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Aquila Heywood's DevOps Journey

Ian Gibson

Provides an insight into the benefits that can be experienced by adopting a DevOps culture.

July 2020

Over the last couple of years Aquila Heywood has been on a journey to introduce DevOps into our organisation but what is it and what benefits has it given us across our business?

DevOps is a relatively new concept but has quickly become an industry standard in developing, deploying and supporting software. In the simplest terms DevOps is a culture of collaboration between the people who create software applications (dev) and those who make it run (ops).

This shift has meant a number of changes in Aquila Heywood in both the way we work and the tools and technologies we use. Building the culture has taken time and a lot of effort has been invested in running DevOps training sessions, building communities and introducing cross-functional teams. In adopting this culture, we are seeing an increased understanding of differing roles and knowledge dissemination.

Alongside the culture, Aquila Heywood has invested heavily in an agile infrastructure with increased capacity for internal development and testing, enhanced security and the implementation of automation. This has allowed staff to create highly customizable machines in minutes using automation tools.

With the adoption of DevOps, what benefits have we seen, what are we hoping to see in the future and what advantages do we see these changes bringing to our customers?

One of the main goals of DevOps is the reduction in development lead time, which is how long it takes for an idea for a feature or bug fix to make its way into a production environment. Many of the early proponents of DevOps did so to deliver features quickly and often. However, these changes need to be thoroughly tested so that the quality and security of the production environment is not compromised.

One big advantage that these changes has made to our development teams is the reduction in the feedback loop for any changes made. When any code is updated, changes are automatically deployed and tested with the results reported back and the machine destroyed. The scope of testing has also radically increased with the ability to test against different platforms, software versions, browsers and datasets. All of this has empowered Aquila Heywood employees to be responsible for the quality of their code and ensuring they deliver value to our customers.

Another big change in Aquila Heywood led by the DevOps journey is the use of monitoring and alerts. All processes and parts of the infrastructure are actively monitored. The monitoring will send an alert if an intervention is required, for example a failing test, high memory usage or a slow response from the infrastructure. Employees can quickly see what is important and ignore ‘background noise’ with bespoke dashboards for each team giving instant and precise feedback.

A final area that has changed massively as part of our journey and one of our current key focuses is the deployment of our software and how we can deliver new features and improvements to our customers. We are working hard to improve the ease, reliability and speed of our software deployments. All code changes have a test deployment automatically carried out as well as a full internal deployment before each client delivery. These changes have already had a positive impact by reducing customer downtime and reducing upgrade effort, and further automation is planned for future releases.

Aquila Heywood sees the DevOps journey as never-ending, with further improvements, new technologies and processes continuously being introduced. It is certainly an exciting time to be working at Aquila Heywood and the projects we have planned for the future that will deliver value.

Ian is a DevOps Engineer and has been with Aquila Heywood since 2013. Ian made the switch to DevOps in 2017 when the company embarked on its journey to introduce an Agile and DevOps development model.