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DevOps: What to Look For in a Release Management and Automation Solution

Release management solutions are driving speed and business agility in cloud application development, giving DevOps teams the tools they need to coordinate release management, orchestration and automation. In today’s highly competitive business environment, continuous delivery is central to the DevOps process, creating a workflow pipeline that spans development, QA testing and IT operations.

The idea is to allow developers to change some source code when needed and, if the business desires, push a button and see the change implemented in production. With continuous delivery, organizations can decrease waste, reduce cycle times, eliminate bottlenecks in the software delivery pipeline and get innovation into the hands of users with speed and accuracy.

While release management and automation solutions enable continuous delivery, not all offer the same features and functionality. Market research firm Ovum recently released a report highlighting the key features organizations need in release management solutions along with vendors leading the industry, including IBM.¹

In the report, Ovum identified some of the characteristics of release management solutions that separate leaders from the rest of the pack. Here are four important strengths to look for when choosing a vendor:

  • Delivering DevOps services on-premises or in the cloud: Organizations have a variety of DevOps application delivery requirements, sometimes even within the same team and project. Developers need the flexibility to rapidly spin up a test stage in the cloud, even when delivery is destined to go to an on-site data center. A vendor must be able to provide developers with a rich cloud environment while also supporting the ability to deploy cloud and on-premises targets.
  • Providing a standout DevOps framework: You should look for a vendor whose solutions span a range of related practices, including Agile development and DevOps, and provide a starting point for developers new to these disciplines. Users should be able to easily find explanations of the practices and tools that can be used to support them. Ovum specifically cited IBM Bluemix Garage Method as a leader in this area.
  • Enabling strong integration across development and operations to foster a DevOps culture within the organization: As noted in the Ovum report, the cultural dimension to DevOps may be given the least attention but is often the most important. The DevOps culture should encourage project staff who reside in different organizational silos (or who work in the same silo but are not colocated) to meet face to face in workshops, meetings, and one-to-one discussions, as well as participate in Agile retrospectives. This is another area where IBM was cited as a leader, for “delivering solutions that help integrate activities across development and operations to support the growth of a DevOps culture within the organization.”
  • Providing external integrations so the tool can be made part of any platform, from mobile to mainframe: IBM’s UrbanCode was cited by Ovum as having “an exceptional range of external integrations so the tool can be made a part of any platform from mobile to mainframe, and from physical hardware to cloud services, including Bluemix.”

Solutions for release management and automation are critical to accelerating the delivery of applications and business services across all platforms. While the product category is a relatively new one, market leaders have already begun to emerge, based on their ability to deliver solutions that fit the needs of DevOps teams and help foster a DevOps culture. In evaluating solutions, it is important to understand the key criteria to look for in a vendor and identify those vendors that are delivering innovation and leadership.

¹“IBM is a leader! Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting a DevOps Release Management Solution,” IBM developerWorks blog, April 14, 2016

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