Southwest Airlines Co. is working to make developers’ jobs easier.
IT leaders at the world's largest low-cost carrier are moving to eliminate time-consuming and repetitive tasks from developers’ workflows, freeing their time and increasing their ability to focus on bigger projects.
“The way we do that is by getting things out of their way,” said Jim Dayton, vice president and CISO at Southwest Airlines. “I am a firm believer that people go into software development because they love the creativity of it. They love the ability to solve problems. What we have to do is get out of their way and get the things that are blocking them out of their way.”
Part of how Dayton is making that happen is by using GitLab’s platform.
Dayton talked about Southwest’s efforts to take care of their developers, and promote the work they’re doing, during an on-stage interview at the Dallas stop of GitLab’s DevSecOps World Tour. He also spent part of his conversation with Reshmi Krishna, director of Enterprise Solutions Architecture at GitLab, discussing what benefits he hopes artificial intelligence capabilities will be able to offer his teams.
The Southwest exec, who said they’re moving toward a DevOps approach to application development, added that they’re providing developers with more self-service capabilities and knowledge management processes. “We want developers to be able to quickly look up a problem, look up a solution, and reduce context switching,” he said. “We need to be able to look at what we are asking them to do and what's preventing them from being able to be productive.”
Dayton noted that Southwest, which established a relationship with GitLab in 2019, is focused on creating consistency for its software development processes. In part, that means moving code into a shared GitLab repository. By knowing where all of their code resides, teams will be able to more easily evaluate metrics, and begin to look at creating efficiencies by reusing code.
“We’re also in the process of getting our enterprise pipelines finalized and we’re ready to start migrating teams onto them,” said Dayton. “We're collaborating heavily with a lot of different application development teams to understand what they need in the pipelines that we're building and we’re getting ready to start migrating teams onto them. I think we'll be getting pretty close by the end of the year.”
The promise of AI
Using artificial intelligence is one of the ways to enable developers to focus on bigger, more innovative tasks, Dayton explained.
Generative AI, whether in the form of vulnerability explainers, code suggestions, or code completion, has the ability to dramatically affect workflows across the entire software development lifecycle. Leveraging AI tools built into a platform can increase security and decrease time spent on code reviews and application development.
Dayton is looking forward to being able to use AI features to speed and ease development and deployment.
“We want to get the mundane and the bureaucratic out of their way as much as possible,” Dayton said, adding that while there’s a lot of hype around AI, there’s also a lot of promise. “Using AI could do that. I think a great example will be when it can provide a solution to a vulnerability that was just identified or when it can tell us what a piece of code is doing. What is it integrating with? What data is it accessing and why? Tell me in plain English, for example, that this particular set of coding has been responsible for 20% of the incidents in this application over the past year. That’s where I think AI can help.”
Dayton noted that he doesn’t believe AI will replace developers. Instead, it should make their jobs easier. Another way AI can help is by connecting developers in a time when many are working remotely post-COVID.
“One of the cool things that's in [GitLab’s] roadmap is Suggested Reviewers,” he said. “Getting help with code reviews used to involve yelling across the room or over a cube wall, ‘Hey, can someone look at my code?’ That’s not so easy now. AI can suggest someone who's actually worked in that code before or who has resolved incidents in that code and does that sort of thing. How much value is that going to add to the review process? I think the more automation we can put in, the less manual steps or wait states there will be.”
Southwest Airlines is a nearly $24 billion company based in Dallas, Texas. With 72,000 employees, it flies to 120 destinations, making 4,000 flights per day. Southwest flies more domestic passengers than any other airline. Read more GitLab customer stories on our customers page.