Increasing deployments to 10 times a day

BI Worldwide Corporate Product Development Team removed technology barriers to focus on building microservices

Bi worldwide case study logo
industry
Consulting
location
Minneapolis, Minnesota
employees
1,001-5,000
overview
BI Worldwide is a global engagement agency that modernizes and automates their software delivery workflow with a single solution for their complete DevOps lifecycle.
challenge
The BI Worldwide Corporate Product Development Team faced challenges around modernizing tools, processes, and architecture
solution
Ultimate
benefits
  • Increased developers efficiencies by alleviating challenges of  multiple tools, logins, and user experiences

  • Enhanced automated testing, builds, and deployments

  • Automated security scans of cloud-deployed microservices as well as on-prem applications with SAST and DAST capabilities.

  • Completed 56955 builds in the first 11 months of using GitLab

10x
Daily deployments for already-modernized applications
From 4 to 15
Services pushed per release
178
builds per day

the customer

Inspiring employees and helping customers

BI Worldwide is using GitLab and a new microservice architecture to improve from monthly releases to dozens of deployments a day. The company is running automated builds, scans and tests in GitLab’s pipelines. BI Worldwide is also leveraging pipelines to automate the building, scanning, and deployment of its monolithic applications. The company is introducing best practices for security and deployment consistency across microservices and monolith deployments to improve their daily operations in addition to improving release cycles.

BI Worldwide’s mission is to turn inspiration into results for customers. They achieve this by inspiring employees, running custom sales incentives, building channel loyalty and engaging customers with their real-world events and solutions as well as their software platforms.

the challenge

Updating legacy systems and moving to multi-tenant configuration

The BI Worldwide Corporate Product Development Team (CPD) was dealing with a large legacy codebase that was created years ago. They were looking to eliminate (or at least significantly reduce) manual testing and manual deployments to their on-premise infrastructure. They had maintenance backlogs, inefficiencies, and cross-organization visibility issues. The goal was to achieve operational efficiency by removing toolchain complexity.

The company was also trying to update the previous architecture of a single-tenant code-change-driven solution and upgrade to a multi-tenant configuration-driven solution. The legacy application installation pattern was to install from a fork that could (and would) be tweaked to a customer’s needs before deploying to the VMs. This pattern provided flexibility for customers but was inefficient and was time-consuming to maintain and upgrade.

“It was entirely time-consuming to apply all of those code changes,” said Adam Dehnel, product architect, BI Worldwide. “As a result, we didn’t release as frequently because the application of a new release to those disparate installations was quite a process. That would cause us to try to get ‘all the features’ into each release which would then slow the process down more.”

the solution

Increasing development speed

The Corporate Product Development Team considered Git source code management while using CVS in 2014. At that time they achieved 9-month release cycles with another few months for the code to be distributed to the customer installations for the upgrade. This tempo impacted their pace of delivering to market and ability to respond to customer requests.

To help combat this pattern, the product architecture team was given the directive to rethink processes - essentially update and modernize everything. They had practices and tools in place at the time but were spending time on items that weren’t business differentiating features. They faced classic issues surrounding a lack of cross-team communication including inefficient mechanisms for intra-organization workflows and individualized toolsets.

One of the early moves to help solve these challenges was to migrate from CVS to Git for source control management. They experienced a self-described “painful transition to Git” because of the modernization efforts this move required. Once the initial move to GitHub was complete BI Worldwide began looking to automate the build, test and deployment process. As the first implementation of this, the team built a chain of tools with GitHub talking to Jenkins and then Checkmarx + WebInspect plus JIRA and Confluence for the setup to manage the full lifecycle microservices. While these tools were heading in the right direction, the organization was still facing challenges with toolchain complexity and experienced lost bug reports, constant context shifting and tool differences throughout the organization.

the results

Improving efficiency by moving to a single tool

The CPD team evaluated GitLab’s capabilities against their current toolset and against the competition and selected GitLab to help them achieve their next iteration. The group started looking at what tools they could remove to simplify their toolchain. The migration from their previous Git tools to GitLab was painless and they saw an immediate improvement of collaboration and release pace as a result of their move to GitLab.

The development, QA, UX and DevOps teams within CPD at BI Worldwide have been using GitLab since 2017. In June 2018, additional development groups started to move over to be able to easily track all features, stories, requirements and use cases in GitLab Issues. The next goal is to include ongoing bug tracking and expand GitLab to several new internal teams that will use it as a collaboration hub for future feature development requests and discussions.

“GitLab is currently running on a Rancher cluster and we’re using AWS Aurora Postgres + Elasticsearch to run it. And then we just recently migrated from a (different) Rancher cluster for our microservices to Amazon EKS and are also pushing our web applications to CloudFront,” Dehnel explains. “All of this deployment is running from GL pipelines. We are solidly in a good CI workflow with some applications in Continuous Delivery. Heading into 2020 we’re starting to push towards Continuous Deployment for all microservices and microexperiences. We hope to leverage some of the GitLab Kubernetes integrations and enhancements to make this transition less work and more consistent.”

The company recently started using GitLab Pipelines to scan (SAST + Dependency initially, but they plan on using DAST capabilities soon) and deploy legacy monolith installations for anyone that is running their install in AWS.  Between this setup and the microservices running in GitLab pipelines the first four days of SAST/Dependency scanning the team performed over 300 scans. This scanning helped the team identify previously unidentified vulnerabilities and allowed them to rectify the situation going forward. GitLab’s pipelines allow everyone to use the same tooling for application scanning and deployment regardless of whether it is legacy or modernized.

While Dehnel admits that they are still using some classic methods, they now have teams that experience releases almost daily– down from the original pre-Git pace of a release every 9-12 months. BI Worldwide is using GitLab pipelines to deploy the legacy monolith to AWS.  Within those pipelines, they are performing automated infrastructure provisioning, infrastructure as code, automated security tests, and application deployments.

The ultimate win for the company is that the corporate product development team is all working in the same place. The operations infrastructure team is now working from the same platform and using the same product for their software development lifecycle. The team is pushing all of their automation tools to the same place instead of working around a daisy chain of tools anymore.

“One tool for SCM+CI/CD was a big initial win. Now wrapping security scans into that tool as well has already increased our visibility into security vulnerabilities. The integrated Docker registry has also been very helpful for us. Issue/Product management features let everyone operate in the same space regardless of role.”
Adam Dehnel 
product architect, BI Worldwide

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