Daimler Trucks NA put application developers in the driver’s seat by using a DevOps model and IBM® UrbanCode® Deploy software to manage application delivery, speeding application deployment and improving quality and control.
Daimler Trucks North America needed to replace its fragmented and slow application development and deployment process to meet the ever-increasing demand for IT applications.
Daimler Trucks NA implemented IBM UrbanCode Deploy software to support a DevOps application delivery model. Developers manage their applications from coding to automated deployment and rollback.
As with most organizations today, the IT Services team at Daimler Trucks NA faced an ever-increasing demand for new applications to support the business. The department set a long-term objective to find the tools and talent to automate as many software delivery processes as possible. One area ripe for innovation and automation was application deployment.
The company’s application deployment model had become unsustainable for several reasons. First, the software build and deployment processes were independent functions in separate departments. Once the build team wrote the code, it relinquished responsibility for the application’s deployment, essentially “throwing the package over the wall.”
Nick Wylde, Technical Analyst for IT Services and Customer Support and DevOps Champion at Daimler Trucks NA, describes the situation: “After installing an application, the middleware team might get a midnight call from someone because it didn’t work properly. Even if the culprit was a coding problem that belonged to the developers, the middleware team was in the hot seat to make it work.”
Second, the deployment process was slow and error-prone. When the middleware team received the application, it followed a manual work document with more than 30 steps. If someone did any one of the steps incorrectly, the individual had to go back to that step and redo the process. The result: each deployment, whether initial installation or update, took at least an hour, often longer. Further, there was no clear, automated rollback path, so fixing the issue required more manual effort from the deployment team.
Finally, there were few enforceable rules or policies regarding file handling or traceability to source control. This lack of governance could easily introduce errors into existing or new applications as files were manually passed from one server or application to another.
According to Wylde: “Poor or buggy application deployment and slow fixes have a negative business impact. For example, there’s a ripple effect if an application that manages dealership parts inventory is flawed. Trucks get stuck in the shop and can’t go out. The fleet is paying for trucks that aren’t making money, and we lose money because we can’t sell the parts.”
Daimler Trucks NA decided to move toward a DevOps model, which focuses on application-deployment automation. According to Wylde, the first rule of the DevOps model is “you build it, you own it. Developers become the owners of their applications instead of just passing them down the line to the middleware engineers to deploy and troubleshoot.”
Seeking a tool that would integrate seamlessly with its existing software platforms, the company chose the IBM UrbanCode Deploy application-release automation solution. UrbanCode Deploy software supports a DevOps approach to orchestrate, automate and deploy applications, middleware and database changes to distributed data centers, cloud and virtualized environments as often as needed—either on demand or on a schedule. It combines robust visibility, traceability and auditing capabilities. Daimler Truck NA chose an on-premises installation in its data center, but the solution is also optimized for IBM Cloud™ deployment.
“We looked at other products. They simply could not meet the full scope of what we needed to do. They didn’t talk to WebSphere®; they didn’t integrate with other platforms. They couldn’t do configuration. We were looking for a DevOps solution and UrbanCode Deploy was the only product that met all our criteria,” says Wylde.
UrbanCode Deploy software lets developers code and deploy at will. “It gives the keys to developers, who become truly responsible for their product,” notes Wylde. The solution also has an automatic rollback function. Wylde comments: “If the developers push an application forward and it doesn’t work, the middleware team doesn’t get the call in the middle of the night. The developers get that call. They own the application, bugs and all.”
The UrbanCode Deploy solution helped Daimler Trucks NA reduce application delivery time and downtime because of faulty applications. It also improved application quality, control and governance. By so doing, the company decreased overall application-management costs.
In the first year after implementing UrbanCode Deploy software, the IT Services team used the solution for 3,000 deployments of four applications. By cutting deployment time from 60 – 90 minutes to as few as four minutes, Wylde estimates that automation saved the department more than 3,000 hours. “If a typical deployment took 70 minutes, and we can now do it in four. That’s around a 94 percent time savings for each deployment.” Daimler Trucks NA now uses the UrbanCode Deploy solution for over 100 applications throughout the company.
At first, the team had to clean up existing code before it could use the UrbanCode Deploy solution for subsequent application deployment. Now, a build tool that works in conjunction with UrbanCode Deploy software helps ensure that applications are properly built and will work correctly, putting the onus for coding quality back on the development team.
Wylde also believes that the software is further helping improve application quality because the development team can roll back applications and quickly find and fix problems. “Before UrbanCode Deploy, we might wait for two, three, four weeks before releasing a new patch. With an automated rollback feature, we can release a patch within a couple of days.”
Daimler Trucks NA also uses UrbanCode Deploy software to enforce policies, such as prohibiting manually handling or changing a file. “Everything has to come from source control, unlike before,” says Wylde. “We also have one single template that’s used to deploy all applications,” thus improving governance and control over applications and data.
Other IT departments within Daimler Trucks NA and its sister companies within Daimler AG are interested in Wylde’s results. “There’s a ripple effect. People have seen our success and are paying attention. They realize we can do deployments in as little as four minutes, instead of an hour or more, and they want to adopt our model in their department.”
Wylde believes that a DevOps model, supported by the UrbanCode Deploy solution, is helping change his organization’s culture, particularly among developers. “People like to create things. They don’t want to be stuck doing manual labor. That’s what UrbanCode does,” states Wylde. “It’s not meant to replace user-interface skills, coding development or the creativity in code. It’s meant to replace the manual tasks that add absolutely no value to us in IT, to our customers or to the business.”
Wylde continues, “We’re breaking down the old barriers between developers and other IT professionals within the company.” Plus, his middleware team doesn’t get calls in the middle of the night asking them to fix coding problems. “I would say that anyone using DevOps and UrbanCode Deploy should be ready for a big culture change and shift and, frankly, happier people at the end of the day.”
By aligning DevOps technology with the right people, Wylde is streamlining the organization and focusing on innovation. “We can start to shift toward more creative things like predictive analytics, data mining or other things that truly bring value,” he says.
Wylde concludes: “Companies that don’t adopt a DevOps model risk going the way of all those now-defunct video rental and electronics store chains that didn’t change, or didn’t change fast enough to keep up with technology transformation and customer expectations.”
Based in Portland, Oregon, Daimler Trucks NA (link resides outside ibm.com) is North America’s premier heavy-duty truck manufacturer. This subsidiary of German automaker Daimler AG has been producing best-selling brands of long-haul and cross-continent trucks for more than 70 years. In addition to its familiar Freightliner brand, Daimler Trucks NA makes commercial vehicles under the Western Star nameplate and manufactures school buses under the Thomas Built brand. The organization employs approximately 20,000 people and has roughly USD 5.3 billion in annual sales.
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