Cable and Wireless

How Cable & Wireless Eliminated Release Errors by Reducing Manual Steps

The Environment

  • Industry: Telecommunications
  • Company: Cable & Wireless Communications
  • Employees: 3,977
  • Windows
  • Linux
  • VMS
  • COBOL
  • Bitbucket
  • Microsoft Team
    Foundation Server

The Challenge

The volume of deployments is substantial. Liberate is installed in 21 production environments––all on different releases of the software––and approximately twice that many UAT (User Acceptance Test) environments, plus 10 system test environments. Typically a quarter of the UAT environments are refreshed weekly, a proportion of the test environments are updated daily, and the 21 production environments have at least one product deployment per week.

Furthermore, Liberate consists of a suite of applications on different technologies including VMS, Linux and Windows in a heterogeneous multi-tier stack, with a different set of build/deploy tools for each application and two version control systems. Additionally, because of the interdependencies between applications, deploying a new build on one tier generally entails a new build on all tiers.

In consequence, the application deployment process historically involved many manual steps, high levels of coordination and a huge dependency on highly knowledgeable teams with niche skills––leading to risky, stressful and labour intensive releases.

When the Company announced that it was moving the IT function (and most of the rest of its London teams) to Miami in 2014, the need to eliminate risk and improve the process became much more pressing.

cablewireless-case-study-inner

The Solution

The main objectives for CWC’s Liberate team in choosing an application deployment tool were to reduce manual effort, simplify and streamline the build/deploy process, remove the dependency on OpenVMS skills and highly knowledgeable (and expensive) individuals, and migrate to a single version control system. In short, eliminate risk from the process and improve reliability.

The IT team looked at various options for automating application deployment and, considering the idiosyncrasies of the platform, generated a list of requirements for the new Application Deployment Automation tool. After evaluating alternatives and establishing a business case, it soon became apparent that XL Deploy, provided in the UK via Cachet partnering with XebiaLabs, was the best option. “All costs of the licenses compared favorably against the cost of customization required by the open source alternative,” said Stephen Judd, Liberate Lead Architect.

The Requirements

  • Multi-platform: The system had to be able to deploy to environments running three different operating systems: Linux, Windows, and OpenVMS. In particular, since the centre of gravity of the suite resides on OpenVMS, it was essential that the tool could deploy, or be made to deploy, software on that operating system, without customization. XL Deploy is agentless across all target platforms and this enabled CWC to extend it simply to OpenVMS.
  • Audit and tracking capabilities: The teams should be able to easily see what had been deployed (which release), where, and when. This had previously been tracked on a Wiki page and with spreadsheets, which was manual and error-prone. XL Deploy maintains an inventory of deployments.
  • Simplification of Deployment mechanism: The ability to simplify the process was one of the main drivers. “We wanted to simplify the deployment mechanism. With XL Deploy, it is a push-button exercise,” said Michael Seddon, Liberate Deployment Specialist.
  • Ease of use for non-specialists: The system had to allow the company to reduce its dependency on a few, very knowledgeable individuals––best employed in high value tasks.
  • Integration with Jenkins: CWC uses Jenkins to manage all the build scripts; therefore, the selected option had to integrate with Jenkins.
  • Extensibility: Should the capabilities of the tool need to be extended in the future, it had to be written in a language CWC felt comfortable in. The skills of the company are in Java, and XL Deploy provides plugins for Java, enabling CWC to extend the capabilities as and when required.
  • Availability of APIs: Similarly, in case the company needed to build or enhance the tool, for instance with a completely new plugin ––as they eventually did.

 

CWC ran a proof of concept to ensure XL Deploy could fulfill the requirements and, most importantly, that it could be used for CWC’s legacy environment. Additional objectives were to ensure that CWC could model the production and non-production environments and evaluate the effort and skillset required to use the tool.

XL Deploy passed with flying colors: “We could see how the framework of XL Deploy works. It gave us the confidence that XL Deploy is not only extendable, but also really straight forward to implement”, said Judd.

The company started the planning process to determine the order in which the applications would convert.

The first phase of the project was to migrate the easiest applications early in the process. CWC was able to have 50% of the applications on XL Deploy, already a substantial reduction of risk.

Results

XL Deploy has allowed CWC to eliminate risk from the application deployment and release process by removing all the manual tasks and the requirements for highly skilled individuals – who had previously spent much of their time doing deployments or preparing for one. The backlogs disappeared and CWC expects, with XL Deploy, to increase productivity by 100% simply by dedicating these resources to more highly valuable tasks.

  • Reduce manual effort
  • Simplify and streamline build/deploy process
  • Remove dependency on VMS skills
  • Migrate to a single-version control system

Implementing XL Deploy has also reduced the requirement for knowledge transfer and documentation, and provided an accurate, complete and up-to-date inventory of what’s deployed where.

“XL Deploy not only met all our requirements, but it does so very efficiently.” said Judd. “The system was also very straight-forward to customize with the plugin framework it provides.” “It is very obvious that extensibility is in the essence of the product: XebiaLabs have built it with embedded extensibility––and it makes a difference”.

Whilst the implementation was straightforward, CWC did use XebiaLabs assistance from time to time. “We received incredible help from XebiaLabs to create our plugin,” said Judd. “XebiaLabs have exceeded our expectations with the support they’ve provided us.”

Background

International telecommunications company eliminates risk from their build/deploy process

Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), a full-service telecommunications company with main operations in the Caribbean and Latin America, provides mobile, broadband, and fixed line services to 16 markets. Their IT function, based in London, develops and supports the strategically important Liberate platform used by CWC’s operating business units.

Liberate provides billing, customer care, order management, and related core functions to support CWC’s business operations. The fast pace of the business demands very frequent deployments of Liberate to multiple environments in different countries and time zones.

“XL Deploy not only met all our requirements, but it does so very efficiently. The system was also very straight-forward to customize with the plugin framework it provides. It is very obvious that extensibility is in the essence of the product: XebiaLabs have built it with embedded extensibility––and it makes a difference”.

—Stephen Judd, Liberate Lead Architect