Company: Cable & Wireless Communications
Market leader in telecommunications with 3.7 million mobile customers
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.
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 usually 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.
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 licences compared favourably against the cost of customisation required by the open source alternative” clarifies Stephen Judd, Liberate Lead Architect.
The requirements were these:
CWC ran a proof of concept to ensure XL Deploy could fulfil 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 operationally.
XL Deploy passed with flying colours: “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”, says Stephen 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 first and very early in the process, CWC was able to have 50% of the applications on XL Deploy, already a substantial reduction of risk.
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.
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” says Judd. “The system was also very straight-forward to customise 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”, praises Judd. “XebiaLabs have exceeded our expectations with the support they’ve provided us”.