The quickening pace of software deployments and widening adoption of DevOps practices to speed quality releases has, naturally, fed the growth of a relatively new niche. Gartner calls it Application Release Automation.
In a new analysis released in the past two weeks, Gartner analysts Colin Fletcher and Ronni J. Colville predict that the ARA market is poised for takeoff. In fact, they say, the number of vendors offering ARA tools will double by the end of next year.
“The market has reached the point of maturity where large vendors recognize the strategic nature and value of these tools,” the analysts wrote.
Leading the way, they say, are solutions such as Nolio (acquired earlier this year by CA Technologies), UrbanCode5 (acquired by IBM) and InRelease (acquired by Microsoft), among others.
So, what’s behind enterprises’ rush to incorporate application release automation?
Gartner says the market is being driven by companies’ need to:
- Push releases quickly and easily across all phases of the application lifecycle.
- Replace manual scripting with automation that improves quality, repeatability and efficiency in production rollouts.
- Establish and encourage collaboration between developers and admins.
Early on, large vendors worked to accommodate those needs with various tools that catered to the needs of either developers or operations staff. The latest generation of tools does both, allowing teams to leverage the tools to achieve DevOps goals.
That’s all great news, right? Well, maybe not if you’re the guy tasked with selecting which of the growing number of tools is the best investment for an organization.
Expect confusion to reign as the marketplace gets more crowded over the next year with vendors and available solutions. Everyone will have his own opinion, and some individuals will already have started down their own roads.
“A foreseeable result of the increased attention on the offerings and new entrants will be a marked increase in confusing, sometimes overly ambitious, messages marketed aggressively,” Fletcher and Colville wrote. “A persistent question will be: ‘What tool is best to use, when and why?’”
Rules of Thumb for Choosing a Release Automation Tool
To help answer that, the analysts recommended three basic rules of thumb in selecting the right ARA solution. A distillation of that advice:
- Consider vendors big and small: Don’t fixate on one offering. Consider a mix of vendors to be sure you have some context on what is currently available.
- Insist on a Relevant Track Record: Gartner says you should require proof-of-concepts oriented to your use cases in addition to active customer references. That will keep you from buying tools that don’t quite fit.
- Insist on Quick ROI: Build a time-to-value requirement of no longer than nine months on clearly defined use cases.
The bottom line from analysts is to beware of marketing pitches that can’t deliver what they promise. This is a time of new technologies that get more complex with each new generation. The safest course is to take a structured approach to evaluating the market before diving in.