September 11, 2023 By Randy Langehennig 5 min read

IBM UrbanCode Deploy—a leading application-release automation solution—now provides a new plugin that allows you to integrate with IBM Instana. You can leverage the new Instana Plugin for IBM UrbanCode Deploy to send a ‘release marker’ to Instana at a scope level you specify. The numerous benefits result in improved collaboration, reduced mean time to detection and accelerated insight on release impact.

The business challenge

Customers expect the services they depend on to be available 100% of the time. The last thing you have during an outage is time. You need to be quick to identify or detect issues, and you also must be quick in your remediation. When a service, software offering or application is not available, customers have options and may explore alternative solutions. The result could be a reduction in revenue for the business and a negative impact to brand loyalty.

Imagine a scenario where you have deployed an update to an online store you provide as a hosted solution for a customer. Imagine that you do not have solid DevOps practices or an observability solution in place. Now imagine that this release of the updated application resulted in a two-week search for what brought down the entire system. Have you ever experienced a scenario like this? Stories like this one are more common than you might imagine. The impact on your business can be significant. You quickly realize that solid DevOps practices and observability work together to ensure success.

The solution

Applying a DevOps mindset can help reduce silos between development and operations. Collaboration between developers, operations and product owners is key to drive reliability and resiliency into your solutions. IBM UrbanCode Deploy has been helping our clients adopt DevOps for years now, which includes helping our clients do the following:

  • Create repeatable and reliable deployment processes from DEV all the way to PRODUCTION.
  • Develop quality gates in their pipelines to detect issues earlier in the software development lifecycle (shift-left).
  • Automate testing and validation as part of application deployments.

With the introduction of the Instana Plugin for IBM UrbanCode Deploy, we can now help take the concept of DevOps to the next level. As a deployment is initiated, we can now alert the SRE by sending a ‘release marker’ to Instana:

A release marker will indicate the moment in time when a change is introduced to an environment. In the Instana web console, you will see a notification of the release, as shown below:

Instana will then decorate the telemetry (e.g., CPU, memory, disk usage, calls, erroneous call rate) with a release icon so an operator can observe the impact of change immediately. Here is an example:

A release marker provides two pieces of information:

  • Name: The user-defined release name (AceCapital-Banking-QA-3.0.34). The best practice is to include the name of the application you are deploying (AceCapital-Banking) followed by the target environment (QA) and the version label that was deployed (3.0.34).
  • Release time: The point in time when the release has happened (2023-08-15, 11:29:09).

An operator can observe changes in behavior from the point a release takes place. They may observe a spike in erroneous calls, latency issues or issues with resource consumption, such as CPU or memory. The notification of the release helps operators accelerate insights, reduce mean time to detection and ensure the site is reliable for their clients.

Of course, if the issue observed is such that you need to quickly roll back to a working version of the application, you can do this easily using IBM UrbanCode Deploy. UrbanCode Deploy allows you to select the previous snapshot or component version and quickly roll back, which will help avoid downtime for your clients. This helps to improve mean time to resolution (MTTR).

Instana Plugin for IBM UrbanCode Deploy

Interested in learning more?

Download the Instana plugin for IBM UrbanCode Deploy

Once you have the plugin installed, you will find three steps available to you in the component process step palette, as highlighted below:

Using the plugin step, you can add a release marker in Instana at three different scopes:

  • Global Perspective
  • Application Perspective
  • Service Perspective

In Instana, you can see the scope in the list of releases as shown below where “nginx-web” is a Service, “AceCapital-Banking” is an Application, and “Global” will decorate the telemetry with a release marker in every view within Instana’s web console:

Here is an example of a component process step to create a release marker for an application called “AceCapital-Banking”:

Note: It is a best practice for the release marker label to include the application name, the target environment and the version label of what was deployed.

You will provide the Instana Base URL and an API Token used for authentication. When you create the API Token in Instana, be sure to enable Configuration of releases, as shown below:

Summary

Looking for a solution to improve your DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering practices? The combination of IBM UrbanCode Deploy and Instana working together can help.

IBM UrbanCode Deploy helps our clients by providing the following:

  • Reliable and repeatable processes from DEV to PRODUCTION
  • Over 150 plugins to integrate with tools like Rational Test Automation Server (RTAS) and Instana
  • Quality gates to ensure good quality code is progressing through your pipeline
  • Methods for rolling back or rolling forward, which accelerates mean time to recovery (MTTR)

Instana provides the ability to observe the full stack that makes up your applications with one-second granularity and no sampling. This greatly reduces mean time to detection (MTTD). It also helps you discover and address hidden issues that you may not know exist. Release markers enable better collaboration between Dev and Ops:

In the end, the solutions work together to decrease mean time to recovery, improve collaboration and accelerate insights on release impact.

Learn more about IBM DevOps Automation

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