Welcome!

Blog Feed Post

Interview: Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment at GrabCAD

Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment at GrabCAD

After our Continuous Deployment Meetup last May in Boston we talked a lot with Amos Benninga from GrabCAD about Development Workflows and the internal processes at his company. We were especially interested in how GrabCAD grew over time, how they practice Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment and which technologies they use to cope with the daily challenges a fast growing company like his is facing.

We have been in touch ever since and a lot of valuable information has been accumulated throughout our ongoing conversations. Amos and us felt it would be a good thing to summarize our talks and publish them as an interview on the Codeship blog.


Name: Amos Beninga
From: Israel, came to Boston 2002 for a startup.
Working for: GrabCAD – Grab is revolutionizing the CAD industry.
Why I started at GrabCAD: The business opportunity and technology was perfect for me
Previously worked for: BladeLogic, Akiban, Ekotrope

Programming Languages used at GrabCAD: Ruby, Java, Scala, Python, JavaScript
Frameworks used at GrabCAD: Rails, AngularJS, various libraries
Cloud Services used at GrabCAD: Amazon


What is the definition of Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment for you and the company?

Continuous Integration is testing your code all the time and keeping software quality high. It gives you the confidence to get stuff out as quickly and often as possible

Continuous Deployment is basically getting code into production. Things should be easy and repeatable. That’s where Continuous Deployment comes into play. Deployment should not be manual.

When did you use Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment for the first time?

At my previous company BladeLogic. We automated the whole IT of our customers. Test automation is important. I don’t want to repeat many processes manually. It is definitely worth automating a lot of things. Things that would take long manually are very fast when automated so you should automate a lot. As a developer I want to be “lazy”.

Was Continuous Deployment planned and used from the beginning at GrabCAD?

In the beginning we used Engine Yard for deployment. Over time we used more Scala and Java in our features. This was not supported as well as needed so we moved to AWS and put more emphasis on automation throughout the infrastructure.

We have about 30 production servers in place right now. You commit your code and if it passes all the tests it will make its way into production through our automated system.

Could you explain your workflow? What’s your sprint length, ticketing?

We do Scrum with 1 week sprints. We do our sprint planning at the beginning of the sprint (which does not have to be aligned with the beginning of the week). Then the team starts to work on the features which have been agreed upon. Every feature that is done gets into production. The feature teams decide on their own how much needs to be tested for that feature. Sometimes we push to a staging environment.

When a feature is ready you merge to master and then go to Jenkins and push the “OK DEPLOY” button. We release a couple of times a day.

After the week we do a sprint review.

How do you do release planning?

Once a quarter we do release planning. The first week or two of the quarter is for planning the quarter and then we have about 8 to 9 weeks we can work on the features.

For the initial backlog we do rough estimations. We calculate in points. We look at points and see: “This team has about 600 points left and we know how much the team can still do.”

Who defines the goals?

Goals come from the company level. The goals then get split up into tasks and features. We try to split them up in as small pieces as possible so we can get them into the sprints efficiently. We also do a semi-detailed breakdown with the aforementioned points (e.g. 200 points for this feature)

Which metrics are you using to determine the work within your teams?

It’s not easy to define meaningful metrics for the engineering teams. Take this example:

A feature is ready and live. But then the marketing promotes it and everything else kicks in later. You can validate the result of the feature only later on. The engineering team’s goal is to deliver the feature.

Our KPIs for engineering are

  • velocity (scrum points),
  • number of deployments to production per week and
  • number of regressions per feature/developer.

This gives us confidence in Continuous Deployment.

The sales team’s metrics include

  • sales,
  • virality,
  • engagement and others

Your team works in three locations. How does that work for you?

The development teams are pretty evenly spread throughout three countries. Having everyone in one place has less overhead in communication but due to circumstances we had to have three locations. However, having small teams has a lot of advantages and can compensate for geographical gaps. For example you can easily see where something went wrong and take quick action against any mishappenings.

What’s the team-composition at the different locations?

We have teams in Estonia, the UK and in the USA. We moved away from very functional teams in different locations to cross-functional teams in all locations.

We do have specialized teams owning different sections of the product though. If everyone owns everything, no-one owns nothing.

We do shift our teams every so-often to keep them fresh or when we have a new project and see that a specific person is perfect for that task.

How did the team grow over the times?

The core of the company started in Estonia and the CEO moved to Boston. Our biggest market is in the USA. Today we have the headquarters, the product management teams and the sales teams in the USA.

We were also able to land two key CAD experts in the UK which triggered opening the third location.

What do you use for product management?

We now use JIRA and GreenHopper. Originally we used AgileZen.

When do new developers get productive in a new team?

They can commit to the work within the first week.

What do you think will get you more productive in the future?

We want to make the staging and Continuous Deployment and Testing environment better. These things are massively important for development productivity. We are putting a lot of effort into it in this quarter.

We are also thinking about changing to different languages. In Rails some performance and maintenance tasks are not as we like them to be. We may change some things to Scala or Java to get better performance.

Which strategies do you use to test or measure the performance of your application? Think load testing vs. monitoring.

Currently we don’t do a lot of load testing. We might do it in the future. We use New Relic and our own monitoring. The GrabCAD website grew organically. We have a regular growth pattern now and its quite easy to estimate what’s going to happen in the near future.

How do you grow and scale your application?

We are on and want to stay with cloud providers. Cloud services are totally worth it. Think about IT people, servers, cooling systems and many more. There are a lot of hidden costs you save when you use cloud services.

Have you built your own management tools on top of Amazon or do you use a lot of Amazon providers?

We have some basic scripts. We are using Chef. Amazon instances provide a Chef client. It’s really easy to create the machines and it’s secure.

Getting something like this in place is work intensive and you have to figure out if it’s worth your time in the early days. We planned a lot of overhead to use Chef and built this setup.

We pay far less for our servers than for our office and salaries, so it’s not an issue. If we want to cut costs we just have to improve our code base.


Thanks

We want to thank Amos and GrabCAD for making this interview available to everyone. What are your thoughts on the processes and workflows at GrabCAD? How do you plan your tasks and which technologies are you using?

Let us know in the comments!

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Manuel Weiss

I am the cofounder of Codeship – a hosted Continuous Integration and Deployment platform for web applications. On the Codeship blog we love to write about Software Testing, Continuos Integration and Deployment. Also check out our weekly screencast series 'Testing Tuesday'!

Latest Stories
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Conference Guru has been named “Media Sponsor” of the 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. A valuable conference experience generates new contacts, sales leads, potential strategic partners and potential investors; helps gather competitive intelligence and even provides inspiration for new products and services. Conference Guru works with conference organizers to pass great deals to gre...
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develop...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
Companies are harnessing data in ways we once associated with science fiction. Analysts have access to a plethora of visualization and reporting tools, but considering the vast amount of data businesses collect and limitations of CPUs, end users are forced to design their structures and systems with limitations. Until now. As the cloud toolkit to analyze data has evolved, GPUs have stepped in to massively parallel SQL, visualization and machine learning.
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...