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Financial firms, vendors push self-service software delivery

Self-service DevOps automation appeals to enterprises that must push out new code as they adapt to changing requirements.

The heavily regulated financial industry requires more help with software delivery than any other. In particular, self-service software delivery appeals to firms that frequently revise codebases to accommodate policy changes and other forces.

"People don't like writing [help desk] tickets. And, often, engineers don't want to interact with other people at all," said Niko Kurtti, a production engineer at Ottawa-based e-commerce platform vendor Shopify, who was half-joking at the recent QCon conference in New York City. "It's just easier to have the machine take care of it."

A handful of companies have stepped up to address this issue. Atomist has added self-service features to its Software Delivery Machine (SDM), with its API for Software that manages the different parts of the DevOps pipeline.

"It's more like self-service with guardrails," said Rod Johnson, CEO and co-founder of Atomist, based in San Francisco. "They want things to be easy and quick, but also regulated."

Atomist adheres to the policies companies uniquely apply to their system. So, for example, if Atomist wants to add a security scan for errant open source code, rather than update each microservice by hand, Atomist makes the change once and replicates it across all the system's services. The self-service software aspect of Atomist helps developers and DevOps teams consistently create projects and avoid IT help desk tickets -- or tickets with other departments in the organization -- to test or add new features.

Another entry into the self-service space is LaunchDarkly, based in Oakland, Calif., which sells a management platform for developers and operations teams to control the feature lifecycle from conception to delivery. The company's software integrates release management into the development process and focuses on delivery. It puts all the potential features into the release and allows developers to flip a switch on features and functions for different end users. This lets a common code set deliver different functions and test different code simultaneously, rather than multiple different releases and code branches.

Rod Johnson, CEO, AtomistRod Johnson

Other examples of companies that sell similar products include startups Netsil, which focuses on monitoring Kubernetes and Docker-based microservices apps; Mobincube, which primarily targets mobile app development; and Bonitasoft, which comes out of the business process management and workflow engine world.

Some enterprises, though, choose to skip this product class and roll out their own self-service software delivery options, with scripts and integration with native tools.

Pulumi doesn't necessarily aim to compete directly in the automation space, but it does want to standardize cloud app development and shares the idea of defining things like configuration in code, rather than YAML. Also, CloudBees and the Jenkins community have a complementary service, Jenkins X, which integrates Kubernetes with Jenkins.

Atomist addresses software delivery as a per-organization or per-team concern, rather than per project, which enables customers to apply consistent policies and governance. It provides a consistent model to automate tasks that matter to software teams, such as project creation and dependency updates.

CI/CD evolves with code automation and containers

Atomist is applying programming language concepts to add a new kind of automation and predictability to software delivery.
Mik KerstenCEO, Tasktop Technologies

With SDM, Atomist is creating a programmable pipeline that bridges a gap between coding languages and delivery pipelines, which some view as the next big innovation to follow CI/CD.

"Atomist is applying programming language concepts to add a new kind of automation and predictability to software delivery," said Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop Technologies, a DevOps toolmaker based in Vancouver, B.C.

To date, the worlds of application code and CI/CD have been disconnected and based on completely different technologies and paradigms. Atomist's programmable domain models span the application to deployment, so DevOps shops can use and code automations and directly interact with events in the pipeline through Slack, Kersten noted.

The ability to code automations is particularly attractive, said one software architect for a New York investment bank, who declined to be identified. "That would save our developers and DevOps [teams] lots of time and effort," he said.

Atomist pledged SDM's support for Docker and Kubernetes at the DockerCon 2018 conference in San Francisco last month. With this support, any Atomist user's SDM would respond to code change events from the Atomist platform, automatically build new Docker containers as required and deploy them into the right Kubernetes environments based on that user's unique software delivery needs established via their own policies.

"The actual management of containers within the software delivery process has been lacking in the market so far," said Edwin Yuen, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass. "By integrating Dockerized apps and K8s into their SDM, as well as ChatOps and other tools, Atomist is looking to help operationalize container deployments, which is the next area of focus, as container applications go into broader adoption."

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