eCommerce platform provider Swell was built to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to build the online business that they envision. A GitLab customer since 2021, GitLab has been adopted as Swell's one DevOps, project management, and support ticketing tool for the whole organization. It's the foundational platform that the business works on.
Swell is using GitLab Premium in many different areas, including for product development and to build the platform infrastructure, says Nico Bistolfi, vice president of technology.
"GitLab is our source of truth for everything," Bistolfi says. Now, Swell is looking into expanding its usage of the platform to leverage features such as code quality, automation, and other types of dynamic application security and static application security.
GitLab for CI/CD
Swell upgraded to the Premium version and the biggest advantage so far has been the review operations capability, Bistolfi says. The company has created environments for every merge request users make, and that replicates in production for testers to see what was changed, whether a fix was made, or how the new feature is working.
"We could not go to our software development lifecycle today without the review ops. That's something that is critical for us," Bistolfi says.
GitLab is used for both continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD). While building the CI/CD pipeline process is ongoing, Bistolfi says, “We are slowly changing it and relying more and more on GitLab” in areas, including application security.
Before moving to GitLab, Swell was using bare-metal servers. The company now uses GitLab’s container management solutions and all API updates are happening through the platform.
From inputting issues to resolution
Everyone at Swell is using GitLab — not just developers — and for a variety of tasks. The company has created a way to process support tickets through the platform. Another use case is knowledge management.
"We find ourselves making some decisions from comments in GitLab," he says. The whole process from the time a ticket is created to being resolved is done within the platform.
The company culture is about full information transparency, Bistolfi says, particularly since Swell is fully remote and employees work from 11 different countries. So one goal is to maintain asynchronous communication.
When an issue is created in the platform, a little bit of coding is required, but he said non-developer users have adapted well. The feedback so far has been that using GitLab has been frictionless.
Speed to delivery
Initially, for some services, it took about 30 minutes to build and deploy an image. Now, the process has been decreased to between one and five minutes in most cases.
Swell manually sets release dates for system improvements and, right now, there are about two a week. The company is working on automating the process for continuous delivery with the goal of soon having releases every couple of hours.
Swell manages team backlogs, sprints, milestones, and future work using its own flavor of Kanban with what Bistolfi calls "quick labels."
Engineering teams are being scaled and, in addition to Kanban, some projects are done using Scrum. Changing their GitLab configuration has let teams measure velocity better.
A future goal is to gain visibility into team results, as well as use GitLab for project planning and management, he says.
GitLab as a product and company
Bistolfi is unequivocal in his enthusiasm for GitLab. "We know that GitLab is there for us to continue growing," he says. "We know we can rely on that. And something that I always tell a team when we are evaluating what we're going to do or how we're going to solve certain problems is that there are areas GitLab is just starting to innovate on or is just starting to launch new features."
If those areas are at 80% of what Swell needs, the company will continue to use GitLab. "We need to have very, very strong reasons to look for another tool to integrate with GitLab." He added that "we trust that GitLab is going in the right direction for us. In addition, we've gained efficiency in our ability to provide consistent test environments using Gitlab Review Apps to reduce regressions and improve new feature development."
The Swell team also likes that GitLab provides thorough and complete information in its handbook, which has been very beneficial in helping the company manage things internally. "That has been inspiring for many of us on the executive team," he notes.
For example, during the pandemic, Bistolfi put together a document called "The Ultimate Guide for Swell Engineers," which contains three pages of information about culture, what to expect from teammates, and how to communicate and prioritize tasks.
A lot of guidance came from the GitLab handbook, he adds.
Moving forward with GitLab, Bistolf says: "We are incorporating most of the Security and Compliance tools in order to keep track and audit for our compliance. We plan to expand the usage to other projects, but we are already using container and dependency scanning, SAST, secrets detection, and license scanning for some of our core and more sensitive services."
What Swell likes most about GitLab is the thoroughness of the tool. "From an engineering perspective, 10 years ago, you would never have imagined all the features and capabilities that GitLab offers being incorporated into one platform," Bistolfi says.
“What's the biggest advantage Swell gets from GitLab? Our review operations capability. Read how the eCommerce platform provider is using GitLab across its entire organization.” – GitLab
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