Well, it's been a long time coming, but finally Gartner have published a Magic Quadrant for ARA. 'ARA?' you ask - that's Application Release Automation. It's a term I've debated long and often as actually it incorporates automated deployment also and often it's useful to separate these two processes - like IBM UrbanCode does by offering a tool for each part. Some of the other vendors, like BMC, took ARA as a term seriously and incorporated it into their product nomenclature.
Here's how Gartner define ARA in their IT Glossary:
"Application release automation (ARA) tools focus on the modeling and deployment of custom application software releases and their associated configurations, often for Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) and .NET applications. These tools offer versioning to enable best practices in moving related artifacts, applications, configurations and data together across the application life cycle. ARA tools support continuous release deployment. They often include workflow engines to assist in automating and tracking human activities."
I'm not sure what "continuous release deployment' is but I will consider that and incorporate it in my 'DevOps and All the Continuouses' webcast next week. The most effective way I have found to think about the differences between the release and deployment process came when I sat down with UBS and looked at a route to live process they had described in a spreadsheet (for a WebSphere Application Server application) - we colour coded the steps for release and then the deployment ones. Release steps are often change and security requests the prepare the infrastructure for deployment. The deployment steps are the actual taking of the code and configurations and putting it on the target environment.
Anyway, you can read Gartner's report in full here. Here are some highlights:
- By 2020, 50% of global enterprises will have implemented at least one application release automation solution, up from less than 10% today (this is Gartner's strategic planning assumption). This may sound low to you since everyone's using Chef/Puppet/Ansible already, right? Out of those three, you'll notice that only one, Puppet makes it onto the quadrant with a reasonable score on ability to execute, but not on completeness of vision. Ansible and Chef are both listed in Note 2 of the research as vendors that did not met the inclusion criteria but often feature in ARA enquiries. These are orchestration or environment configuration tools - not ARA.
- Gartner directly correlate the uptick and forecast consumption rate of these type of solutions to devops initiatives - although they qualify this with the statement that these solutions are for organisations not wanting to force "instantaneous companywide transformation". I don't think you can instantly transform anything unless you're a wizard. Devops is a journey and an evolution. It takes time to turn heads and embed principles and thinking into our daily work. Automation is relatively easy to do - evolving a culture to be ready to consume and exploit that automation is a very different thing.
- "In a 2015 survey of Gartner Research Circle Members — a Gartner-managed panel composed of IT and business leaders — application release automation was the technology most frequently identified as having been "most important to your organization's adoption of DevOps." ARA was selected as "most important" by 60% of question respondents." This begs the question then, why are less than 10% of organisations currently using these tools. What's stopping you? What's coming first?
- "The tumultuous and transformative nature of enterprise adoption of DevOps has, unsurprisingly, resulted in multiple buying centers for ARA solutions." *sighs* Yes, this true - for all automation solutions. Every enterprise we meet has pockets of effort, pretty much every tool you can name - this is because devops often starts at the grassroots, with limited budgets and change agents who are prepared to try new things to try and make improvements. This is one of the challenges of an enterprise devops transformation - to review the toolchains or fragments of toolchains that have sprung up around the organisation, take the best bits and inject an appropriate level of governance and standardisation whilst encouraging the uptake of best practice patterns around the organisation.
- "The agility and quality benefits of ARA solutions become increasingly obvious as DevOps initiatives scale beyond a handful of applications." We absolutely agree with this - if you want your devops toolchain to scale, you need to consider how.
- Atlassian were also notable by their absence - we would have liked to have seen Bamboo included in there. Many of our customers are using this tool increasingly to automate the release and deployment part of their devops toolchain - find out more about HIscox's experiences here in this webcast we recorded with them a few weeks ago
So - congratulations to the vendors featured in the report. If you'd like to know more about ARA you can download our guide using the button below or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.