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Harness Offers a Platform to Automate App Deployments

26 Oct 2017 2:00am, by

For many companies making the digital transformation, establishing a continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline to speed application development is a must. But many are finding the CI portion of the pipeline is easier to maintain than the CD part.

The newly launched Harness.io aims to rectify this issue, by offering tools for faster automated deployment.

“A lot of people thought that if CI is solved, then CD is solved, but those are two completely separate things,” explained company founder Jyoti Bansal, who was also the founder of application monitoring company AppDynamics. “CD is very dependent on CI. People are OK with the CI part: Checking code into your master code base, building, and doing some basic testing. CD is its own problem. How do you push changes dynamically to production very fast?”

“We are building Harness to go after this market,” said Bansal.

In his former life at AppDynamics, said Bansal, many customers would explain that their process for pushing code reliably to production was nothing like that of Google, Facebook, or NetFlix, the supposed examples of how to do CI/CD at scale.

While those companies “move fast and break things,” banks cannot do that, said Bansal. One bank he spoke to said it had 4,000 developers on staff, as well as a herd of DevOps engineers employed just to maintain the scripts used to deploy that disparate code, roll it back, and verify it at scale, at speed.

“That was the genesis of Harness,” said Bansal. “People are struggling to know what’s going on in production. They’ve needed a platform that would help them do this. Look at products like Chef and Puppet. You can’t keep up with these scripts.”

Harness | Harness is the first Continuous Delivery-as-Service platform

The Harness platform, said Bansal, begins with, “Smart automation. Think of how people automate the deployment. You don’t have to write all those scripts. If you have scripts you can bring them in. You tell us what you want to achieve. Is it a simple YAML file that says for this microservice my code is over here in git? We use Jenkins to pull from git and do builds there, afterwards we want to spin up a few environments and run these tests, then spin up another environment where we can do performance tests, then we want to deploy to production,” said Bansal, explaining how the deployment process can be described as a series of steps within Harness.

Additionally, said Bansal, Harness can perform verification steps to ensure that deployments are able to meet SLA, performance, or security requirements. Bansal called this, “Continuous verification.”

“It’s about learning everything about application behavior,” he said “When you push out a code change, how does that impact your performance? How does it affect your anomalies or your user interface? You’re building all this data into a mark of what change meant.”

That ability to continually verify performance metrics also dovetails with Harness’ security capabilities, said Bansal. “How do you get governance, managing your security, your passwords, your credentials? You can do a full audit every deployment. You have to have full compliance. The whole idea of DevOps is that the developer can go and build new services, write new code. You want to have this framework that will provide the governance compliance within that,” said Bansal.

Or, put another way, “We allow you to move fast without breaking anything,” he said.

Harness announced its service and on-premises, eponymous product this week. “Our goal is to make all of this very simple,” said Bansal. “CD is a complex thing, but someone can get there in hours. People can setup and be up and running a complex set of applications very quickly.”

Bansal has high hopes for the future of this new company. “We think this is just the beginning. The market here and the problem space is as big as at AppDynamics or even bigger. It’s a big problem. Our mission here is to solve software delivery. Everyone has to build more and more software, so the value of that software is going to increase. How do you get a handle on software delivery? Companies that do it faster and smoother will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t,” said Bansal.

Harness’ service-based model is a big departure from the traditional change management and deployment processes inside many enterprises. ITIL has its own processes and policy recommendations which could take up an entire IT person’s career on their own.

Elsewhere, companies like BMC and CA Technologies, and the former HP software division, now Micro Focus, offer the more traditional change management systems.

Those are massive, expensive pieces of enterprise software, however, and not targeted at the CI/CD world. Indeed, in many cases, enterprise deployments and change management processes can be thicker than concrete. Verizon, for example, had a 700 step deployment procedure check-list for pushing new software, for many years.

Bansal could be right about the market opportunity, here. While CI/CD is a hot new topic ripe for startups, change management and governance is an oft-forgotten market with entrenched legacy players who’ve all but acknowledged their own legacy positions. If Bansal and his team can convince enterprises that moving fast in production can be reliable, stable, and verified, then perhaps he’s got another AppDynamics on his hands.

CA Technologies, Chef, Puppet are sponsors of The New Stack.


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