From Dabbling to Disciplined: Delta Dental of California’s Journey to DevOps

3 min read

Recently, I had a chance to talk to Adrian Blakey, a DevOps engineer with Delta Dental of California. I have to make a distinction here because Delta Dental is the largest dental insurance plan in the U.S., and Delta Dental of California is a member company. It’s quite a large organization in and of itself, with 3,000 to 4,000 employees and an IT team of about 400 people.

I’m always interested to hear how different companies make their way to DevOps and CloudBees. Some IT teams are given a directive from an upper-level manager or executive, and they plow forward into DevOps with a big bang. Other companies make their way to DevOps in a much more organic way. That’s exactly what happened with Delta Dental of California.

Dabbling with Jenkins

Their journey started about five years ago. Adrian told me he and his IT peers were using Jenkins all over the place, formally and informally. He was a developer at the time, and he was running his own Jenkins server "just for sanity.” After dabbling with Jenkins for a couple of years, the IT team decided to get serious about CI/CD by applying procedures and governance to their work and adding tools to automate development tasks. 

Since Adrian and the IT team were also shifting to containers and they had reached the ceiling with Docker, they realized they needed a high availability installation for Jenkins. CloudBees was the obvious choice. 

DevOps Culture Takes Root

Adrian and the DevOps team knew it was time to kick it up a notch with a GitHub appliance. As they started doing everything in Git, the company’s DevOps culture really took root. From that point on, collaboration and building pipelines with the development teams got even easier, and the strict discipline of their DevOps governance became a point of honor. As Adrian told me, "There has to be a build in CloudBees for everything … and because of our precise methods, release managers trust our DevOps processes.”

The Swiss Army Knife of Tools

Adrian told me that CloudBees is the "Swiss Army Knife of tools” because he can integrate so many other applications. He and his team manage their own toolchain, and he said they "could not survive without CloudBees.”

The Glue that Holds Everything Together

As with any DevOps effort, Adrian sees CI/CD at Delta Dental of California as a long game and a work in progress. From dabbling with Jenkins to researching best practices to create their first set of governance processes several years ago, they put a stake in the ground and progressed from there. And that’s his advice to other companies grappling with how to shift to CI/CD: "Just do something. Put some reasonable processes and guidelines around your CI/CD initiative. Then, stick to them, and iterate when you need to make changes.” 

There’s no doubt Adrian is very proud of his team’s DevOps journey. He summed up our conversation perfectly when he said, "I think of DevOps as the glue that holds everything together. My team is the facilitator, and we get to know firsthand what works and what doesn’t. It’s very much a team effort.”

Read the case study of Delta Dental’s implementation of CloudBees.

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