Q&A with Shawn Edmondson of rPath

By Shawn Edmondson (Profile)
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Wednesday, August 31st 2011
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VSM: Where does rPath fit into the virtual environment?

SE: rPath automates the process of building a software system. That means everything from generating software images and configuring middleware to provisioning those images to physical, virtual and cloud environments and tracking application dependencies and system changes. We like to think we’re introducing the efficiency and repeatability that you would find on a factory assembly line into how IT manufactures applications and deploys them into production.

Every piece of software you need to set up for an enterprise application can be automatically configured and deployed by rPath, thus saving time while also reducing human error. Customers use us to deploy both brand-new applications, as well as make configuration changes to application stacks while they are already in production.

To your point on virtualization: we’ve seen a lot of traction with customers trying to improve how quickly they work within the virtual environment. From server consolidation to public and private clouds, VMs are the building blocks for making IT infrastructure more agile – but with that agility comes greater complexity, along with an even greater need for speed.

This need for agility is the thrust behind the ever-popular DevOps movement today, which has been (and will continue to be) driving the demand for software system automation companies like rPath.

VSM: What is the DevOps movement and why should the virtualization community take notice?

SE: VMs are the building blocks of the cloud, and the agility of new cloud infrastructure is forcing IT operations to change old processes. It’s also forcing software developers and IT operations to work more closely together, but they have different ways of going about their business. That’s the conflict driving DevOps today.

Like the Agile software development movement ten years before it (see 2001’s “Manifesto for Agile Software Development”), which introduced an alternative to the heavily regulated and regimented waterfall model of years past, DevOps is introducing new development concepts to IT operations: deep collaboration with customers, faster change cycles and build-test processes, and higher levels of automation. It’s worth reviewing a few of those here, but it’s also important to note that DevOps and Agile aren’t just another set of processes – DevOps and Agile call for new automation methodologies in conjunction with those processes.

Better ideas only go so far; we need new systems for automating those ideas to really change things – and the automation tools can’t exist in a vacuum, either.

The virtualization community should take notice because there are a number of management and automation tools on the market now, all with different features and scope. Users need to evaluate these tools and the underlying management processes with which they are paired. Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up to fail.

VSM: You said the DevOps movement builds on concepts from the Agile Manifesto. Can you explain how that applies?

SE: Sure. There are some key ideas from Agile that are fueling the DevOps movement.