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Extending ALM to deployment

Application lifecycle management is not done with code complete. ALM now includes involving the operations team with release management processes and tools. ALM is more than automating the software development process; it’s also about delivering the product.

For most organizations, application lifecycle management (ALM) “starts with requirements and ends when you chuck it over the wall to operations,” said Gartner analyst Thomas Murphy. “When you think of release management in the enterprise, typically there’s this whole other world out there that developers in general don’t think of, and hasn’t been associated with ALM."

But that is starting to change, as some organizations extend ALM to deployment. “There is a bigger set of processes that take ALM and merge it with project and portfolio management and IT service management, and that creates what we call IT planning and control,” Murphy said. However, he added, “We can barely make ALM work in many ways, so we’re just in the beginning of figuring out these bigger, blended scenarios.”

While traditionally ALM has focused on automating the software development lifecycle (SDLC), “increasingly we’re thinking ALM is a broader category that includes delivering the software, the ‘last mile’ of software,” said Dave West, an analyst at Forrester Research. “The point is information needs to be available to make effective [deployment] decisions.”

“The dev-ops divide is one of the last major areas that needs to be addressed by automation,” said Adam Frankl, vice president of corporate and community marketing at Serena Software. “They’re still in scripts and checklists.” And, he added, each side of the wall has a different modus operandi. “Development is about change; deployment is about stability.”

“The biggest challenge is to deliver faster. Will integrated release management provide that? At least there is some automation to facilitate those processes.”

Dave West, Forrester Research Analyst

That dev-ops “wall” is what Serena Software is addressing with its orchestrated ALM strategy that applies business process automation to the application delivery supply chain, from demand to deployment. The expanded ALM suite integrates release management into the process, tying all the pieces together with Serena Business Mashups (SBM), formerly Team Track, which Frankl said is a “BPM system designed for ALM processes.”

Cincinnati-based Western & Southern Financial Group, a family of diversified financial services companies providing life insurance, retirement planning and investment products and services, has been in the process or orchestrating its software delivery processes for several years using Serena SBM, source code control and portfolio management products.

According to Mark W. Pfefferman, the company’s assistant vice president and director, Identity and Access Management Program, they started with Serena’s mainframe source code control product, then the Mariner project and portfolio management, and then Dimensions CM for source code control and configuration. At that point, the company started using SBM “extensively to glue everything together. We have streamlined the orchestration process, from initial request all the way through to deployment and delivery of software,” he said.

SBM is also used to integrate the Serena products with Novell products for identity and access management and governance, Pfefferman said. “So not only do the source code release and work orders go through Serena through deployment, we have other things running through it as well.” The overall goal, he said, is to have a single place where all IS service requests flow through from end to end, and he said they are getting close to that.

The orchestration starts from a work request, updating the portfolio management system, and that gets tied to the actual release of software in a very integrated manner, Pfefferman said. For the developers, the work request becomes part of their time sheet in Mariner, where they enter their time against actual work items. “That’s very valuable,” Pfefferman said. “The data we gain out of Mariner is real, and is used to report to our senior management on a quarterly basis about how projects are going. We also use it for trending. That part is invaluable.”

But orchestrating an end-to-end software development and delivery process does have some initial challenges, and Pfefferman offers this advice:

It’s a big problem to tackle. “Take a very hard look at your process you have in place. Do not necessarily look for a tool that simply automates it. You might not have the most efficient processes.”

Look for an automation tool that make sense. “Try to find one that makes the most sense to you and one you think you can work with, and let the developers take it for a test drive.”

It’s critical to have the development staff on board. “They will be resistant at first; any time you put controls on someone they will be resistant. But you can’t layer a lot of onerous tasks on them; you have to find a happy medium.”

It can be difficult to get the deployment team involved. “You need to make their life easier and efficient also. Sometimes as you’re building these things out it’s difficult to get the right mix.”

Put a skilled developer on the deployment team. “Initially you need to put some good, technically strong developers on the deployment team to get started. They’ll help you figure out holes in the process and fill those holes. Once it becomes operationalized, you can put a different skill set in, maybe someone with platform experience, but not necessarily development experience.”

While Pfefferman’s company is on the cutting edge of connecting dev and ops, for most organizations today “the development SDLC and the release management process are disconnected,” said Forrester’s West. “The biggest challenge is to deliver faster. Will integrated release management provide that? At least there is some automation to facilitate those processes.”

And more automation will be needed as organizations move to the cloud, service-oriented architecture and greater reusability, Gartner’s Murphy said, while also trying to drive more productivity and better governance into the software delivery process. “These kinds of things are driving a greater need for ALM, and effective ALM. Once you have the process working [for the development organization], why should it be any different for deployment? It’s a strong frontier we will see over the next few years.”

This was last published in December 2010

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