Tuesday, January 17, 2017

DevOps Imperative for Enterprise Apps like PLM – Part 2

In Part 1, I talked about how implementing shorter deployment cycle is imperative for companies like AutoX (i.e.  companies like Ford, Toyota's and Airbus) and for PLM vendors (i.e. companies like Dassault Systèmes and Siemens PLM).  And implementing DevOps practices is the way to achieve these shorter cycles.

My colleague Sreekanth Jayanti shared this comparison that illustrates the benefits of 'shorter deployment cycles'

Now in this part, I intend to explain how to achieve the seemly impossible dream of major version upgrade PLM version in a Auto company in one month and minor version upgrades in a week.

Lets continue with the example of AutoX (an automotive company implementing PLM) and PLMX (the PLM vendor).  To achieve this Dream, AutoX have to change its way of working and PLMX have to change its licensing model, to some extent even business model. Lets start with what changes PLMX have to do.

Usually deploying/upgrading a new version of PLMX will require
  1. Creating new version setup
  2. Re-applying all customization to newer version (e.g. change web pages, ui customization, workflow changes, upgrade plugins etc) and Test
  3. Test all existing integrations work with newer version. If they don't then fix the bugs, remove deprecated APIs etc and make it work.
  4. Upgrade the database schema
  5. Migrate the data to newer schema.
  6. Upgrade documentation etc
To achieve all these steps in a 'short cycle', PLMX has to make many changes in its way of working and licensing model.

PLMX should License the tools developed for in-house cloud deployment and upgrade to customers

For many years, PLMX have acted as if difficulties of 'deployment' and 'upgrade' are not really its problem. It is the problem of 'AutoX' (i.e. problem of customer). This thinking is now changing (but slowly than expected). Major driver for this change is 'cloud deployment' of PLMX. Now PLMX is managing their own 'production cloud deployment' and now it is facing all the deployment and upgrade problems of AutoX. Obviously PLMX is better equipped to handle these challenges and it is developing tools to simplify these tasks. AutoX (i.e. customers of PLMX) requires exactly same kind of tools. Today PLMX is not licensing these tools to their customers yet. And that is the first change PLMX has to do.

PLMX should License automated regression test suite for public interface to customers

The major driver in achieving 'shorter' deployment cycles is 'automated tests'. There is NO way AutoX can achieve One month deployment if it relies on manual regression testing. Also AutoX will not able to write completely new automated tests for every upgrade cycle. It has to 'reuse' the tests already written. It will make AutoX life lot easier if PLMX includes its 'automated tests' as part of PLMX license. AutoX can then change these tests to as per the customization that AutoX has done. When a new release of PLMX is available, AutoX has to take new set of JARs, JSPs and Unit Tests from PLMX, re-apply the customization that AutoX has done to this set and then test new version with its own customization in its own test environment. 

Even better if PLMX shares automated regression test suite on a sharing platform like Github

I will dream some more and assume that PLMX has put its 'public test suite' on a sharing platform like Github. Now AutoX just 'clone' the unit tests from Github and change it to test its own customization. AutoX is now contributing its own tests (which illustrate some bugs) to this sharing platform. All customers of PLMX are now sharing automated unit tests and effectively making their 'production deployments' faster.

PLMX should develop tools for 'incremental' migration of data

PLMX is already providing some tools to manage the database schema changes. However applying these 'schema changes' to production databases is messy and time consuming. When AutoX is migrating its PLMX back-end database to new schema, invariable issues are detected and 100% data is not migrated in 'first attempt'. So incremental data migration tools are critical. 2nd attempt should just migrate the 'failed' data and should not start from scratch again.

PLMX should develop tools/recipes for cloud deployment using virtualization and containerization of its components

Today PLMX comes with an 'installer' where IT admin has to 'click' next and select various options to setup the newer version of PLMX. To some extent PLMX is now using virtual machine images for test setups. But there is no containerization yet. Chef/Puppet recipes are not available yet. Automatic provisioning and horizontal scaling of PLMX deployment is still not easily possible.

PLMX should start using scalable, distributed data stores like Hadoop, Apache Cassandra

PLMX back-end is still traditional RDBMS (e.g. Oracle database or Microsoft SQL Server). Both Oracle and Microsoft SQL server now support 'horizontal scaling/scale out/distributed database architectures'. Also open-source data stores like Hadoop, Cassandra are also providing high availability and performance. PLMX back-end should be scalable providing high availability without single point of failure.

Of course all these steps will help PLMX in its own 'cloud deployment' of PLMX application. It will take at least 3 to 5 years for PLMX to achieve all these steps. However, PLMX will need a 'marquee' customer to like AutoX to try out all these tools in a production scenario. And that is Part 3 of this series.

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