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The need to deliver business applications to customers faster is ever increasing. Banks, online retailers, tech startups — they all want to reach their customers with new offers and solutions that beat the competition. This puts a lot of pressure on application development and IT teams to deliver regular application updates that are high quality, secure and offer a superior customer experience.
I want to share a recent experience with an IBM client in the insurance industry that was looking to address these challenges using an on-premises private cloud. My team in IBM Systems Lab Services provided a “cloud architecture engagement” to understand the organization’s pain points and narrow its cloud priorities. Then we suggested a DevOps assessment to help us:
- Understand the client’s current DevOps enablement, concerns, challenges and expectations
- Evaluate gaps in its current integration and how IBM Systems capabilities could address its needs
- Recommend the optimal tools or platform for continuous integration and delivery
Narrowing down on real needs
The client carefully chose three applications at different levels of DevOps maturity for the assessment. A brief workshop with all stakeholders — including application architects, developers and testers, IT infrastructure architects and business managers — helped us pinpoint development and delivery challenges across application teams and recognize common and unique challenges for the teams involved.
We gathered all input with a well-defined questionnaire in the workshop. The main challenges were as follows:
- Build and integration challenges, including lower build frequency due to application pipeline dependencies, exposed security vulnerabilities due to un-optimized security scan integration and lack of automation in unit and acceptance testing.
- Delivery and deployment challenges, including sub-optimal and dis-integrated use of tools like Ansible for continuous delivery, inefficient IT infrastructure provisioning to address dynamic needs of application delivery and testing and lack of consistency across development, quality, testing, staging and production environments, which causes unpredictable application issues at different stages.
- Maintenance and operations challenges, including a manual and error-prone approach for application version rollback and inefficient use of system resources that don’t scale based on workload requirements.
A simple, adaptable and minimally disruptive solution
We then carefully went through the client’s needs. We provided recommendations to remediate integration concerns, focused on the Continuous Integration (CI) / Continuous Deployment (CD) pipeline, leveraged existing tools for DevOps integration optimizations and identified one application as a use case for an application modernization evaluation.
Providing a clear DevOps roadmap for transformation
First and foremost, the Lab Services team evaluated the organization’s current DevOps integration maturity with a model based on the IBM DevOps Reference Architecture. We made minor adjustments in existing tools to address some of its challenges. These offered immediate takeaways for the client, as there were no new procurements or licenses.
To achieve continuous delivery, this insurance company would need to adopt modernization practices for some of its applications based on micro-services architecture using open source technologies like Docker containers, Kubernetes and Docker Compose on Linux.
One of its applications was identified for modernization — a user-focused, business-critical application that was to be migrated to run on IBM Power Systems and optimized for popular Linux distributions. The application will be transformed with containerization for a modern micro-services based architecture, which is important for DevOps integration. Power Systems is qualified with a value proposition with these proof points for modern cloud-native workloads. The client will run, manage and scale the application on premises with IBM Cloud Private, an integrated environment built on Kubernetes, for managing application containers with a private image registry, a management console and monitoring frameworks. OpenStack-based IBM PowerVC will address virtual machine provisioning in the private cloud along with Ansible.
Finally, we derived a DevOps tool chain to optimize application delivery.
The insurance company is continuing with steps to build on this infrastructure under its application modernization and delivery strategy.
If you’re looking to build infrastructure for modern applications on IBM Power Systems, IBM Systems Lab Services can help with assessments, solution evaluation, proofs of concept, low-level design and implementation. Reach out to us today.