challenge is, how to do this reliably and efficiently – to shift practices like security left and not create more technology debt or outages in the process.

Complexity is inevitable and the focus needs to be on how to adapt. Ways that we know work in addressing this complexity are:

  • Organizations that learn how to fix themselves will ultimately be high performers in the end – resiliency is the child of adaptability (credit: Rob England).
  • Companies that automate what humans aren’t good at – mundane, repeatable tasks that don’t require creativity – are ultimately set-up for success. Keep people engaged on high-value tasks with a focus on creating high-performance for themselves.
  • Organizations that continuously scrutinize their value streams, and align the business to the value stream, will be more successful than the competition. Improvements in one value stream may well create bottlenecks in others.
  • Companies that measure impact and outcomes, not just activities, will gain context into how ideas can transform into business value metrics such as customer satisfaction.
  • Understanding that there is no “one way” to solve a problem. If companies empower their teams to learn fast, the above may very well take care of itself.
  1. What’s the USP for Electric Cloud in a pretty crowded space?

Electric Cloud sees the rise in DevOps and modern software delivery methods as an opportunity to emphasize the fact that collaboration, visibility and auditability are key pillars to ensuring fast delivery works for everyone involved. Eliminating silos and reducing management overhead is easier said than done, but with a scalable, secure and unified platform – anything is possible.

We’re proud to say we’re the only provider of a centralized platform that can provide all of the following in one simple package:

  • model-based automation techniques to replace brittle scripting with reusable abstract models;
  • process-as-code through a Groovy-based domain specific language (DSL) to onboard apps quickly so they are versionable, testable, reusable and refactorable;
  • a self-service library of best practice automation techniques for consistency across the organization;
  • a vast amount of plugins and integrations to support enterprise governance of any tool your company uses;
  • Role-based access control, approval tracking for every change in the pipeline;
  • An impenetrable Agent-based architecture to support communications for scalability, fault tolerance and security.

And all at enterprise scale, with our ability to enable unlimited clustering architecture and efficient processing for high availability and low-latency of concurrent deployments.

  1. How does Electric Cloud play nice, and where does it see its most important integrations?

Every company’s software delivery process is unique, and touches many different tools, integrations and environments. We provide centralized management and visibility of the entire software delivery pipeline – whatever these might be – to improve developer productivity, streamline operations and increase efficiency.

To that end, Electric Cloud works with the most popular tools and infrastructure on the planet and allows our customers to add a layer of automation and governance to the tools they already use. You can find a list of our plugins, here.

  1. I’m also interested to know more about (Dev)SecOps, and I would say PrivOps but the name is taken!

We definitely think securing the pipeline, and the application, is very important in software production.  We have been talking about it a lot recently — you may find these resources helpful:

  • We recently held an episode of Continuous Discussions (#c9d9) to dive into how DevSecOps help teams “shift left,” and build security and quality into the process by making EVERYONE responsible for security at every stage. http://electric-cloud.com/blog/2018/05/c9d9-podcast-e87-devsecops/
  • Prior to that, we held a webinar with John Willis – an Electric Cloud advisor, co-author of the “DevOps Handbook” with Gene Kim, and expert at security and DevOps. You can view the webinar here.
  • We also participated in the RSA DevOps Connect event. At the show, we took a quick booth survey and the results may (or may not) surprise you…: http://electric-cloud.com/blog/2018/04/security-needs-to-shift-left-too/

 

My take: Moving beyond the principle

The challenges that DevOps set out to address are not new: indeed, they are perhaps as old as technology delivery itself. Ultimately, while we talk about removal of barriers, greater automation and so on, the ultimate goal is how to deliver complexity at scale. Some, who we might call ‘platform natives’, may never have had to run through the mud of corporate and infrastructure inertia and may wonder what all the fuss is about; for others, the challenges may appear insurmountable.

Vendors in the crowded DevOps space may have cut their teeth working for the former, platform-based group, who use containers as a default and who see serverless models as a logical extension of their keep-it-simple infrastructure approach. Many, if not all see enterprise environments as both the biggest opportunity and the greater challenge. Whoever can cut the Gordian knot of enterprise convolution stands to take the greatest prize.

Will it be Electric Cloud? To my mind, the astonishing number of vendor players in this space is a symptom of how quickly it has grown to date, creating a situation ripe for massive consolidation – though it is difficult to see any enterprise software vendor that is actively looking to become ‘the one’: consider IBM’s outsourcing of Rational and HPE’s divestiture of its own software business to Microfocus as examples of companies running in the opposite direction.

However the market opportunity remains significant, despite the elusivity of the prize. I have no doubt that the next couple of years will see considerable industry consolidation, and who knows at this stage which brands, models and so on will pervade. I very much doubt that the industry will go ‘full serverless’ any time soon, for a raft of reasons (think: IoT, SDN, data, state, plus everything we don’t know about yet), but remain optimistic that automation and orchestration will deliver on their potential, enabling and enabled by practices such as DevOps.

Now I shall get back on with my report!

 

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Hi, I love the interview. It’s very informative. I think that in years to come, more and more companies will become serverless, but still, they will be a minority, as people tend to hesitate to change what works for them and what is familiar to them.

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