e3zine.com interviewed Joerg Landwehr, CEO Basis Technologies, about DevOps and new ALM (Application Lifecycle Management).
Can you explain DevOps with very few words to an existing SAP customers?
Joerg Landwehr: DevOps is a software development and deployment methodology that aims to make IT more responsive to business needs by connecting development and operations more closely. It enables software changes to be delivered more quickly and safely, increasing their relevance to the business so that they provide greater value.
What are the historical roots of DevOps?
Landwehr: In large IT organisations it’s not unusual for development and operations teams to work in silos, with limited communication or coordination. As Agile development principles increased the speed at which new features could be created, operations teams were not able to roll out changes at the same pace.
DevOps developed from consideration of how to bridge this divide. At Basis Technologies we find that a gap between development and operations is still common in the world of SAP. Even where rapid change can be made to applications, the deployment to production often has to wait for a regular – often quarterly, or bi-annual – release cycle.
DevOps has traditionally been seen as most relevant to customer-facing ‘systems of engagement’ like web interfaces and mobile apps, where fast, frequent change has become expected. There is now a growing desire for enterprise applications such as SAP to change at the same pace, often to enable critical customer-facing functionality. Our suite of DevOps tools allow rapid change to be delivered safely within SAP systems. Extensive process automation and change analysis functions minimise risk so that value can be unlocked much more quickly.
Who can use DevOps today? Where can you learn it?
Landwehr: Any organisation can implement DevOps today. A recent survey by Computer Associates found that over 70% of businesses asked have already implemented DevOps in some form, though a much smaller number were considered ‘advanced adopters’.
This may be because changes in culture, organization and tooling are all required – and are in fact fundamental – for the full benefits of a DevOps approach to be felt. There are many local events and online resources that can help users to learn more about DevOps, with numerous high-profile practitioners such as NetFlix, Facebook and Amazon sharing their experiences online.
Is DevOps a general guide to action or more a toolbox?
Landwehr: DevOps has been described as a culture, movement, practice, philosophy, and probably even more. It’s true that DevOps is not a strict, codified methodology, and as such its implementation can differ across companies.
However, certain common principles hold true, including adoption of Agile development, cross-team collaboration and communication, maximising automation of processes, and faster feedback loops. All of these ideas apply as much to DevOps for SAP as for any other part of the IT organisation.
Some can be enabled by tooling – through the collaboration and automation features of Basis Technologies’ Transport Expresso software, for example – whilst others require more organisational and cultural change. DevOps is not an all-or-nothing deal. Organizations can choose to adopt a selection of aspects on their journey from ALM towards faster, safer software delivery: it’s likely that all will introduce tangible benefits.
Can you explain with an example , which is better concretely with DevOps?
Put simply, implementing DevOps processes and tools – whether for SAP or any other system – will allow IT organizations to better respond to the changing demands of their business. Change and value can be delivered faster and more frequently, with less risk.
Online retailing platform Etsy, for example, uses DevOps to enable deployment of more than 60 updates per day, whilst Netflix employs a ‘simian army’ of automated test tools to reduce customer downtime by constantly testing the robustness of its online video streaming service. DevOps makes IT, including SAP systems, able to change at the speed of the rest of the business – a fundamental requirement in a time of ‘digital transformation’.
You offer a DevOps Suite for SAP. What does the existing SAP customers get in concrete terms?
Landwehr: At Basis Technologies we offer a suite of tools that enable businesses to evolve to an agile model based on the principles of DevOps. We enable quick, safe delivery of SAP changes, as soon as they are ready. The ability to back out those changes and restore the previous system state minimises risk even further.
Such flexibility permits more regular changes in development scope, allowing an easier response to changing business requirements. The ultimate goal is to enable a transition towards processes of continuous integration, delivery and deployment, delivering value at a rapid pace.
What are the advantages and opportunities, a SAP users realize with their DevOps Suite for SAP?
Landwehr: Our DevOps tools enable faster, safer delivery of SAP application changes, to bring those applications into line with the increasing demands of businesses. Unplanned production outages can be cut massively due to a reduction in both risk and errors, whilst automation of the development lifecycle reduce costs and frees up valuable human resources to work on other projects.
DevOps can also help to bring teams and release cycles together where there are dependencies between SAP and other applications, creating business value through holistic application delivery. Our customers have variously reported a 90% increase in the speed of change; reductions in manual effort of up to 95%, and a 70% reduction in production outages.
What are the costs and training costs for the DevOps Suite for SAP?
Landwehr: Basis Technologies’ DevOps tools are all licenced on an annual subscription model. Use of the software, support, maintenance, and entitlement to upgrades are included. This model is ideal for many customers, allowing them to ramp usage up or down depending on business conditions and strategy.
A typical implementation takes between two and six weeks. Installation and configuration of the software is quick and simple, and can normally be done in a few days. Our tools can be administered and maintained by non-specialist in-house teams after minimal training. User adoption is typically very fast, with only a two-hour training session required.
Can DevOps apply to the Abap development?
Landwehr: DevOps for ABAP development is supported by our tools. As a result we would expect to see an improvement in the quality of SAP development and a corresponding reduction in the number of errors, failed deployments and rework.
Development is therefore more likely to be achieved in fewer cycles, which can bring significant cost savings. To really get the most out of DevOps, automated unit testing can be adopted. Though such test-driven development requires a change in the way applications are designed and built, it can reap significant benefits with regard to the future support, extension and maintainability of applications. Our tools can be configured to automatically execute unit tests so issues can be identified before they leave development.
What are the benefits DevOps at Fiori- and Hana developments?
Landwehr: Both Fiori and Hana developments are supported by our DevOps tools, which are certified by SAP as an Add-On Deployment on Hana. The DevOps processes discussed in other answers are just as relevant in both of these areas. Businesses can be assured that DevOps will remain a key enabler of development and delivery as these, and other, new technologies and platforms are adopted.
What is your recommendation for 2016? Must it be DevOps and who should feel addressed them?
Landwehr: An increasing number of businesses are implementing, or at least planning for, a digital transformation; both customer-facing systems and enterprise applications like SAP must be delivered faster in response. It’s clear that DevOps is increasing in prominence, with more organizations turning to this approach for delivery of business-critical applications. At Basis Technologies we’re confident that this will become as true for enterprise applications as for ‘systems of engagement’.
This is borne out by the increasing number of customers and implementation partners that are already contacting us to find out how DevOps can be applied to SAP systems. This doesn’t mean an end to the more traditional, safety-first, ALM approach that is commonplace in SAP. We expect to see more and more individual pockets of innovation within companies where agile and DevOps will flourish, building overall momentum, changing attitudes, and helping to influence the processes used in the organization as a whole.