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Rackspace managed services tackle DevOps challenges through automation

A new marketing software company got a leg up on DevOps using a new managed service from Rackspace.

DevOps challenges abound, but there are increasing numbers of solutions to the problems the Agile development mindset presents.

For example, IT automation is the first and most important factor in any development-operations (DevOps) project, which can often leave organizations in a bind. A new managed service from Rackspace has allowed one startup to standardize and automate code deployment for its developers.

DevOps is very difficult. There is pressure on every organization that everything needs to be done more quickly, but without sacrificing quality or uptime.
Jay LymanSenior Analyst, 451 Research

The new DevOps Automation Service from Rackspace Inc. is an extension of its managed services offerings. The service is currently in limited availability, but will become generally available in early 2014.

Based on tools from Chef, the service creates repeatable, standardized infrastructure deployments that are automated for developers behind the scenes. Developers still manage application deployments without concerning themselves with the configuration of servers or virtual machines. The service also includes 24/7 support for the infrastructure.

"We automated deployment to the point where a developer can commit code in source control and it will immediately be on a test server," said Trevor White, chief technology officer of LeadOutcome Inc., a marketing automation software company based in Atlanta, which has beta-tested the DevOps Automation Service. The 15-person company has also been a customer of Rackspace's cloud services for more than two years.

Six developers at LeadOutcome develop in Drupal and Java. In Drupal, when code is deployed, database changes are run from upgrade scripts and then pushed directly to the server. Since Java needs to compile before running an app, the DevOps Automation Service will pull the latest source from Git, update Git and then kick off a build script in real time across all the nodes in the environment. Conversely, when a new Java node is spun up, the DevOps Automation Service pulls the latest source from Git, builds a Web application archive (.war) file and deploys it without any developer intervention.

DevOps challenges widespread, experts say

While DevOps becomes mainstream, DevOps challenges can overwhelm well-intentioned efforts to streamline application delivery.

"DevOps is very difficult," said Jay Lyman, senior analyst with 451 Research, based in Boston. "There is pressure on every organization that everything needs to be done more quickly, but without sacrificing quality or uptime."

IT operations has historically been "kind of a dark art," according to Lyman, with system administrators using scripts and tricks to keep infrastructure up and running. But simplifying and automating the deployment of infrastructure resources in a standardized way is the logical first step before any continuous integration or continuous deployment can happen. It's a logical starting point for DevOps. That's a gap that's hard for many organizations to leap over, Lyman said.

"The point is you can't be very agile if you're waiting hours or days for servers or virtual machines," he said.

Rackspace won't disclose exact pricing for the new service yet, but said it is "comparable" with its Managed Hosting services pricing, which is a flat fee of $100 per month, plus a metered rate according to which specific services are used.

LeadOutcome's White said the cost-benefit analysis works out when the cost of the service is weighed against paying a systems administrator for each task the DevOps Automation Service encompasses, as well as for 24/7 support of the infrastructure.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchCloudComputing. Write to her at or follow @PariseauTTon Twitter.

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What is the biggest DevOps challenge in your enterprise?
The biggest challenge is the cultural change. Getting the right people, letting them do the right thing.