Fast innovation starts with automating development workflows

You have to be able to try out new concepts faster in order to dial up the innovation speed. This requires a different way of thinking and a more modern software development method.

“Thanks to OpenShift, developers can concentrate fully on functionality and on writing code.”

You have to be able to try out new concepts faster in order to dial up the innovation speed. But this requires a different way of thinking and a more modern software development method than most companies are used to.

“In an ideal situation, you would be so flexible that you could turn an idea for an app or a new product, for example, into a working prototype that you could offer to a group of customers within a very short time frame,” says Stefan Månsby, Innovation Officer at Basefarm. “This way you would get feedback as quickly as possible, be able to monitor customer behaviour and continuously roll out changes and improvements.”

The problem, however, is that the IT department is often far removed from the business side of things at many companies. IT primarily has a supporting role there. “Take ITIL processes, for example. These are primarily aimed at guaranteeing a stable and high-quality operating environment for the lowest possible costs. Being innovative and experimenting does not fit in to this picture at all.”

Development and seamless administration

Hence, not only does software development need to be faster and more flexible, operational efficiency must also be improved. Månsby: “That is why it is desirable for administrators and developers to cooperate in devops teams and use shared workflows.” Everything that developers produce can then be administered quickly and efficiently.

“Often companies stop before they have even begun, simply because there are too many barriers. But you have to be able to try out new things. You do not want to wait for a server for weeks. And should something not be successful, you should be able to stop doing it immediately without this resulting in consequences.” You do not want to get stuck with expensive, superfluous servers, for example. Everything should just disappear, so that you can start trying out something else.

Workflow automation

You should automate workflows because it is too labour-intensive to manually process sizeable checklists. The open source platform OpenShift was developed especially for setting up and working with workflows. “Thanks to OpenShift developers can concentrate fully on functionality and on writing code, without worrying about the hardware, the operating system or the cloud environment where the application will soon be running,” continues Månsby.

Technologies such as Docker and Kubernetes are used in OpenShift for neatly bundling everything needed to run an application on a specific infrastructure. “Administrators can easily roll out these bundles and know for sure that the correct modules for processes such as monitoring, logging, auditing and passing on of costs will be included automatically.”,

Orchestration

One aspect of a workflow is automatic verification of whether all the required modules that together comprise an application are still able to work together properly and whether no conflicts arise due to a change. Månsby: “Modern software development uses so-called microservices. These are bits of functionality that you can add, adapt and remove quickly and easily, without affecting the remaining functionality.” Any application easily consists of hundreds of microservices that talk to each other through APIs. “This creates many thousands of integration checkpoints that all need to be carefully checked every time. This makes orchestration a very complex and labour-intensive task which is impossible to do manually. OpenShift shoulders the heavy work. It is also possible to visualise the connection between all the components.”

With OpenShift you can ensure that you remain compliant and optimally prepare yourself for audits. “You can carry out the necessary controls and generate the needed reports with the platform.” Code is packaged and provided with checksums in such a way that it is impossible to tamper with the software, guaranteed. “You always have 100% certainty that what is in production is correct and that no one messed with it somewhere along the line.”

Adaptation and customisation

OpenShift takes a great deal of work out of developers’ hands by providing a comprehensive framework for setting up and using workflows in a cost-effective manner. Månsby does, however, issue a caveat: the platform is not a ‘miracle cure’ that will resolve everything for you right out of the box. “OpenShift entails an enormous amount of functionality,” he explains. “Usually you only need a part of it. It will be an enormous help if you involve a party who will assist you in finding the right way to get the best possible use out of the platform. You can try to discover everything yourself, but that takes a lot of time and there is a big chance that you will not even use the platform in an optimal manner afterwards. And why would you want to reinvent the wheel anyway?”

You should also examine how OpenShift and the workflows fit best with your organisation. There will be a need to adapt existing workflows in certain aspects if you want to get the greatest benefit from OpenShift. “It’s important to realise that a digital transformation is needed. The goal is to decrease time to market, increase innovation speed, accelerate software development and improve operational efficiency. And this will not be possible if you want to keep doing things exactly as you’ve always done them before.”