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Welcoming Gene Kim

Renowned DevOps Visionary Joins XebiaLabs as Strategic Advisor

Stater

Stater Successfully Implements DevOps with XebiaLabs

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The Environment

Tools: XL Release, XL Deploy, Jenkins CI, Sonar, FitNesse, Selenium, Subversion and many others

Middleware: IIS, JBoss, SQL DB (mid-office), Sybase DB (back-office)

Multiple languages: Java, .NET, Uniface, Blueriq


The Challenge

Speed up time to market for new features and applications, and reduce the number of production problems caused by new releases.

The Solution

Agile DevOps process featuring XL Release and XL Deploy to automate, standardize and orchestrate the software delivery process.

The Results

  • Time to roll out new machines reduced from 1-2 days to 30 minutes 
  • Software deployment time dropped from 1-2 weeks to 30 minutes 
  • Accelerated release process. Stater aims to release software fourtimes more frequently in the next six months 
  • Releases have substantially higher quality. Already Stater has greatlyreduced the number of post-release production issues

Grow Fast, Help Customers, and Get It “First Time Right”

Stater, the Netherlands’ #1 mortgage broker, handles mortgages for premium financial services companies and is aiming for double digit growth in their market share over the next 3 years. To do that, they know they need to move fast and execute flawlessly.

Stater’s IT department works hard to provide applications that support the end-toend mortgage process – for customers, for agents, and for the banks themselves. They are currently focused on two major initiatives.

  • Improving their systems to onboard new customers.
  • “Digitization,” which involves creating portals that consumers, brokers and the banks themselves can use to manage their mortgages.

As well, their team has a vision – they call it the “Accello Project” – to speed up the acceptance process for mortgage seekers, so people know in only one hour if their application will be accepted.

Overarching these goals, the IT group has a mantra for quality: they want to get it all “First Time Right.”

Old School or Continuous Delivery?

About two years ago, Stater started taking a long, hard look at their software delivery process. They were having challenges getting software into production quickly… and even more problems in production after new releases were deployed. Releases were sometimes delayed a week – or even two – and more than once resulted in post-production fire fighting for several weeks after deployment.

At first, they looked to improve with old school methods:

  • Multiple checklists were created to ensure proper steps were taken
  • “Four eyes” principle was applied –everyone’s work was checked by someone else to ensure correctness
  • Reduce velocity – to improve quality, the team considered slowing down the release process from 6 major releases per year to 2-4

And then Stater realized that old school steps were the opposite of what they really needed to do.

Stater learned about Continuous Delivery at a XebiaLabs seminar and had an epiphany: Release smaller chunks of code, more often. And if you have manuals steps in your process, automate them!

Continuous Delivery with XebiaLabs

Continuous Delivery became a high priority for Stater. They first focused on automation and automated deployment, and are also working on automated provisioning, continuous integration, and improving test automation. Stater started implementing XL Release and XL Deploy in the fall of 2014 with several goals in mind:

  • Speed up time to market for software delivery so they can better service theircustomers with innovative tooling
  • Automate their processes
  • Improve the quality of code that goes into production… and get it First Time Right

Now all Agile / DevOps teams at Stater are using XL Deploy and XL Release – about 300 people across 25 teams. In addition, their PaaS, IaaS and Release Management teams all use both tools.

XL Release manages Stater’s automated software delivery pipeline and platform automation pipeline. Most steps are now automated, but Stater prefers to keep some steps manual for now, such as waiting for approval by their cross-functional Change Advisory Board. Fortunately XL Release is designed to allow just such flexibility. XL Release also gives insight into Stater’s 25 test environments.

Now the whole team rallies around constantly-updated information: giant flat-screen TVs around the room constantly show the status of Stater’s XL Release pipelines, including testing and build statuses.

On the deployment side, XL Deploy is called by Jenkins to automatically deploy all of the software for Stater’s mid-office, back-office and corresponding interfaces. The team will be adding additional applications for both XL Release and XL Deploy, such as their document processing engine and data warehouse, over the coming year.

Achieving First Time Right and Other Goals

Stater’s Agile / DevOps initiative with XL Release and XL Deploy is ongoing and has already yielded good results.

First Time Right: According to Ton Kueter, Manager, IT Development for Stater, “Perhaps most importantly, release quality is now substantially better, and the number of post-release production problems has dropped. The team is thrilled to be able to move on to the next release rather than fighting production crises, and the entire organization is happier with the quality.”

Faster Release Cycle: For now, the team is more focused on ensuring quality and improving testing, but in the next six months, they expect releases to happen every two weeks… which is 4X more often than when they began this initiative.

Lower Costs: Finally, overall IT costs have already been reduced on a recurring basis!

Specifically...

  • Time to roll out new machines has been reduced from 1-2 days to 30 minutes.
  • Software deployment time has dropped from 1-2 weeks to 30 minutes.
  • Accelerated release process. Stater aims to release software four times more frequently in the next six months.
  • Releases have substantially higher quality. Already Stater has greatly reduced the number of post-release production issues.

Stater has also noticed several secondary benefits:

  • DevOps teams can work more autonomously, which makes team members very happy.
  • The process is much more transparent to everyone involved.
  • The engineers get quick feedback, which helps them create more value and make fewer mistakes. When they do make mistakes, they are able to fix them faster.
  • Now they fail early. And they learn often, and they learn more. All of the teams see a big benefit in learning from their mistakes so they can improve the process.

There are not many tools like either XL Release or XL Deploy. Both tools have an excellent UI, are easy to use and do a great job of presenting information visually, which gives us much-needed insight into the state of our releases,” Ton continued.

“As well, both products fit well into our current landscape and make it easy to integrate the different platforms and languages we use. We love the flexibility. It’s easy to adjust the process to add new steps, and easy to add new systems.”