Observations on Automation at SpringOne

Brian McClain
Dec 11, 2017 · 3 min read

One of the topics I kept seeing at SpringOne was automation. It’s nothing new, I mean, why do something more than once when we can automate it right? What stood out to me, however, is the breadth of automation amongst all of the companies at the conference. From traditional CI/CD to operations to compliance, people are making a reality out of the overused slide you see in conference talks and actually automating all the things.

CI/CD

Continuous integration, delivery and deployment was, by far, the most discussed topic when it comes to automation. This isn’t really a surprise, but it’s incredible looking at how companies across many verticals are bridging the, what Miranda LeBlanc describes in her talk, the DevOps chasm. The new standard is no longer having devs toss a new version of code over a wall to the ops team. Instead, at Liberty Mutual, Miranda and her team enables the dev teams to deliver to production, providing the tools and and pipelines that ensure security and compliance. With upwards 2,500 builds and 1,000 production deployments per day, her team helped shaped the very culture of modern development at Liberty Mutual where devs can have code from their laptop to production in as little as five minutes.

Automated Operations

The discussion during the Tuesday keynote on install and upgrade pipelines wasn’t just something Pivotal is doing. Several companies throughout the week spoke on how they’re automating their operations, including Verizon, Cerner, Boeing, Express Scripts and more. Cerner points to an instance that particularly stood out, where a twelve hour upgrade that involved over two-hundred VMs, was done without a single human thanks to their Concourse pipelines.

It’s not just platform upgrades where operations grow their automation. Rich Ruedin of Express Scripts walked us through a pipeline that they had built that runs after applying a patch to PCF. This pipeline is responsible for validating that, before these patches are applied to production, everything works as intended. From deploying an application to validating logging caching, they have a constant entity watching over their deployments.

Compliance and Certification

For some, without proper certification and adherence to compliance policies, even the best applications would be useless and, worse, dangerous. Whether you’re processing credit cards or storing medical records, it’s a major concern for developers and operators alike. When you can automate everything from the creation of these environments to the validation of compliance, however, things become much easier. Cerner spoke how they leverage Concourse to improve consistency, change tracing and promoting new versions of applications.

Matt MacKenny and Jeff Billimek of The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, spoke about how they leverage Concourse to accomplish something similar. Not only do they help provide pipelines to enable their developers to deploy to production, they also provide pre-approved pipelines that perform the required security scans so that they can move faster and safer.

Concourse

Here at Pivotal, we obviously love and adore Concourse, a pluggable CI system that operates on the concept of pipelines. Previous tasks feed into the next and provide a great way to represent a logical sequence of tasks to automate, such as building and testing software or promoting platform upgrades. While it’s relatively new, it’s great to see so many huge companies making it a central part of their automation solution. These companies like The Home Depot, Verizon and Boeing are all leveraging Concourse with a wide range of applications, making it a core component to their development and operations.

If you’re looking to learn more about Concourse, be sure to check out their docs for examples as well as their quickly growing community. Finally, keep an eye on Pivotal’s list of recordings and publications as they roll in.

Brian McClain

Written by

I make things and build stuff. Tech Marketing at Pivotal. @BrianMMcClain