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The state of application delivery management: 4 takeaways

Linda Rosencrance Freelance writer/editor

Having the right tools is a major factor in DevOps success, since it helps companies quickly transition from being reactive to proactive. Application delivery management (ADM) software is particularly useful in helping organizations produce high-quality applications faster

But despite the many benefits of ADM systems, some organizations have yet to adopt it as part of their application lifecycle management tool chains, according to "The State of Application Delivery Management" report. And even for those organizations that have implemented ADM systems, the outcomes have been less effective than expected.

Those are the findings from a survey of 191 technology influencers and decision makers, conducted by BizTechInsights and sponsored by Micro Focus. The report identifies the most common factors that affect organizations’ implementations and uses of ADM products, as well as what respondents consider to be the most pressing issues regarding ADM.

Here are the key takeaways you need to know.

1. Errors are the most-cited issue in app delivery

The second-largest number of respondents (37%) say they are plagued most by errors that are introduced during the application delivery process, as new features are added. This can be especially troubling in organizations where application delivery efforts are mostly manual.

Highlighting another problem area, 22% of respondents cited a lack of communication between development and testing/QA teams as their top concern. "This will likely include security errors, so yes, this is a big concern," said Malcolm Isaacs, senior technology evangelist at Micro Focus.

If lack of communication between dev and testing teams, and errors during development, are their biggest concerns, application delivery management professionals need to improve continuous integration with better continuous testing, and ensure collaboration, Isaacs said. "A connected ADM system would help," he added.

2. Integration remains a big challenge

The largest number of respondents (40%) said their current ADM systems do not integrate with other systems, and that presents a major roadblock for in achieving end-to-end automation in organizations committed to DevOps.

"An ADM system that doesn't integrate with other systems is not an effective ADM solution," Issacs said, calling it a "major problem." 

There are some end-to-end ADM systems on the market that integrate with existing third-party and open-source tools, he explained. These tools bring all of what you need together to provide a comprehensive overview of the whole development pipeline and its status, and then make the information available to the team and stakeholders, including executives, he said.

Jay Lyman, principal analyst at 451 Research, agrees that integration is a big challenge for enterprises. The main reason for that is the transition away from traditional approaches, such as waterfall development or ITIL, because those tools don’t integrate and aren't as automated as modern development teams need.

"They’re less likely to be open source and modular, so integration can be more difficult."
Jay Lyman

So the older methodology and tools aren't cutting it for cloud-native applications and some of the new methodologies, such as DevOps and Six Sigma. And it's going to take enterprises some time to move to the newer methodologies because they have a lot invested in those existing, i.e., legacy, tools, processes, and people, Lyman said.

Some of the other hurdles organizations have to overcome to achieve end-to-end automation and full DevOps are more organizational and cultural than technical, he added.

"A lot of times organizations don’t move to a DevOps methodology because they say the current process is sufficient. The mentality of a lot of organizations is, 'If it ain't broke, don’t fix it.' And you also see just resistance to change. That's an inherent part of any shift like DevOps or cloud computing.”
—Jay Lyman

3. Automation tops the ADM wish list

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said automation was the most important feature in an ADM system.

Automation is definitely an important feature for an improved development capability for agile and DevOps, but it's not just a technology issue, said Diego Lo Giudice, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

"It's also cultural behavior—changing the way people work, creating a context where people can make mistakes and not be punished for the mistakes."
Diego Lo Giudice

In addition to automation, which is technical, shared objectives between dev and ops and between dev and the business to deliver value are also important, he said.

4. DevOps is increasingly embraced

A majority of survey respondents (71%) reported their application development environments as either fully DevOps-enabled or agile, which shows that DevOps is catching on in an increasing number of organizations.

But if they're just doing one or the other, it means that they're missing an important point, which is that they should be doing both, Lo Giudice said.

"They should be doing both together in an integrated way, or they won’t be achieving what I call agile-plus-DevOps—because DevOps implies that you have to be agile as well."
—Diego Lo Giudice

Common misconceptions about ADM

Mark Balbes, vice president of architecture at WWT Asynchrony Labs, said people have two common misconceptions about ADM. The first is that DevOps is just automation.

"DevOps is a lot more than that," he said. It is culture and automation and CALMS (a conceptual framework for the integration of DevOps teams, functions, and systems in an enterprise), Balbes explained. "It really is about your automated pipeline, not DevOps."

The second misconception is that DevOps and agile are in competition with each other—that an organization does one or the other—whereas they're actually very complementary, Balbes said.

To do DevOps successfully, you have to have an agile environment, he said.

"From a software developer's perspective, DevOps is really just a natural extension of what we've done all along with agile, which is to automate everything and collaborate. [Getting] the application into production is the DevOps piece."
Mark Balbes

Going both broad and deep

Micro Focus' Isaacs said tools need to scale across multiple teams and even the whole organization, including the pockets of waterfall, to enable them to make and track strategic decisions at the executive level. 

ADM solutions need to be "both deep and broad, in that it provides end-to-end visibility and governance of the DevOps pipeline at the engineer level."
Malcolm Isaacs

Organizations that want to embrace automation as a vital tool in their application development and delivery efforts should first talk to people who have an understanding of what to do and who have done it before, said WWT Asynchrony's Balbes.

"Another thing would be to start small," he said. "Don't try to boil the ocean, don't try to automate everything that you have. Have a pilot, start with a product or service that isn't hugely important to you, but important enough that you're not going to forget about it, and try to automate it and see what happens."

But don’t try to automate too much at one time.

"It’s an agile approach to things. How do you get value to your customers and how do you bring value to your company in small, frequent steps to get you to that end point? But don’t try to jump there."
—Mark Balbes

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