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AWS Re:Invent 2018: Learnings and Promises

Posted by Pascal Joly December 13, 2018
AWS Re:Invent 2018: Learnings and Promises

It's been just over a week since the end of the 2018 edition of AWS Re:Invent in Las Vegas. Barely enough to recover from various viruses and bugs accumulated from rubbing shoulders with 50,000 other attendees.  To Amazon's credit, they managed the complicated logistics of this huge event very professionally. We also discovered they have a thriving cupcake business :)

From my prospective, this trade show was an opportunity to meet with a variety of our alliance partners, including AWS themselves. It also gave me a chance to attend many sessions and learn about state of the art use cases presented by various AWS customers (Airbnb, Sony, Expedia...). This led me to reflect on this fascinating question: how can you keep growing at a fast pace when you're already a giant  - without falling under your own weight?

Keeping up with the Pace of Innovation

AWS ReInvent Innovation

Given the size of the AWS business ($26b revenue in Q3 2018 alone, with 46% growth rate), Andy Jassy must be quite a magician to come up with ways to keep the pace of growth at this stage.  Amazon retail started the AWS idea, back in 2006, based on unused infrastructure capacity. It has since provided AWS a playground for introducing or refining their new products. including the latest Machine Learning predictive and forecast services. Thankfully since these early days, AWS customer base has grown into the thousands. These contributors and builders are providing constant feedback to fuel the growth engine of new features.

The accelerated pace of technology has also kept the AWS on its edge. to remain the undisputed leader in the cloud space, AWS takes no chance and introduces new services often shortly after or at the top of the hype curve of a given trend. Blockchain is a good example among others. Staying at the top spot is a lot harder than reaching it.

New Services Announced in Every Corner of IT

Andy Jassy announced dozens of new services on top of the existing 90 services already in place, during his keynote address. These services cover every corner of IT. Among others:

-Hybrid cloud: in sort of a reversal course of action, and after dismissing hybrid cloud as a "passing trend", AWS announced AWS Outpost, to provide racks of hardware to customers in their own data center. This goes beyond the AWS-VMware partnership that extended vCenter in the AWS public cloud.

-Networking: AWS transit gateway : this service is closer to the nuts and bolts of creating a production grade distributed application in the cloud. Instead of painfully creating peer to peer connections between each network domain, transit gateways provide a hub that centrally manages network interconnections, making it easier for builders to interconnect VPCs, VPNs, and external connections.

- Databases: Not the sexiest of services, databases are still at the core of any workload deployed in AWS. In an on-going rebuke to Oracle, Andy Jassy re-emphasize this is all about choices. Beyond SQL and NoSQL,  he announced several new specialized flavors of databases, such as a graph database (Netptune). These types of databases are optimized to compute highly interconnected datasets.

-Machine Learning/AI: major services such as SageMaker were introduced last year in the context of fierce competition among all cloud providers to gain the upper ground in this red hot field, and this year was no exception to this continuing trend. All the sessions offered during the event in the AI track had a waiting list. Leveraging from their experience with Amazon retail (including the success of Alexa), AWS again showed their leadership and made announcements  covering all layers of the AI technology stack. That included services aimed at non-data scientist experts such as a forecasting service and personalizing service (preferences). Recognizing the need for talent in this field, Amazon also launched their own ML University. Anyone can sign up for free...as long as you use AWS for all your practice exercises. :)

Sticking with Core Principles

source: theschoolrun.com

Considering the breadth of these rich services, how can AWS afford to keep innovating?

Turns out there are 2 business-driven tenants that Amazon always keeps at the core of its principles:

  • Always encourage more infrastructure consumption. Behind each service lies infrastructure. Using the pay as you go model, in theory there are only benefits for the cloud users. However, while Amazone makes it easy and sometimes fully transparent to create and consume new resources in various core domains (networking, storage, compute, IP addressing), it can be quite burdensome for the AWS "builder" or developer to clean up all the components involved in existing environments when no longer needed. Anything left out running will eventually be charged back based on the amount of uptime, so the onus remains on the AWS customer shoulders to do due diligence on that front. Fortunately, there are third party solutions like Quali's CloudShell that will do that for you automatically.
  • Never run out of capacity: By definition, the cloud should have infinite capacity and an AWS customers, in theory, should never have to worry about it. At the core of AWS (and other public cloud providers) is the concept of elasticity. Elastic Load Balancing service has long been a standard for any application deployed on AWS EC2. More recently, AWS Lambda and the success of Serverless computing is a good case in point for application functions that only need short lived transactions.

By remaining solid on these core principles, AWS can keep investing in new cutting edge services while remaining very profitable. The coming year looks exciting as well for all Cloud Service Providers. Amazon has set the bar pretty high, and the runner ups (Microsoft, Google Cloud, Oracle and IBM) will want to continue chipping away at its market share, which in turn will also fuel more creativity and innovation. That would not change if Amazon decided to spin-off AWS as an independent company, although for now that topic will be best left to speculators, or even another blog.

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The Future of Automation

Posted by Tejas Mattur September 26, 2018
The Future of Automation

Guest blog contribution from Quali’s summer intern – Tejas Mattur, of Mission High School

Do the benefits of AI and automation outweigh its costs? This question is a loaded, complex one, with no real simple answer. Like any other complex matter, there are valid arguments on both sides. At the crux of it, there are really only two main arguments regarding this topic. Through this article, I will briefly outline the two stances and the evidence used to back up these stances. Lastly, I will provide my own personal view on the issue at hand.

First, the benefits. The pros of AI and automation technology are quite self-explanatory. For centuries, humans have developed technology to contribute to the advancement of society, and AI and automation are no different. From an economic standpoint, technological advancement and economic growth have always been positively correlated with each other. In fact, American economist Robert Solow ​recently estimated​ that technological change accounted for about 2/3 of growth of the U.S. economy; after allowing for growth in the labor force and capital stock. Even more interestingly, in 1930, the famous economist John Maynard Keynes made ​the prediction​ that his grandchildren would only have to work 15 hours a week, due to the advancements of innovation, machines, and technology. Obviously, Keynes was a more than a bit off with his estimation, but he was right with his logic in that technology has made life easier for humans as a whole. Technology has obvious benefits - it allows business to increase efficiency and cut costs, which in turn helps stimulate the economy. More specific information related to the benefits of AI and IT automation can be found in my previous article, but quite simply put, these tools help businesses function at more productive rates than in the past.

Next, the drawbacks. This is where the majority of research about automation and AI over the last decade has been focused in. The rise of AI and automation has led to a growing fear across the world that human skills will soon become outdated, and that jobs will be able to be easily replaced by robots. A ​2017 study​ by McKinsey Global Institute found that by 2030, as many as 73 million jobs in the U.S could be destroyed. The study also finds that automation projects to have significant effects worldwide, as it states that up to 800 million human workers could be displaced by this timeframe. Jobs such as telemarketers, loan officers, and cashiers have been rated the ​most likely​ to be replaced by automation. Skills once considered useful no longer seem to hold importance in the workplace. However, automation and AI don’t just affect traditional blue-collar jobs; certain IT jobs are at risk too. A ​study​ conducted by the software company Atlassian shows that 87% of workers already think that that AI will alter their jobs in some way by 2020. On the whole, these statistics seem to portray a gloomy view for jobs in the future, as they don’t bode well for many workers.

Overall, the potential negative impact that AI and automation can have on the economy in the future must not be understated. However, the solution to combat the threat of job loss due to this technology is not to run away from it or attempt to regulate it. The benefits that this technology provides are too great to ignore. So, it is clear that jobs with rote roles will inevitably be replaced by automation, but we also must recognize that automation cannot replace all employment opportunities. Jobs that require high proficiency in communication, creativity, and complex problem solving will always continue to have a high demand for human workers, because these are qualities that machines cannot mimic. As an increasing amount of blue-collar jobs are replaced, opportunities at the top of the economic ladder continue to increase. Sectors such as IT will not die out, AI and automation will only reshape them in some manner and cause workers to redefine their roles. In fact, in 2015, the ​number of job postings​ in the U.S reached its highest number ever, at 5.8 million. AI has replaced certain jobs, but the major problem behind its rise is that it has exposed the flaw in the workforce today, which is that the majority of workers do not have the necessary skills to fulfill the job opportunities of today.

We must recognize that increasing the intellectual capital of our workers is the only way to combat automation. The importance of intellectual capital is ​backed​ by some of the most successful people in our world, people like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet. These thinkers harp on the importance of reading books and taking time to develop a fundamental level of knowledge, because they recognize that in this day and age, knowledge is the most valuable skill to have. As we move into the future, we must make sure that the next generation of our workforce is able to obtain the necessary education they need to be able to succeed alongside automation, not without it.

Note from Quali:

We were fortunate to have Tejas Mattur, of Mission High School, intern with the marketing department. As part of his internship, he researched the evolution of automation and its applicability to the workforce of the future, as seen from the viewpoint of a high schooler, and made some recommendations. His work is serialized into a three-part blog series published on the Quali website. Thank you to Tejas, and we wish you great things in the future!

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The History of Automation

Posted by Tejas Mattur September 12, 2018
The History of Automation

Guest blog contribution from Quali’s summer intern – Tejas Mattur, of Mission High School

Automation. When we hear the word ‘automation’ in this day and age, our minds automatically go to advanced technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robotics. However, the history of automation technology is much deeper than just these extensions of automation that are used in the workplace today. Automation is ​defined​ as the creation of technology and its application in order to control and monitor the production and delivery of various goods and services. The idea of automation isn’t necessarily a modern one, as the theory behind utilizing automation technology has been around for centuries, although it has become more specific as well as refined to fit certain industries in the last 100 years.

Photo by Luis Gomes from Pexels

The word automation ​traces its earliest roots ​back to the time of the Ancient Greeks, specifically around 762 B.C. The earliest mention of automation technology came in Homer’s The Illiad,in which Homer discusses Hephaestus, the god of fire and craftsmanship. As the story goes, Homer discusses Hephaestus’s workshop, and how Hephaestus had ‘automatons’ working for him, which were essentially self operating robots that assisted him in the process of developing powerful weapons and other items for the Greek gods. Although there is little to no evidence that Hephaestus’s workshop actually existed, this story was written by Homer, a real Greek poet. It shows that the Greeks had at least thought of the idea of using automation technology to solve a problem, which for them was to improve the efficiency of creating weapons and tools.

Picture from Pixabay pixabay.com from Pexels

Throughout history, there is evidence of different groups of people attempting to use automation to solve everyday problems they faced, from miners around the 11th century to workers in the 17th century. However, the time period when automation really began to take off was the ​Industrial Revolution​.The increase in demand for things such as paper and cotton caused a change in the production of these items, with an immense amount of emphasis placed on extreme efficiency and production. In the textile industry, innovations such as the cotton gin became mechanized, powered by steam and water, allowing for greater production yields. In the paper industry, the Fourdrinier was invented, a machine that was able to make continuous sheets of paper, and eventually led to the development of making continuous rolling sheets of iron and other metals. Huge jumps in other fields such as transportation and communication were also made, leading to an increase in even more automation technologies. In fact, a little later on, the term ‘automation’ itself was coined in 1946, due to the rapid rise of the automobile industry and the increased use of automatic devices in manufacturing as well as production. D.S Harder, an engineer who worked for ​Ford Motor Company​,is credited with the origin of the word.

Overall, as the information presented shows, automation has a deep and rich history that spans over the centuries. The main uses of automation prior to the 20th and 21st century have been in industrial fields, and have only more recently been incorporated into the IT world. The drivers of all automation technology, however, have always been similar. With ​industrial automation​,the goal was always clear: to improve the efficiency of manufacturing a variety of items. With ​IT automation​,the goal is to improve efficiency by creating a process that is self-sufficient and replaces an IT worker’s manual labor in data centers and cloud deployments. The parallels are clear, and they show why automation will always be prevalent in society. Developing technology to lessen the burden on human workers, increase business efficiency and make our lives easier in terms of reducing manual labor is something that has been important to us for centuries, and will continue to make its impact in the future.

Note from Quali:

We were fortunate to have Tejas Mattur, of Mission High School, intern with the marketing department. As part of his internship, he researched the evolution of automation and its applicability to the workforce of the future, as seen from the viewpoint of a high schooler and made some recommendations. His work is serialized into a three-part blog series published on the Quali website. Thank you to Tejas, and we wish you great things in the future!

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Building a Developer Community from the Ground Up

Posted by Pascal Joly August 24, 2018
Building a Developer Community from the Ground Up

In the Software world, Developer communities have been the de facto standard since the rise of the Open Source movement. Once started as a counter-culture alternative to the commercial dominance of Microsoft, open source spread rapidly way beyond its initial roots. Nowadays, very few questions the motivations to offer an open source option as a valid go to market strategy. Many software vendors have been using this approach in the last few years to acquire customers through the freemium model and eventually generate significant business (Redhat among others).  From a marketing standpoint, a community is as a great vehicle to increase brand visibility and reach to the end users.

The Journey to get a community off the ground can be long and arduous

If in theory, it all sounds great and fun, our journey from concept to reality was long and arduous.

It all starts with a cultural change. While it now seems straight-forward for most software engineers (just like smartphones and ubiquitous wifi are to millennials), changing the mindset from a culture of privacy and secret to one of openness is significant, especially for more mature companies. With roots in the conservative air force, this shift did not happen overnight at Quali.  In fact, it took us about 3 years to get all the pieces off the ground and get the whole company aligned behind this new paradigm. Eventually, what started as a bottom-up, developer-driven initiative, bubbled up to the top and became both a business opportunity and a way to establish a competitive edge.

A startup like Quali can only put so many resources behind the development of custom integrations. As an orchestration solution depending on a stream of up to date content, the team was unable to keep up with the constant stream of customer demand. The only way to scale was to open up our platform to external contributors and standardize through an open source model (TOSCA). Additionally, automation development was shifting to Python-based scripting, away from proprietary, visual-based languages. Picking up on that trend early on, we added a new class of objects (called "Shells") to our product that supported Python natively and became the building blocks of all our content.

Putting together the building blocks

We started exploring existing examples of communities that we could leverage. There is thankfully no shortage of successful software communities in the Cloud and DevOps domain: AWS, Ansible, Puppet, Chef, Docker to name a few. What came across pretty clearly: a developer community isn't just a marketplace where users can download the latest plugins to our platform. Even if it all started with that requirement, we soon realized this would not be nearly enough.

What we really needed was to build a comprehensive "one-stop shopping" experience: a technical forum, training, documentation,  an idea box, and an SDK that would help developers create and publish new integrations. We had bits and pieces of these components mostly available to internal authorized users, and this was an opportunity to open this knowledge to improve access and searchability. This also allowed us to consolidate disjointed experiences and provide a consistent look and feel for all these services. Finally, it was a chance to revisit some existing processes that were not working effectively for us, like our product enhancement requests.

Once we had agreed on the various functions we expected our portal to host,  it was time to select the right platform(s). While there was no vendor covering 100% of our needs, we ended up picking AnswerHub for most of the components such as Knowledge Base Forum, idea box and integrations, and using a more specialized backend for our Quali University training platform. For code repository, GitHub, already the ubiquitous standard with developers, was a no-brainer.

We also worked on making the community content easier to consume for your target developer audience. That included a command line utility that would make it simple to create new integration, "ShellFoundry". Who said developing Automation has to be a complicated and tedious process? With a few commands, this CLI tool can get you started in a few minutes. Behind the scene? a bunch of Tosca based templates covering the 90% of the needs while the developer can customize the remaining 10% to build the desired automation workflow. It also involved product enhancements to make sure this newly developed content would be easily uploaded and managed by our platform.

Driving Adoption

quali developer community integrations plugin shells

Once we got all the pieces in place, it was now time to grow the community beyond the early adopters. It started with educating our sales engineers and customer success with the new capabilities, then communicating it to our existing customer base. they embraced the new experience eagerly, since searching and asking for technical information was so much faster. They also now had visibility through our idea box of all current enhancement requests and could endorse other customer's suggestions to bring up the priority of a given idea. 586 ideas have been submitted so far, all nurtured diligently by our product team.

The first signs of success with our community integrations came when we got technology partners signed up to develop their own integration with our product, using our SDK and publishing these as publicly downloadable content. We now have 49 community plugins and growing. This is an on-going effort raising interesting questions such as vetting the quality of a content submitted through external contributors and the support process behind it.

It's clear we've come a long way over the last 3 years. Where do we go from there? To motivate new participants, our platform offers a badge program that highlights the most active contributors in any given area. For example, you can get the "Bright Idea" badge, if you submitted an idea voted up 5 times. We also created a Champion program to reward active participants in different categories (community builder, rocket scientist...). We invite our customers to nominate their top contributors and once a quarter we select and reward winners who are also featured in an article with a nice spotlight.

What's next? Check out Quali's community, and start contributing!

 

 

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5 Tips for Implementing Environment-as-a-Service

Posted by Maya Ber Lerner June 29, 2018
5 Tips for Implementing Environment-as-a-Service

Looking back at years of automation and setting up Environment-as-a-Service with our clients and partners, we’ve made and witnessed quite a few mistakes. I have long wanted to collect some of the lessons we have learned and share them. Blood, sweat, and tears were poured into these, and it’s easy to see the traces of these experiences in how we have shaped our products. Here are my top 5, would love to hear your comments and thoughts!

Keep the end users in the loop

Environment as a service is all about the painful tension between the horribly technical environment orchestration and end users that want it to be dead simple. Infrastructure environments are the base for pretty much every task in a technology company. And today, when EVERY company is a technology company, a larger number of end users couldn’t care less about how complex it is. They want it Netflix-style and rightfully so. When building a service, it’s important to identify the end users and understand their needs, making sure they know how to contact the service admins and who can help them (e.g. “contact us” option). It’s also important to continuously get their feedback. From my experience when a service was launched without involving the end users, no matter how much amazing magic was done in orchestration, it often was rejected and failed (did I mention tears?)

Don’t automate your manual sequence as-is

It’s tempting to approach automation as a series of tasks that are done manually and we need to automate one by one, resulting in a magnificent script that replaces our tedious manual effort. But try to understand your scripts 6 months later or apply some variation and reality hits you in the face.

Automation opens new possibilities. It often requires changing the mindset to achieve maintainability and scalability. Much like test automation, if we try to simply automate what we did manually the results are often sub-optimal. Good automation usually requires some reconstruction of the process – identifying reusable building blocks and finding the right way to model the environment. We’ve been investing in evolving our model for years, and still do (this topic probably deserves its own post!)

Start simple

Automation is such a powerful thing, it is only natural to target the most complex environment, thinking it would be the most valuable to automate, whereas simple ones are not worth it (i.e. “providing developers with a single virtual device is something we do all the time. But come on, it’s one virtual machine, that’s not worth automating”). But the return on investment in automation is highest on things that are easy to automate and maintain AND can be reused very frequently. Some of the most successful implementations I’ve seen started with very simple environments that created an appetite for more

Invest in adoption and visibility

It’s easy to get lost in the joy of technical details and endless automation tasks, but if we spend a year populating inventories and creating building blocks and complex blueprints that nobody uses, it will be hard to convince anyone it’s worth it. It’s important to make sure value is demonstrated in every milestone, that the development of the service is iterative, and that high-level vision is not lost.

A few best practices that would help -

  • Start with 1-3 simple blueprints that you think will be used frequently
  • Invest in aesthetics – blueprint images, names, meaningful descriptions – make it easy and convenient to consume. Yes, it’s as important as the orchestration part (think shopping in Amazon with the same picture for all products)
  • Invest in elements that ease the use and would make self-service easy – attractive user instructions, videos if possible, easy remote access to environment elements
  • Make sure you expose your end users to the new service – it’s best if they are involved and contribute. Announce the availability of the service, and actively get feedback
  • Track and report your KPIs – present to your management and get feedback

Don’t think automation is magic

Well, automation IS magic for the end users. But behind the scenes, someone needs to make the magic happen, and this is often not a walk in the park. Automation is becoming easier to create, but it’s important to also remember maintenance and scale.

Some best practices on this front -

  • Start with offering a few predefined environment blueprints as your service. You’ll get the best results if you maximize reuse. When you let many users create environment blueprints, you’re increasing complexity. This could be the next step, but not recommended to begin with
  • Don’t automate things that are not worth automating. I sometimes hear people describe how they are working for months to automate a very complex environment, and then realizing it is used once a year and nobody appreciates the effort. Sometimes people are frustrated with automating very dynamic environments where everything changes on a daily basis – perhaps this is not the right target to start with
  • Whatever tool you use to automate, try to use built-in capabilities as much as you can. There are always additional capabilities that may be uniquely required to you and seem
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Quali recognizes Automation Champions at Broadcom for Leadership and Innovation

Posted by Pascal Joly June 29, 2018
Quali recognizes Automation Champions at Broadcom for Leadership and Innovation

Earlier this year, Quali launched a new program, "CloudShell Champion", to acknowledge some of our most prominent advocates and contributors who are actively promoting automation within their companies.

After a rigorous selection process, our first cohort of nominees brought us 2 winners in 2 different categories that I will introduce in this article:

cloudshell champion 2018

Transformer category: Someone who has grown the user base for CloudShell within their organization or done an exceptional job of training and onboarding teams.

Q1 winner: Daniel De La Rosa, Broadcom
Daniel is the manager of an infrastructure lab team within the Brocade Storage Network division of Broadcom. The goal of their team is to enable the broader organization to develop, sell and support their fiber channel product line by providing them access to lab resources. To accomplish this goal in the most efficient way the team has adopted CloudShell as part of their automation tool strategy.Daniel has been tirelessly promoting the solution over the last few years to the target end users of the platform (support team, sales team, and engineering team) by setting up various workshops, one on one meetings and documentation  -- he calls it "over-communicating". His mission is to increase the adoption coverage to the engineering team. To show the effectiveness of this strategy, he is using the decrease in cost for new lab equipment ordered as a key metric.

In his spare time, Daniel enjoys running, including participating in some of the local bay area many races, Bay to Breakers and Warf to Warf among others.

Rocket Scientist category: Someone who is recognized for their technical wizardry and contributed helpful Shells or Plugins to the Quali repository.

Q1 winner: Matt Branche, Broadcom

Matt is the CloudShell guru and automation engineer in the Brocade Storage Network division of Broadcom. He is the hands-on automation go-to guy in Daniel's team, leading the charge for building automation on top of CloudShell. Matt is really excited about the capabilities of 2nd gen Shells (python is his favorite language)  to build custom integrations with the Brocade OS and extend the capabilities of the platform with integrations like SalesForce and Jira. This will enable his team to significantly improve the user experience of the sales team and the support team and increase adoption of the platform. Matt is also looking forward to more contribution to the Quali Community.

When he's not in the middle of developing new Shells, Matt enjoys tinkering with his home network and riding his motorcycle.

Have a champion in mind? Registrations are still opened for Q2 awards. You can nominate yourself or on behalf of someone else.

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Deep Dive with Quali at the DevOps Enterprise Summit!

Posted by Pascal Joly November 8, 2017
Deep Dive with Quali at the DevOps Enterprise Summit!

Ready to "Dive into DevOps"? Quali will be in San Francisco next week November 13-15 at the DevOps Enterprise Summit . We will showcase our latest DevOps integrations with Atlassian's Jira, Jenkins, CA Blazemeter, Microsoft VSTS, AWS codepipeline and many others.

Since I've covered details on our Jira, Jenkins and Blazemeter integrations in previous blogs, I wanted to introduce the two new kids on the block:

  • Microsoft VSTS and Visual Studio plugin: Microsoft VSTS is the hosted version of Visual Studio, and offers a way for developers using this popular IDE to create and terminate CloudShell Sandboxes from a Continuous Integration workflow, as well as trigger a test suite tied to dynamic environments.
  • AWS codepipeline plugin: the AWS codepipeline service is available to any AWS users and provides a simple way to create DevOps pipeline and integrate as part of the workflow actions to create CloudShell Sandboxes, run CloudShell Commands, and terminate the Sandboxes.

If you're going to be around, make sure you visit us at booth #15, to learn how you can accelerate your application release and scale your DevOps automation with CloudShell Dynamic Environments. You'll also have a chance to win one of these handy $100 Amazon gift cards (right before Christmas as it turns out) and bring home tons of colorful giveaways.

I am also looking forward to meet many of our technology partners who will also be attending the event such as JFrog, CA, and Atlassian.

Can't make it? We'll certainly miss you but you can still sign up for our free trial or schedule a demo.

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CloudShell 8.1 GA Release

Posted by Dan Michlin August 20, 2017
CloudShell 8.1 GA Release

Quali is pleased to announce that we just released CloudShell version 8.1 in General availability.

This version provides several features that provide a better experience and performance for both the administrator , blueprint designers and end users many of them were contributed by our great community feedback and suggestions

Let's go over the main features delivered in CloudShell 8.1 and their benefits:

Orchestration Simplification

Orchestration is a first class citizen in CloudShell, so we've simplified and enhanced the orchestration capabilities for your blueprints.

We have created a standard approach for users to extend the setup and tear-down flows. By separating the orchestration into built in stages and events, the CloudShell user now has better control and visibility to the orchestration process.\

We've also separated the different functionality into packages to allow more simplified and better structured flows for the developer.

App and Configuration Management enhancements

We have made various enhancements to Apps and CloudShell’s virtualization capabilities, such as allowing tracking the application setup process , passing dynamic attributes to the configuration management.

CloudShell 8.1 now supports vCenter 6.5 and Azure Managed disks and premium storage features

Troubleshooting Enhancement

To enhance the visibility of what's going on during the lifespan of a Sandbox for all the users , CloudShell now allows a regular user to focus on a specific activity of any component in their sandbox and view detailed error information directly from the activity pane.

Manage Resources from CloudShell Inventory

Administrator can now edit any resources from the inventory of the CloudShell web portal including Address, Attributes, Location, as well as the capability to exclude/include resources.

"Read Only" View for Sandbox  while setup is in progress

To allow uninterrupted automation process and prevent any error during the setup stage, the sandbox will be in a “read only” mode.

Improved Abstract resources creation

Blueprint editors using abstract resource can now select attribute values from a drop down list with existing values, this shortens and eases the creation process and reduces problems during abstract creation

Additional feature requests and ideas from our community

A new view allows administrators to track the commands queued for execution.

The Sandbox list view now displays live status icons for sandbox components and allows remote connections to devices and virtual machines using QualiX.

Additional REST API functions have been added to allow better control over Sandbox consumption.

In addition, version 8.1 rolls out support for Ranorex 7.0 and HP ALM 12.x integration.

More supported shells

Providing more out-of-the-box Shells speeds up time to value with CloudShell. The 8.1 list includes Ixia Traffic Generators, OpenDayLight Lithium , Polatis L1, Breaking Point, Junos Firewall, and many more shells that were migrated to 2nd generation.

Feel free to visit our community page and Knowledge base for additional information, or schedule a demo.

See you all in CloudShell 8.2 :)

 

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Troubleshooting Cloud Sandboxes with Jira

Posted by Pascal Joly August 16, 2017
Troubleshooting Cloud Sandboxes with Jira

In the devOps grand scheme of things, troubleshooting and support automation often get the short end of the stick, giving up the limelight to their more glorious pipeline, deployment and build cousins. However, when we consider the real world implication to implement these processes and "automate everything", this space deserves some scrutiny.

In this integration we address a painful problem that happens all too often in the lab: a user who needs to complete a test or certification reserves an environment, but one device or equipment fails to respond. Unlike most data center production environments, there is rarely a streamlined process to address lab issues: the user calls the IT administrator about the problem, then gets an uncommitted time if at all when the problem will be fixed, and in some cases never hears back again. It might take escalation and lots of delays to eventually get things done.
When operating at scale on highly sensitive projects or PoCs, organizations expect a streamlined process to address these issues. Support of mission critical testing infrastructure should be aligned to SLAs and downtime should be kept to a minimum.

So what does it take to make it happen?

Getting rid of the Friction points

The intent of the integration plugin between Quali's CloudShell Sandbox platform and Atlassian Jira's industry leading issue tracking system is quite simple: eliminate all the friction points that would slow down a device or application certification cycle in the event of a failure. It provides an effective and optimal way to manage and troubleshoot device failures in Sandboxes with built in automation for both end user and the support engineer.

The process goes as follow:
Phase 1: A user reserves a blueprint in CloudShell, and the sandbox setup orchestration detects a faulty device (health check function).
This in turn generates a warning message for the user to terminate the sandbox due to a failed equipment. The user is also prompted to relaunch a new sandbox, since the abstracted component in the blueprint will now pick a new device, which hopefully will pass the healthcheck test.
The device at fault is then retired out of the pool of available end user equipment a put into a quarantine usage domain. In the process a ticket is opened in Jira with the device information, and the description and context of the detected failure.

jira workflow
Phase 2: Once a Support Engineer is ready to work on the equipment, they can just open the Jira ticket and from there, directly create a sandbox with the faulty device. That provides them console access through CloudShell and other automation functions if needed to perform standard root cause analysis and attempt to solve the problem. Once they close the ticket, the device is automatically returned to the user domain pools for consumption in sandboxes.

cloudshell plugin for jira

To sum it all up, combining the power of CloudShell Sandbox orchestration and Jira help desk platform, this simple end to end process provides a predictable way to save time and improve productivity for the end user by removing the friction points and automating key transitions to streamline the process for the support engineer.

Next step? Try it out! The plugin is available for download in the Quali Community as well as the Atlassian Marketplace. Otherwise, feel free to watch the video or schedule a demo.

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Greasing the skids for DevOps planning in 2017

Posted by Shashi Kiran March 15, 2017
Greasing the skids for DevOps planning in 2017

Several practices of webscale companies are now penetrating mainstream enterprise organizations. The practice of DevOps is perhaps one of the most important. Driven by the adoption of cloud and modernization of application architectures, DevOps practices are quickly gaining ground in companies that are interested in moving fast – with software eating everything -  between “write code and throw it across the wall” to creating more pragmatic mechanisms that induce and maintain operational rigor. The intent behind DevOps (and DevSecOps) is quite noble and excellent in theory.

Where it breaks down is in practice. Greenfield deployments remain innocent. Starting out with a clean slate is always relatively easy. Preserving or integrating legacy in brownfield environments is where it becomes both challenging and interesting. For the next several years that’s where the action is.

Enterprises that have invested in technology over the past few decades suddenly find that they can now actually create tremendous legacy inertia to move forward. So, while many have adopted DevOps practices, it has begun in pockets across the organization.

Being focused on the area of Cloud and DevOps Automation, over the last two years Quali has conducted an annual survey that captures the trends at a high level from different vantage points.

Our 2016 Annual DevOps survey yielded 2045 responses to our questions and brought us several insights.  Many of these are consistent with our customers’ experiences during the course of our business. Other insights continue to surprise us.

The results of our survey are published in this press release.

It is remarkable that many enterprises continue to be dependent on infrastructure to make applications move faster. Infrastructure continues to be a bottleneck, particularly in on-premise environments. Software defined architectures and NFV have taken root, but the solutions are still scratching the surface. Adoption of automation, blueprinting and environments-as-a-service are happening and greasing the skids, but clearly these need to happen at a faster pace.

The survey also demonstrated some clear patterns on the top barriers inhibiting the rapid adoption of DevOps practices. The rankings were published in this infographic:

 

Organizations that are planning to accelerate their DevOps initiatives in 2017 should heed these barriers and set up a clear plan to overcome them.

So, how do you grease the skids for DevOps? We’re sharing some of these insights and more in an upcoming webinar on March 22nd that will discuss these barriers in a greater amount of detail. You can register for the webinar here.

Finally, our 2017 DevOps and Cloud Survey is underway. Please consider answering the survey; if you do you may win a $100 Amazon gift card.

 

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