Rapid release management by implementing DevOps automation for legacy applications

Case study

Rapid release management by implementing DevOps automation for legacy applications

Getting software released to production safely is often a time-consuming process. As users prefer instant updates, IT or IT enabled organizations are under immense pressure to deliver value faster and continuously improve the customer experience.

To get to the market ahead of the competition, Amazon deploys code to the production once in every 11.6 seconds, Netflix deploys code to server thousands of times a day, and so do other leading digitally driven businesses. To frequently deploy codebase to production servers, transcending from once in a month to multiple times a day, a rapid delivery model is essential. An automated Continuous Integration (CI) / Continuous Deployment (CD) model can dynamically handle IT/non-IT dependencies and ensure business continuity, without any downtime.

As a pioneer in global market research and data analytics, our client provides valuable insights about markets and consumers to their clients in media, FMCG, and retail. With operations in multiple countries, they collect, store, and process data at scale from varied data sources to answer challenging questions posed by the above mentioned industries. Their monolithic legacy application was a hindrance to execute frequent releases and faced downtime issues, whenever a software update occurred.

Requirements

  • They required a solution to stay relevant, move faster and bring agility in feature development and deployment
  • To keep up with the competition and meet their expectations for shorter cycle times and higher service levels, they were looking for a solution to upgrade their platform and leverage the latest development and deployment trends
  • To reduce dependency on module teams, especially the testing and quality assurance (QA) teams, the manual processes had to be integrated and automated
  • To handle multiple configuration files in a monolithic application, a specific approach had to be designed that can handle similar inputs but generate multiple output files as per requirement

Challenges

  • The existing approach to process a release was inconvenient, as it had powershell scripts, which were prone to errors and often failed during a production deployment 
  • Manual configuration changes during the release led to lack of visibility and it became difficult to track certain details, such as who was responsible for the configuration and when was the config file modified. Also, backup wasn’t available for the configuration 
  • The application was required to be available at all time to serve user access requests
  • The client needed an infrastructure which could handle deployment of all kinds and be always available
  • Teams needed to deploy independently, without hassle, and not worry about missing codes

Solution

Imaginea came up with a solution to refactor the legacy monolithic application, instead of rewriting code, to transform the entire application. We designed a fully automated Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) pipeline, right from receiving data input till the review stage. We provided inter-service communication through REST-based APIs and message queues. We also designed a microservices-based, highly available infrastructure, capable of handling large deployment loads.

Tech stack

How Our Solution Helped

8x increase in release rates without any downtime through the automated CI and CD pipeline

Overall Approach

To automate the CI and CD pipeline, we adopted industry standard tools, such as Ansible, AWX, TeamCity, Docker Swarm and so on. Our fully automated solution helped developers to raise a pull/ merge request in the source control system.

When the code is merged, a deployment job is triggered in TeamCity, a CI and CD server, which internally calls the AWX API for deployment. Depending on the environment, the server credentials are picked up from the inventory dynamically and a configuration artifact is generated. By using Ansible with AWX for configuration management, we were able to:

  • Reuse provisioning scripts for multiple server environments, such as development, testing and production
  • Share provisioning scripts between coworkers to facilitate collaboration in a standardised development environment
  • Streamline the process of replicating servers, which facilitates recovery from critical errors
  • Run Ansible Playbooks, inventory, and schedule jobs using the web interface

With these AWX features, the software installation and configuration efforts were reduced to a minimum.

The release communication and notification were automated via Barracuda APIs, chat room and Google chatbot APIs.

To make the deployment infrastructure highly available, we used Docker Swarm and Portainer. Portainer has provided an easy and simple solution for managing Docker containers and Swarm services through a web interface. It supports a wide range of features for managing the Docker containers, such as managing the creation and deletion of Swarm services, user authentication, authorizations, connection and execution of commands in the console of running containers, and viewing container logs.

This process enabled multiple teams to execute the release independently, without any downtime. This made the application ‘always available’.

CI-CD flow diagram

Results

  • Increased speed to market  
  • Enabled complete automation of QA regression and production deployment process
  • Streamlined artifacts generation via the light-weight, containerized infrastructure
  • Provided smoother and faster delivery of the releases
  • Reduced cost and provided easy maintenance and updates
  • Improved transparency and increased team accountability

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