DevOps velocity mandates change velocity

Enterprises today are focusing on delivering applications faster to drive customer experiences and drive business transformation to meet rising expectations. For some, faster delivery is simply faster time to disappointment where the delivery process is shoddy and speed is the only metric. Speed without quality in an oxymoron – and extremely dangerous. The automation of the process known as Application Release Automation (ARA) is one of the critical impediments in the DevOps journey for I&O organizations today. ARA tools are designed to remove errors from manual processes by standardizing and automating the movement of applications with middleware and infrastructure – the critical final step in the delivery pipeline of applications to deliver customer value.

Continuous delivery is the goal; ARA tools are the vehicles to get there

With the acceptance and adoption of DevOps, organizations are closing the gap of automated promotion to production. This is fueling growth in the ARA market. Forrester inquiries are reflecting the growing number of I&O pros who confirm the criticality of these tools as cornerstones of the continuous delivery pipeline. Forward thinking I&O pros are using ARA tools to move beyond cumbersome, complex and often error-prone scripts. Leveraging the modeling capabilities, they use the tools to model the complete application ecosystem including infrastructure, middleware, the application and all dependencies and then orchestrate the release in a structured release processes; whether it is Canary, Blue-Green, A/B Testing or Dark deeployments.  Additionally, these tools are evolving to handle emerging use cases including microservices, test data management, and vulnerability tracking. For more information on ARA functionality refer to the Vendor Landscape: Application Release Automation Tools Forrester report.

Documentation is critical to driving adoption and use

The ARA vendor community continues to evolve its tools and have, as in previous years, added many valuable features that include support for emerging technologies like containers. As the adoption of DevOps is becoming business as usual, ARA tools are transitioning to mainstream with ease of use becoming a major challenge for consumers seeking to deliver velocity. Many of my client inquiries on ARA tools are citing ease of use, becoming a significant impediment to productivity with the tools, especially relating to the lack of good documentation.  Given your feedback, we made documentation a critical component of the criteria used to review the short list of ARA vendors that met the minimum criteria of market adoption and usage. Their ability to model complete releases are part of the entry criteria – of which there were 38 in total.

The outcome identified nine significant ARA providers

Amy DeMartine and I published our Forrester Wave™ report on the nine most significant ARA vendors based on their performance. It focused on core documented features, such as modeling, deploying, and visualizing pipelines, along with the vendors' ability to match a strategy to these features. This evaluation shows how each provider measures up and helps infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals make the right choice for their organizations.

To learn how the nine significant ARA vendors performed, download our report: The Forrester Wave™: Application Release Automation, Q3 2016 (Forrester client access required).  As always I welcome your observations, comments and experiences and you can contact me here and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@RobertEStroud).