COVID-19 is accelerating CI/CD adoption

Companies recognized the need to improve their development workflow years ago. With developers forced to work remotely, they’re finally moving

COVID-19 is accelerating CI/CD adoption
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DevOps has been an aspirational goal for many organizations for years. Embroiled in the work-from-home reality of the current COVID-19 pandemic, “All the timelines” for embracing DevOps, generally, and continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) “have shrunk,” says CircleCI CEO Jim Rose, fresh on the heels of a $100 million Series E raise. “The pandemic has compressed the time that companies are taking to get to CI/CD.”

With so much uncertainty as to when employees will be able to return to the office (or whether they’ll stay remote, as a recent Gartner survey suggests), organizations are quickly discovering that old-school, on-premises Jenkins running in a data center may need to change much sooner than originally planned, according to Rose.

A silver lining

When CircleCI recently released new insights endpoints for its APIv2, the idea was to provide users recovery and change failure rate data among other benchmark metrics. By making it easier to see “which jobs are failing, which workflows have flaky tests, and prioritize efforts for pipeline improvement,” as CircleCI senior product marketing manager Emily Powell wrote at the time, as well as “find out which workflows or jobs are taking the longest and identify opportunities where caching, parallelization, and our new convenience images can help speed things up,” the company was simply trying to further optimize its platform for DevOps-savvy development teams.

As it turns out, the stakes are much higher given the now pervasive work-from-home arrangements most organizations now embrace.

Talking with Rose in a phone interview, he stressed that even after years of DevOps discussion, “You still have a lot of companies that are doing most of their software testing on-prem and behind the firewall. The big installed base remains Jenkins in a proprietary data center.” This wasn’t ideal but it was workable when developers and operations professionals worked in an office environment, within the firewall. In a remote-only situation, getting access to the application development workflow is “tricky,” he stresses, because, in part, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to VPN in.

And so companies are moving much faster than planned from private data centers to public clouds, in an effort to move workloads to a place where modern CI/CD can happen. “All the timelines have shrunk,” Rose says. Over the last two years companies have realized they need to move faster, but perhaps still struggled to start moving. “Now every company is trying to get apps to be cloud-enabled or cloud-native,” he stresses. “These are best practices and companies are having to rush to get there. The pandemic has compressed the time that companies are taking to get to CI/CD.”

A public service

Not surprisingly, this accelerating shift is good for CircleCI. “The global macro economic climate is bananas right now,” says Rose. “One of the strange wrinkles to all of this is as companies go remote-only, we’ve seen a large uptick in customer usage.” While Rose is glad to see companies embrace cloud-native application development, it’s not really about CircleCI, he continues:

From our perspective, regardless of whether you use CircleCI or not for CI/CD, the idea of CD is a good, humane practice to adopt for software development teams. If you look at all the research around DevOps, teams that adopt CD tend to be happier. It makes your work life that much more sane, humane, and enjoyable (and it’s all happening in an insane and inhumane time). We’re investing in helping companies get there, even if they don’t pay us.

Twice in our conversation Rose stressed that idea of “non-payment.” The other time was when asked about how he’s managing the company to keep employee morale high and product shipping: “Our public service is making sure everything stays up and running, building the best platform, regardless of whether users pay us or not.” Given how much companies depend upon services like this (lots of people noticed when GitHub went down), Rose isn’t being flippant or self-serving when he says this.

“Everything we forecasted for the next year is now happening in the next three months,” he concludes. No one would have wished for application development to modernize in this way, at such cost to society. But if you’re looking for positives in an otherwise bleak time, here’s one. We’ve talked about DevOps for years. It looks like we’re finally getting there, fast.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.