Monday, November 30, 2009

The Art of Release

As customers expect modifications to services to be made more and more quickly, the ability to actually make these modifications successfully becomes more and more crucial. Now, a lot of processes and capabilities need to be in place for this to happen, but it is in Release Management that the actual update to the live environment happens. Therefore, Release Management is a member of that special clique of processes that actually have a direct contact with the customer.

Release Management is thought of in many organizations as scheduling and simply making the update in the live environment. However, this is more of a departmental oriented organization’s view of the process. In a process oriented organization, the Release Management process covers the tasks of building, testing and releasing to the live environment. These tasks are carried out using resources and staff from functions (departments) like Development, QA etc. Release Management interfaces significantly with the Change and Configuration Management processes in order to communicate the change information back and forth as needed. The Release Management process also takes ownership of a central location of storage of the master software and hardware spares. This is formally known as the Definitive Software Library (DSL) and the Definitive Hardware Store. The DSL need not be a physical location but could be a database where final builds are stored. This should not be confused with a day-to-day version control tool. The DSL is an important way of ensuring that the latest builds are kept separate and there are no confusions during release implementation. Licenses are also stored in the DSL making it a useful tool in maintaining legal compliance and identifying and locating unused licenses which are a complete waste to the organization.

Details of the Release Management process are freely available on the net. My goal here is to highlight its usefulness and benefits. The benefits include:

  • fewer disruptions in the live environment due to changes

  • standardization of hardware and software versions

  • better management of risks involved in releases including the implementation of a rollback plan

  • legal compliance with licensing

  • better utilization of licenses

It is, therefore, in the organization’s best interest that Release Management is taken as seriously as possible and steps taken to implement it systematically and rigorously. In today’s competitive world, every little bit makes a difference.

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