rchestrate DevOps

How Release Management Fits into a DevOps Environment

NOV, 2022

by Andrew Walker.

 

Author Andrew Walker

Andrew Walker is a software architect with 10+ years of experience. Andrew is passionate about his craft, and he loves using his skills to design enterprise solutions for Enov8, in the areas of IT Environments, Release & Data Management.

 

 

 

Release management, or Enterprise Release Management (ERM), is becoming vital in contemporary application landscapes as organizations strive to embrace DevOps, Cloud & Distributed-based architectures. Through effective integration into an IT framework, release management helps streamline processes, improve delivery times, reduce costs related to prolonged development cycles and more.

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However, The lack of effective release management within an organization’s IT framework can lead to prolonged development cycles, increased costs, loss of vision, the loss accountability, loss of quality, increased risks & being caught out by regulatory policies & compliance. Lets explain some of the key challenges of not using Release Management in more detail.

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The Challenges of DevOps without Release Management

The Loss of End to End Vision

DevOps release management can be a challenging process, as it requires the coordination of multiple teams and stakeholders. This often leads to fragmentation of information, as well as informal collaboration between teams. As a result, it is essential that clear communication is maintained between various teams, and that processes and systems are in place to ensure that everyone is aware of any changes that are made to the release process. Additionally, it is important to ensure that teams have access to the right information at the right time, in order to ensure that the release process goes smoothly.

The Loss of Accountability

DevOps is a methodology that emphasizes collaboration and communication between development and operations teams to achieve faster and more efficient software delivery. However, in a DevOps environment, teams are often structured in a federated model, where each team works in its own “sandpits” or isolated environment with a specific focus on their area of responsibility. This setup means that each team is accountable for its own work, and the responsibility is decentralized.

The benefits of a federated model are that each team can focus on its specific area of expertise and work autonomously, which allows for faster innovation and experimentation. However, this approach can also lead to challenges, as the teams may not have a full understanding of the overall system and may be working with different tools and processes. This can create communication and collaboration problems, which can slow down the release process and increase the risk of errors.

To mitigate these challenges, it is essential to ensure that teams have open lines of communication and are aware of the goals and priorities of other teams. Through Enterprise Release Management, organisations can solve the issue of DevOps ‘federated accountability’ and establish methods like ‘Milestone & Gates’ that enforce cross-functional collaboration, regular team meetings, sharing of information and tools, cross team alignment and monitoring of progress & risk.

Quality Gaps

Quality Assurance (QA) is an integral part of Enterprise Release Management. As one of the core disciplines in the release cycle, Quality Assurance helps to ensure that all code changes are tested thoroughly before they can be released, and any potential issues are identified and resolved prior to deployment. The QA process typically involves integration testing, user acceptance testing and other activities. It also helps guarantee that the final product meets the needs of stakeholders and customers alike.

Release Management further supports enterprise delivery with quality gates designed to make sure that code adheres to standards, components work properly, and software meets user requirements. This includes configuring end-to-end test environments, compliance gates, change management gates, documentation gates and performance/capacity planning gates to ensure a high-quality release that is compliant with industry standards and regulations, properly documented, and performs as expected.

Unmanageable Enterprise Risk

Making sense of the risks associated with delivery can be difficult due to constant change, decentralized responsibilities, and lack of real-time information. Great delivery & succesful deployment requires visibility across your IT Environment footprint, including understanding what your system look like, how they relate to each other, how they are brought together, how they are configured, in the lower (decelopment & test) and upper environments (production),  and defining and monitoring the associated operations to deliver it all e.g. Production Day Implementation Planning.

 When DevOps practices are used without release management, it becomes very hard to coordinate thigs, somewhat like herding cats.

As the VP of Release Management at a global bank company notes. The complexity of the situation is immense, and it is highly probable that something will go wrong unless all parties are in sync and have an overall view of the situation. The concern, however, lies in the severity of the issue should something actually break. Is it something that can be tolerated or is it a major problem?”

Non Compliance

DevOps team rarely follow Regulatory Policies & Compliance.

Enterprise Release Management (governance) helps DevOps teams with challenges like Regulatory Policies & Compliance by providing a framework for managing the release process. This framework ensures that all releases are compliant with the relevant regulations and policies, and that any changes to the system are properly documented and tracked. It also provides a way to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of any changes, and that they have the opportunity to provide feedback or raise any concerns before a release is approved. This helps to ensure that all releases are compliant with the relevant regulations and policies, while also allowing for faster timetomarket.

Some examples of complaince that IT teams should be aware of.

1. Data Protection and Privacy Regulations: These regulations govern how companies collect, store, and use personal data.

2. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS): This standard sets out the requirements for protecting cardholder data.

3. Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX): This act sets out the requirements for financial reporting and internal controls.

4. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): This act sets out the requirements for protecting patient health information.

5. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): This regulation sets out the requirements for protecting personal data of EU citizens.

6. Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA): This act sets out the requirements for protecting federal information systems.

7. International Organization for Standardization (ISO): This organization sets out standards for information security management systems.

Enov8 Platform, Information Privacy: Screenshot

Enterprise Data Compliance

Release Management as an Umbrealla Function of DevOps

As an umbrella, or governance, function, Release Management can promote the following things in DevOps:

  • Standardization: Release Management can promote standardization across the software delivery process, ensuring that all teams follow the same processes and use the same tools. This helps to minimize errors, reduce downtime, and increase productivity.

  • Risk Management: Release Management can help to mitigate risks associated with software releases. This can be achieved through the use of implementation plans or cutover plans that outline the steps involved in the release process and identify potential risks.

Tip: Implementation plans (Deployment Plans) and cutover plans are important tools used by Release Management to ensure successful software releases. An implementation plan outlines the steps involved in deploying the software, including testing, configuration, and data migration. It also identifies potential risks and outlines the steps to mitigate them. A cutover plan is used to coordinate the actual release of the software. It outlines the steps involved in switching from the old system to the new system, including any necessary downtime or maintenance. The cutover plan also identifies potential risks and outlines the steps to mitigate them.

  • Collaboration: Release Management can encourage collaboration between different teams involved in the software delivery process, including developers, testers, and operations teams. This helps to ensure that all teams are working towards the same goal and that the software is delivered smoothly.

  • Continuous Improvement: Release Management can promote continuous improvement by collecting feedback from stakeholders and using it to improve the release process. This feedback can be used to identify areas for improvement and make changes to the process as necessary.

Overall, Release Management is an important function in DevOps that helps to ensure that software releases are reliable, efficient, and of high quality. By promoting standardization, risk management, collaboration, and continuous improvement, Release Management can help organizations to deliver software faster and with greater confidence.

Conclusion

Simply put, integrating effective release management into an organizations IT framework is essential for ensuring DevOps success. Think of ‘Release Management’ as the maestro of your orchestra. Release management helps to streamline processes and optimize delivery times, reduce costs associated with prolonged development cycles, and provide realtime visibility into the entire release process. It also encourages teams to take ownership of their specific tasks within the overall release process, and gives them the power to identify and solve problems on their own, without relying on a centralized authority to do so.

Ultimately, implementing a robust release management process is the key to ensuring successful DevOps deployments at scale.

Other Reading

Enjoy what you read? Here are a few more articles that you might find interesting.

Enov8 Blog: Marrying SAFe and DevOps

Enov8 Blog: Enterprise Release Management – The Ultimate Guide

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