Amit Bali is a Release and Configuration Management Lead at eBay. He is responsible for coordinating application releases, their schedules, and the test environments utilized in the release process.
I spent some time with him getting his thoughts on moving to Plutora and how that has affected release management at eBay, one of the best known and longest running e-commerce platforms.
“We were using a custom form in SharePoint for release ticketing and an in-house custom tool built on Remedy. It was more or less manual entry of data. We were relying on the information people gave us and would have to assume that that information was correct.
There was no environment management at all. That was entirely being handled by the respective development teams spread across the organization. We [test environment managers] had very little control over this aspect of what the teams were doing.”
“From a data point of view, the data input was very similar to what we are doing now with Plutora. But data lacked structure — handling and pulling out the data was not user-friendly, it was cumbersome and a poor experience for our end users.
We had no conflict management and our ticketing system wasn’t able to identify potential conflicts between releases. This was causing problems — production downtime, outages — it was defeating the purpose of the release management processes we’d put in place.”
“We had introduced release management around 2011, 2012, but before that we had no release management at all. There were still a lot of incidents and issues around releases across the organization. We were learning from experience and wanted to increase the maturity level of the process, and we wanted to move away from SharePoint — it’s not built for release management.
Our first steps towards Plutora came from wanting to make our processes more mature and rigid in structure. We were investigating a variety of tools when we came across Plutora. As we explored it, we found that its flexibility was well-suited to our needs. We were initially interested in Plutora for release management, then interest in Plutora’s other features and environment management came later.”
“We evaluated Remedy, but found it quite cumbersome and not very flexible to customize. As for an in-house solution, eBay has been trying to minimize custom applications and bring in more competitive standard solutions. Building a custom tool was not in line with our goal of moving towards global standards of release management.”
“Moving to the cloud for this specific scenario, release management, was not difficult as we did not migrate data from our previous SharePoint inventory. The difficult part of the process was understanding the release management product and how it should to be customized to fit our needs.
As we had very custom requirements, this is where the initial 6 months were spent when switching to Plutora — if we had built an in-house tool it would have been the same.”
“When we were first moving to Plutora we hadn’t thought about environmental conflicts and environments management, so that was the first pleasant surprise.
We were able to identify what potential conflicts could occur and where just by looking into the compact metrics.
Another pleasant surprise was how the comment module removed a lot of email overhead. The comment section cleared up a lot of my inbox. Leaving a comment would automatically trigger an email to all of the stakeholders.
That way, when going back to the same release, I would know exactly what I asked for and whether it was received. The comment section was effective to start with, and then you enhanced it and made it even better.”
“Any organization will have its own organizational structure, statuses, custom fields to pull information, any number of things that won’t be part of a standard release management tool. At eBay it’s the same, we have multiple different applications that work differently, our hierarchy is different for every application, the support is different for every application.
Aspects of customization such as adding a new field, or a new custom status unique to an organization, or managing access control are needed. Most tools, such as SharePoint, need custom code to be written to implement these kinds of enhancements. Since we moved to Plutora that has become much easier, it just takes a few clicks and it’s ready.”
“We achieved ROI in less than a year. This improved the longer we used Plutora; there were a lot of kinks in the onboarding process.
Plutora cuts down our resourcing needs. As a single release manager, I managed 20 applications. I was the release manager, the security admin, I was taking care of all the customization. In comparison, an in-house application at least needs a security admin, one or two developers taking care of enhancements, a subject matter expert who understands the needs of the application — all of this need for extra resources is cut down.”
“Pretty responsive, David Studebaker was our point of contact. That worked out well for us; he was always on top of things. I would give the support an 8/10. At the beginning it was closer to 7 due to a few issues early on with performance. Now that these have been resolved, I would rate it an 8.”
“The ease of use of the system. It has lots of ways to filter, dissect and bisect the data. Usage is simple and self-explanatory, it’s not cumbersome unlike some other systems, it looks very clean and crisp. The use of the system was my favorite aspect.
I like the stakeholder’s module. Lots of organizations struggle when it comes to the stakeholders of a particular application, and this module made it easy to maintain communications during different releases.
Reporting was good. When we were evaluating the tool, we saw some customer reports that had been made for other customers. If those could be brought in as standard so new customers could use them, that would make the reporting module even better.”