Innovation in the large enterprise: Using Openstack, OpenShift, and automation to empower teams

Innovation, culture, lean, agile, and DevOps. These terms are currently being thrown around in the IT industry as the apex of success. Master these, and your organization will be blessed with an eternity of deployment good fortune and increased efficiency. What does it really take for an organization to be considered agile and innovative in 2015?

Target: Moving from mode 1 to modern

Converting a portion of that large cost center known as enterprise IT away from the old mode 1 methodology is not only a competitive advantage but an essential business requirement in today’s environment. Jeffrey Einhorn, GM of RAPId Infrastructure Services for Target, explains exactly the methodology he championed to help his organization become more innovative, more efficient, and more stable. Many organizations believe having the right tools is the key to achieving this IT utopia, when in fact the true ingredient is being able to change the organization’s culture alongside these shiny new tools.

It is possible. An organization can take system provisioning time from 3 months to 30 minutes using OpenStack. It can spin up thousands of VMs per day, take the creation of development environments from 8 weeks to 15 minutes using an OpenShift pilot, and finally take internal system automation tooling development from 9 months to 10 minutes.

Core areas of focus

The Target team focused some core areas to achieve DevOps success and they are as follows:

  1. Culture. The most important of the newly minted principles Target follows. Getting the right people committed to helping the organization succeed. Culture is all about shared goals. Starting with flash builds, they gathered all responsible parties together in a room and proved that it was possible to deliver services that previously took 8 weeks in 1 day. Success led to the creation of small, 15-30 person teams that were given 30-day challenges to deliver service. Eventually this led to making these teams permanent.
  2. Ownership. Moving away from project-based work to a service ownership approach. Teams became responsible for a service rather than getting a project completed and owned the entire stack rather than individual technologies like a database. They were able to look at the complete stack and work on the right things within the stack.
  3. Empowerment. Empowerment began by using technologies such as OpenStack to abstract the backend. Open standards allowed them to program against the APIs, regardless of the underlying infrastructure. Programming against the OpenStack APIs prepared the development teams to easily adapt to programming against the public cloud APIs. All of this enabled the business to serve customers more quickly and efficiently.
  4. Feedback. Standardizing on agile for the feedback loop helped Target produce lots of small changes based on a lot of feedback. Using 2-week sprints allows for sharing, demoing, then re-planning. It brings the customer closer to the process to drive the requirements.
  5. Technology practices. Standardizing on a continuous integration/continuous deliver (CI/CD) pipeline of common open source components and tools that allowed re-usability. Changing the CI/CD pipeline only when necessary and sharing that across the business.

Other great points that Jeffrey made:

  • Having the support of management is crucial
  • DevOps days where collaboration, tools, plans and talks are done and shared builds stronger teams and promotes innovation
  • Developing cook books for everything and sharing and contributing the information online means everyone can stay informed

Their challenge and environment wasn’t unique, but their commitment was. This translated into success for them. As Jeff put it: “Be focused, be bold.” Kudos to Jeffrey, and congratulations on the incredible rewards of your hard work.