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Pipeline Redemption: How Spinnaker is shaping delivery excellence at SAP

Here’s a piece I wrote in collaboration with my colleague, Serge Poueme, about our department’s experience with the open source pipeline powerhouse: Spinnaker.

As a Site Reliability Engineer responsible for delivery excellence, solid deployment is important to me. I’ve been working with SAP for a little while now and I’m proud to be a part of their mission: helping the world run better. Trust is at the core of that mission, and in order to establish trust, we have to be a reliable resource for our community. As SREs, our goal is to provide reliability on all fronts, specializing in what usually trails behind in a DevOps team: infrastructure, deployment, configuration, monitoring and documentation. So, nailing down a CI/CD pipeline system that works is essential for our success — and the success of our customers and partners. That’s why we tip our hats to Spinnaker.

 

Discovering the wonderful world of Spinnaker

Our SRE team came across Spinnaker a year ago. We were asked to build a blueprint for a standard CI/CD pipeline to improve developers’ productivity and reduce lengthy development cycles. Right away we got knee-deep in research, exploring solutions from GitLab, Bamboo, Jenkins, Concourse, before finally settling on Spinnaker. While running through our Proof of Concepts (POCs), Spinnaker made our lives much easier, which consequently made our decision to adopt its platform pretty easy too.

So far, we’ve had a great experience using this platform. First, because of its open-source environment. If we run into a problem, Spinnaker’s massive online community likely has the solution. Second, it’s fully integrated with Slack (which is already widely used at SAP), and allows our teams to share insights on deployment flows. Communication is key with any platform, and Spinnaker does a great job in facilitating that.

Why we’re sticking with it.

Spinnaker has given my life meaning—just kidding—no, but it’s definitely helping me get to where I want to go. At SAP, my focus is on CI/CD pipeline standardization and creating DevOps self-services, and I can safely say that Spinnaker is contributing by pushing innovations faster to the cloud. Dare I say that we are on the highway to heaven? I think I can. Especially when considering where we are today: Spinnaker runs deployment pipelines for ten of our development teams. That translates to 30 Kubernetes clusters in production, and 40 distinct deployment pipelines. Not bad, right? Some teams are shooting out 200 daily canary deployments before hitting production!

Here’s one of our pipelines performing a production release in under 13 minutes.

Where Spinnaker can step it up.

As with any platform, there is always room for improvement. One thing I find to be lacking with Spinnaker—and there are few—is that it’s missing in-depth documentation. I like to dive into topics like the Halyard configuration tool for instance, and the user guides seem to be limited to typical instances. It would be helpful to find a space where we could explore a little deeper into what Spinnaker and its tools can do for us. Another thing is that we have to manipulate config files to automate changes on Spinnaker. Our team has started embedding Halyard into an API, but we’re taking it slow because we want to see where Spinnaker’s development journey leads. Discussions taking place in their Special Interest Groups may lead to solutions that would save us from the trouble.

The takeaway.

Generally speaking though, Spinnaker has the deployment toolset that every SRE team needs. It’s open source, meaning it has a community of people with a boatload of experiences to share. And not only is it easy to connect with Spinnaker users on a grand scale, its integration with Slack makes collaborating with teammates simple too. Jenkins and GitHub are also integrated with the platform, which makes it easy to adopt and onboard other developers. That’s why we’ve had no issues providing it as a shared service across SAP. Take SAP Graph for example! Spinnaker helped Mike and his team simplify their deployment process, saving time and putting money back in their budget.

Ain’t nothing better than seeing those bright green numbers.

This article can also be seen on Armory and Spinnaker‘s blogs.

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