Maybe CD Summit And Jenkins Could Have Saved The Phoenix Project?

Gene Kim, author

By now, most everyone in the information technology (IT) business has probably read or heard about the seminal book, The Phoenix ProjectThe book starts with the promotion of Bill Palmer from Director of Midrange Operations to VP of IT Operations (albeit a somewhat reluctant promotion on Bills part).  Bill quickly discovers that his newly inherited world of IT Operations is a bit of a disaster.  The first part of the book describes in painstaking detail, the various issues Bill faces: production failures, too many audit findings, technical debt, organizations at each others’ throats, and fragile artifacts and systems.  And on top of all of this, Bill is tasked with launching their next generation “bet the business” platform for ecommerce and point of sale systems, the Phoenix Project, which is already behind schedule and at risk.

The fun starts when Bill meets Erik, the mysteriously wisened “Obi Wan Kenobi”-like character that helps Bill find his way from chaos to DevOps nirvana.  Erik leads Bill through a transformation via a number of breakthroughs that improve how the IT organization runs.  They identify many of the root causes of the challenges they face such as:
 

  • The volume of the Work In Progress (WIP) that is bottlenecked and where (or who) those bottlenecks are (and how reducing the work going to the bottleneck can help).
  • The amount of unplanned work that impacts their operations (and how planned preventative work can help).
  • The lack of real understanding of how the work flows and what the handoffs are (and how proper documentation, planning and Kanban boards can help here).
  • The impact of audit and infosec requirements (and how correctly scoping these can REALLY help).
  • The real amount of manual labor involved in every aspect of their operations (and how automation technologies can be super helpful here).

Erik gradually leads Bill to the vision of continuous delivery and how leveraging automation in the application development and delivery lifecycle can resolve a number of these issues by optimizing the flow of WIP, insuring application quality at each stage of the journey, and by guaranteeing that the environments and applications are the same across the stages of the lifecycle.  Here’s how Erik puts it:

“Your next step should be obvious by now, grasshopper. In order for you to keep up with customer demand, which includes your upstream comrades in Development,” he says, “you need to create what Humble and Farley called a deployment pipeline. That’s your entire value stream from code check-in to production. That’s not an art. That’s production. You need to get everything in version control. Everything. Not just the code, but everything required to build the environment. Then you need to automate the entire environment creation process. You need a deployment pipeline where you can create test and production environments, and then deploy code into them, entirely on-demand. That’s how you reduce your setup times and eliminate errors, so you can finally match whatever rate of change Development sets the tempo at.”1

Erik is describing continuous delivery which is the application lifecycle management approach that is rapidly taking hold across industries.  And interestingly, there are technologies out there today that are specifically designed to help you implement continuous delivery.  Jenkins, the industry’s most popular continuous integration server is now being extended beyond the build and test stages to orchestrate full continuous delivery process. The Jenkins Workflow capability allows DevOps practitioners to create full Deployment Pipelines just as Erik describes.  If the Phoenix project had leveraged Jenkins for continuous delivery from day one, then the project would have surely been more successful, but it would also mean that this book would have been much less interesting!  As mentioned above, The Phoenix Project is a great read and should be required reading for all of us in this industry.

If you would like to learn more about how you can apply continuous delivery (CD) in your world (perhaps to ensure that no one writes a book about your software delivery disasters), come to the CD Summit World Tour this summer. In fact, Gene Kim, author of The Phoenix Project, will be a keynote speaker at the Washington DC and San Francisco events so bring your own copy of The Phoenix Project and have it autographed!

1) Kim, Gene; Behr, Kevin ; Spafford, George (2013-01-10). The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win (Kindle Locations 4373-4378). IT Revolution Press. Kindle Edition.

 

Dan Juengst

Senior Director, Product Marketing
CloudBees, Inc.
Follow Dan on Twitter: @DanJuengst

 

 

 

 

 

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