How GitLab became the cornerstone of digital enablement for Sopra Steria
In the midst of a digital transformation, Sopra Steria adopted GitLab as its DevOps platform of choice
Sopra Steria's digital transformation uses GitLab for operational efficiency, built-in security, and cloud-ready DevOps.
A distinguished IT services group
Sopra Steria is a European leader in consulting, digital services, and software development. With more than 50 years of experience, Sopra Steria provides IT integration and solutions, consulting services, application implementations, technical support, and various outsourcing operations for users and applications. Their broad customer base includes leading companies from aerospace, government, financial services, retail, transportation, utilities, and insurance sectors.
Steadily evolving with Git
Sopra Steria has had several years of success using Apache Subversion (SVN) and had experienced no standout problems with the software workarounds that were in place. However, the development team felt that they needed to evolve and embrace more innovation in order to create a more progressive and robust roadmap, keeping up with competitive technologies.
In 2017, several team members were using Git independently for various projects and it became clear there was an internal need for a Git platform. “I guess the main challenge was to make sure that inside the organization we had a full-fledged Git platform that was suitable for DevOps and that all the projects would use it because we were beginning to see projects massively moving from SVN to Git as the software management system,” said Yves Nicolas, Group CTO Office, Sopra Steria. The goal was to evolve before any outstanding challenges took place and move to a consolidated, cloud-ready DevOps tool.
“It was really the fact that in the state of the software development we were in three years ago, with a group of 40,000 people, about half of them were committing code. We really wanted and we needed to have a proper unified accessibility for everybody in a Git managed software platform. That's what we wanted to achieve,” Nicolas said.
Operational efficiency, open source, and CI are priority
The team wanted a Git platform that was available to anybody in the group with credentials, using only their SSO from Sopra Steria. “It was the main requirement. The idea was that if you want to have access to one platform to share code and do some demo with usability, we want to test how it goes,” Nicolas said. “For that, it was more like testing. It was more demonstration and internal code. At the beginning, it was not necessarily for the code we provide to our customers or the code we develop for our customers.”
The teams did a comparison between Microsoft VSTS, GitHub, and GitLab. They quickly eliminated Microsoft VSTS because it was not possible to search code inside the environment. The ability to reuse code from one team to another was a necessity.
GitLab was chosen over GitHub for three main reasons. (In no particular order...) One reason was cost. “The entry point for GitLab enterprise was way below what GitHub was asking for GitHub enterprise at that time,” Nicolas said.
The second reason was that GitLab has an open source version of its code and several groups already had installed a GitLab open source instance and were managing their source code with that. “We had a very good knowledge about GitLab administration inside the group. We felt a little more comfortable with that. It was easier to find people who could help us in setting up the project,” Nicolas said.
The third reason was GitLab's built-in continuous integration orchestrator. “I thought it was a very, very clever idea to have that directly inside the platform to have a complete environment where you could actually fully build, in a continuous integrated way, the software we are managing,” Nicolas said.
Happy developers, automated services, built-in security
Sopra Steria began adopting GitLab in March of 2017 and by June there were about 1,000 users. Today, there are more than 9,000 team members connected. Developers are happy with this transition, which eased worry about potential turnover within the company. “One of our main challenges is keeping our best developers," said Nicolas. "We want to make sure they stay with a good environment. The fact that it was obvious that this was a good environment for them to stay and have good things to say was very well perceived by the business units, the people who are actually selling to our customers over vertical business units.”
Sopra Steria includes more than 40,000 people, so teams using GitLab vary from one extreme to the other. Some teams are very advanced in maturity around DevOps and software development. Teams working in the company's banking software edition group are using GitLab CI, working in microservices, using templates, and developing pipelines rapidly. Other teams have very little previous knowledge of Git and have only a small amount of continuous integration in their current projects. “What's interesting is that we have found that whatever the level of the team is at in the actual knowledge of these environments, GitLab is very user-friendly to use that,” Nicolas said.
The GitLab platform has helped to establish a digital transformation culture throughout Sopra Steria. “We have been able to have advanced teams work in advance and take full-fledged advantage of the GitLab CI, and then spread their knowledge so that all the teams, even the less advanced ones, which are kind of new to Git, migrating their projects from SVN to Git, can take advantage right now with the GitLab CI environments. It is really impressive,” Nicolas said.
GitLab's flexible hosting options allow Sopra Steria's large network to use a variety of cloud integrations, including Azure, AWS, and GCP. “This is kind of transparent. The way it clogs into the cloud environment is that from the GitLab instance and using the continuous integration and continuous deployment pipelines, we are deploying from GitLab to any kind of cloud at any kind of level,” Nicolas said.
Prior to GitLab, security checks were done manually, requiring time and effort. Security testing is now implemented in project templates and no longer needs manual effort for each and every test. “They don't have to worry anymore about how to set up a test -- this security test makes them use it. Sometimes they would've even skipped some tests.” Nicolas said. “Because it's easier for the user now, they have taken it for granted. It's no effort for the team, so that results in better quality software.”
Developers have gone from having to set up their own planning processes and services that they need to roll out within their software projects, to now having these steps already formatted for them. GitLab has simplified its overall workflow and improved collaboration between teams. According to Nicolas, “It is very often confirmed by the teams that using GitLab has significantly reduced the time they needed for both setup and managing the whole software build environment and the continuous integration chain. This reduction is probably the one that is the best thing to the bottom line.”
Sopra Steria and GitLab have had a successful working relationship for about three years. With GitLab's release updates, Sopra Steria continues to appreciate the unified platform. “It has been confirmed over the years with the inclusion of all the DevOps related features that GitLab is a unique platform for every DevOps tool in some way,” said Nicolas.
All information and persons involved in case study are accurate at the time of publication.