Rocket Schemes DevOps Serenity with Aldon ALM Hub
September 9, 2014 Alex Woodie
Many organizations–even IBM i shops–are adopting agile development methods. While this approach has advantages, it creates friction with the operations folks tasked with getting changes into production. Last month, Rocket Software‘s Aldon division started rolling out its new ALM Hub functionality to help the two sides collaborate more effectively while still respecting separation-of-duty requirements.
The two sides of the DevOps equation must work closely to successfully implement changes. Given the complexity and interconnectedness of today’s enterprise systems and the penalties for screwing up, collaboration is absolutely critical. And yet, developers and operators are mandated by laws like Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, and PCI to keep their distance from each other. Developers do developer stuff, and operations folk do operations stuff, and never the twain shall meet.
In short, DevOps is a recipe for disaster–or, as Rocket sees it, an opportunity for innovation.
Salving this DevOps wound is one of the primary goals of the new ALM Hub functionality that Rocket is in the process of rolling out across its entire Aldon product suite. ALM Hub doesn’t refer to a new product. Rather, it refers to new integration points (included in the latest releases of the existing products) that improve connectedness, awareness, and control of exactly where things sit in the application lifecycle and what needs to happen next.
As Aldon Labs managing director Dan Magid explains, the ALM Hub is an umbrella term for the culmination of two years of work to expose the functions in all of Aldon’s products via REST-based APIs. The idea is to use APIs to expose information and functions contained in each of the Rocket Aldon point products–including Lifecycle Management for IBM i (LMi), Lifecycle Management for Enterprise (LMe), LM for U2 (the multi-value database), the Aldon Community Manager help desk software, the Aldon Report Manager–to the other products. New mobile apps and Web interfaces are also part of the story.
“What really makes up the ALM Hub is all the APIs we built in the product so we can give our customer a central console where they can access everything,” Magid says. “It’s tying together all the things that we’ve done in the past.”
The ALM Hub gives something to each of the constituents in DevOps, including developers, operations people, managers, and end-users. “It’s really designed to allow everybody to benefit,” Magid tells IT Jungle. “We felt like previously, we’d been a little too developer or internal IT-centric. And what we really want to do is make it easy for everybody to get access to information.”
Operations people stand to benefit more from ALM Hub because it makes things simpler for them. In the past, operators would need to either have extensive knowledge about how to put code changes into production or work closely with developers to ensure the right steps are taken. With the ALM Hub, the APIs help to automate much of the grunt work, while the new Web and mobile interfaces provide operations folks with the capability to monitor things from afar.
“With this functionality, operators will simply tap on a task, hit the promote button, and all the promotions across all of the different operating environments are going to get done automaticity for you,” Magid says. “Operations people might not know the directory that things are stored in or the library where things are. But as long as they understand task 1, 2, 3 needs to move from test to QA and it’s been approved, then they can get at that and can get it done, without needing to understand all the underlying intricacies that maybe the developers understand.”
ALM Hub will also give end users and programmers more visibility into the status of change requests or source code changes. “It’s giving everybody access, but it might be through different interfaces,” Magid says. “So for example a developer may get ALM Hub capabilities via the Eclipse-based IDE because that’s where they like to work, or an operations person might get it through a mobile phone or a tablet. A manager might get through Web UI or the Community Manager project. But the idea is that all the information is viable from any of these places and the way we’re able to do that is by making all these functions available from the APIs.”
Because the APIs are based on the REST standard, it should be a simple matter to extend the ALM Hub functionality to other products, such as Rational Developer for Power (RDP) development tool, IBM‘s flagship IDE for RPG development. It could also work with Microsoft‘s Visual Studio IDE, and open source version control products like Subversion, CVS, and GIT.
“Let’s say I’m a developer who likes to work in GIT or Subversion,” Magid says. “I can work in those environments and still access the ALM Hub, so when I do a commit of my changes in Subversion, that code would be automatically transferred up to the ALM repository and it will then move through the lifecycle just like anything else. Products like Subversion and GIT don’t have the concept of development-test-QA-production in what they do, so when the user submits something in Subversion, we can automatically get it into that same workflow and move it through the lifecycle.”
The ALM Hub also provides a safety net of sorts to ensure that strict control is kept over access to source code and application objects, says Paul Johnson, managing director of sales and channels at Rocket.
“In the majority of financial services, healthcare, and retail environments, compliance is a huge driver,” Johnson says. “So the ability to have access and controls over who can access what, who can deploy what, which objects to where [is important]. You have to balance that with the ease of use of development teams that are using things like Subversion. So this actually allows developers to work with tools that make sense to them, but gives developers and the enterprise that safety net.”
The ALM Hub APIs are included in the latest releases of the Aldon products. For IBM i developers, that would be LMi version 8.1, and for Unix, Windows, and Linux customers, it’s LMe 6.3.