Saving Two Days in Production for Each Iterative Release: A Q&A with Julien Charier of SmartFocus
Many of our customers achieve great things with XL Deploy, our agentless deployment automation solution. One such example is SmartFocus, which specializes in delivering personalized marketing messages in real time.
I recently had the chance to interview Julien Charier, the Configuration Manager at SmartFocus, to talk about his experiences with XL Deploy, which his team leveraged to issue software releases more frequently and accelerate time-to-market schedules.
Q: What is your development environment like?
Charier: We have 40 professionals across Dev, QA and Ops, and we manage approximately 120 apps built with Java, Apache, Tomcat, Oracle and EnterpriseDB. We also rely on Jenkins for continuous integration. The apps run on 1,200 Linux servers—200 of them currently run XL Deploy, but we plan to eventually install the solution on all servers.
Q: What challenges did you face before installing XL Deploy?
Charier: We experienced slow deployment times as well as deployments with high failure rates. This was due in part to relying on different configuration tools and sometimes configuring applications manually. Our apps also required heavy maintenance due to many homegrown scripts. All of these issues caused wasted time and errors. We needed a standardized configuration database for all aspects of deployment, testing, and production so that we would not be so cautious with rollbacks.
Q: How did things change after you installed XL Deploy?
Charier: We immediately trimmed two days per month off our new-release development cycles, which led to faster and more seamless deployments. We also secured our rollback procedures and can now track progress on a daily basis. XL Deploy also makes it much easier to configure apps, and it integrates very well with Jenkins, Maven and other tools. Our success rate in launching applications into production has definitely increased—we no longer hesitate to perform rollbacks.
Q: What are some of the key features you like best about XL Deploy?
Charier: We particularly like how easily we can revert back to a previous app version with the click of a button. We also like the out-of-the-box reports that help us track time spent on each deployment. For developers, XL Deploy is very easy to load and run tests. Before, the development team sometimes did not want to update the platform with the latest version of the application. But now, once they finish their code, we can immediately deploy the code to the development environment to run the first test.
Q: Can you provide a measurable example of how XL Deploy has paid off?
Charier: By integrating XL Deploy with Jenkins, we have achieved a true continuous integration environment and now save about two hours for each environment we create. Given that we issue one big release per month, the company saves about two days in terms of production for each iterative release. And once we load XL Deploy onto all of our servers, we expect to save even more time on future releases.
Q: Any advice to pass along to someone else in your shoes at another company?
Charier: By relying on XL Deploy, you not only gain more time to work on other projects, but also dramatically improve your application reliability. Our deployments are seamless and our rollbacks run smoothly—mostly unattended. We've gained not only precious time, but also valuable assurance that our actions will be 100 percent successful. To read the case study, please click here.