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HashiCorp wades into continuous delivery with Waypoint

HashiCorp launched another new open source project this week, this time a continuous delivery utility called Waypoint, which IT pros hope will simplify DevOps deployments.

HashiCorp this week made its first foray into the continuous delivery market, with a new open source project that IT pros hope will streamline and standardize DevOps deployment.

The project, Waypoint, became available in version 0.1 on GitHub this week. It focuses on a subset of the CI/CD pipeline, at the phase of software delivery where code is built into artifacts, deployed to staging environments and ultimately released to production.

"The workflow of build, deploy and release is extremely fragmented and difficult with different [infrastructure] platforms," said Mitchell Hashimoto, CTO and co-founder of HashiCorp.

For example, the build phase requires different tools depending on an application's deployment destination, Hashimoto said. Developers might use HashiCorp's Packer to build a VM for AWS EC2, Docker to build container images, and specific command-line interfaces to build event-driven cloud services such as Google Cloud Run.

HashiCorp's goal with Waypoint is to standardize the format and workflow for the build, deploy and release phases of the continuous delivery process, Hashimoto said.

Waypoint wraps app artifacts with a versionable URL that can be deployed to various platforms, from AWS EC2 to Azure Container Instances and Google Cloud Run. It also includes Waypoint-exec, a command-line interface that executes remote commands through shell scripts, and a set of temporary logs, both for debugging.

Hashimoto contrasted the Waypoint approach against existing tool sets such as makefiles, CI/CD toolchains and PaaS.

"Developers want a better interface," he said. "Those are three interfaces that have been tried, but we think there might be a better way."

Mitchell Hashimoto, CTO and co-founder of HashiCorp, described what's available in version 0.1 of the Waypoint project at HashiConf Digital this week.

HashiCorp shops weigh uses for Waypoint

It's still too early to ascertain exactly how Waypoint will fit into existing DevOps workflows as it develops, as the 0.1 release doesn't contain many of the features, such as role-based access control, that are required before enterprises can put it into production. An array of Waypoint plugins is already available for various infrastructure platforms, including AWS, GCP, Azure and Kubernetes, and hundreds more are still in the planning stage.

DevOps pros also aren't sure what Waypoint might mean for IT ops.

"The consistent developer access to shell and logs across a lot of hosting providers is something I haven't seen before in any product," said Phil Fenstermacher, a systems engineer at William & Mary, a university in Williamsburg, Va. "The developer side of me loves the product, but the operations side of me has a lot of questions."

What's really important is enabling developers to do their jobs. Engineers should be able to push their own code where they need to and do it easily.
Rich BurroughsSenior developer advocate, FireHydrant

Other HashiCorp users said they're more open to Waypoint's developer focus.

"What's really important is enabling developers to do their jobs," said Rich Burroughs, senior developer advocate at FireHydrant, an incident response software maker based in New York. "Engineers should be able to push their own code where they need to and do it easily -- if you want to get velocity, removing those kinds of roadblocks is [crucial]."

For some IT pros, the ultimate test for Waypoint will not be which IT role it targets but whether it's easier to use than existing CI/CD products.

"The CI/CD space is pretty big right now, but I find all of them take a bunch of investment to make work easily," said Connor Kelly, a site reliability engineer at an online job portal company. "If Waypoint helps get rid of that investment so that it's easier to use immediately, it'll be good."

Waypoint raises questions about future competition

HashiCorp officials emphasized that Waypoint doesn't replace broader CI/CD tools such as Jenkins. Rather, it can integrate with them, providing a workflow and application format that's portable among multiple CI/CD tool sets. HashiCorp also has no intention of broadening Waypoint to include continuous integration or test automation features, according to Hashimoto's presentation.

"Waypoint is … basically acting as a wrapper or orchestrator around other tools," said Kyler Middleton, principal DevOps network architect at Veradigm, a healthcare data services company based in Chicago. "It looks like it'd be a way to abstract away the complexity of running these tools individually, and then moving artifacts between tools."

However, there are still places where Waypoint could potentially displace tools that have mainly focused on continuous delivery, such as Netflix's Spinnaker and Harness. Future releases of Waypoint will include support for advanced app deployment processes such as canary, blue/green and phased rollouts, and already support application rollbacks, also a specialty of such tools.

"I thought of Spinnaker right away" when Waypoint was announced, Burroughs said. "I don't see how you would use both this and Spinnaker together."

Other HashiConf attendees also saw potential overlap with configuration management tools such as Red Hat Ansible and application automation tools such as Chef Habitat.

"I'm working on a large-scale Ansible project, but that's the old way," said Middleton. "Waypoint seems like a post-provisioner for a serverless world."

Chef Habitat, while ambitious, hasn't seen huge market adoption, and the company is now in transition after its acquisition by Progress Software in September.

HashiCorp, on the other hand, already has tools such as Terraform infrastructure-as-code, Consul service discovery and Vault secrets management that are widely used in cloud and Kubernetes environments, and that will likely raise Waypoint's profile, analysts said.

"The most interesting thing in all of this is HashiCorp itself," said Chris Condo, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Terraform seems to be offered as a first-class citizen on each cloud, and [Consul] service mesh is also becoming popular … [Waypoint] creates a compelling collection of software automation tools, all of which are open source."

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