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The ReleaseTEAM Blog: Here's what you need to know...

Optimizing Your DevOps Toolchain: evaluating specialized tools and consolidated suites

Whether you’re just getting started in your DevOps practice, or you have a mature culture, it’s time to evaluate your tool choices. As DevOps matures, more tool vendors are coming onto the market, while several existing vendors are merging and consolidating to offer an integrated tool suite. How can organizations weigh the benefits of each approach?

Specialized Tools

For companies just starting their DevOps journey, selecting one or two specialized tools to tackle a specific roadblock in the value stream can be a cost-effective springboard for DevOps adoption. These tools often help developers, testers, or operations teams solve a particular challenge like code version control, automated testing, or automated deployment builds. Or instead of solving a technical issue, these tools might improve teamwork and organizational culture by easing communications between teams, sprint planning, or automating change approval workflows.

As the DevOps team identifies each new obstacle in the value stream, they might try to solve it through extending their current set of tools, adding new specialized tools, or attempting a DIY approach. Because these tools are selected independently, they are unaware of each other and have weak or nonexistent integrations.

Over time, managing the different tools and how they work together can create a new set of barriers to fast, quality software releases.

Integrated tool suites

On the other end of the spectrum, some tool vendors are focused on integrating tools for as many steps in the value stream as possible. In recent years, several vendors acquired other toolsets to expand their reach: CloudBees acquired Electric Cloud to extend its capabilities across CI/CD, Microsoft acquired GitHub, and CollabNet merged with XebiaLabs. Atlassian, makers of JIRA software, has acquired 13 companies since 2014, including Trello, AgileCraft, OpsGenie, and CodeBarrel.

By buying up tools with different strengths than their own, these powerhouses are betting they can tightly integrate a tool suite that helps DevOps team improve every process throughout the value chain. Integration isn’t immediate, and the companies they acquire may be using different development platforms. The advantage is that they’re focused on solving the integration links, which will reduce friction points between tool capabilities and streamline handoffs between teams.

A disadvantage with end-to-end tool suites is that they may develop broad capabilities but lose the depth to solve specific tasks really well.

What’s the Right Choice?

The right choice is going to depend on your DevOps maturity, your company size, your budget, and your projects. If you’re just getting started or you are performing a proof-of-concept, selecting a few tools that do a couple of tasks will probably be more cost-effective than choosing an end-to-end suite that does more than you need. If you’re a large enterprise that is working to standardize tools across multiple business units, reduce managing multiple vendors, or expect your DevOps practice to grow quickly, a comprehensive tool suite can simplify training and tool adoption.

Most organizations will fall in the middle, using generalized tools that work well together for most of the value stream and customizing an integration in one area to get the depth of capabilities to support their projects. Even mature DevOps teams should periodically evaluate their existing tools against the newcomers in the market to determine your next steps.

Choosing a partner like ReleaseTEAM, who has experience with many tool vendors and a foundation in integrating them for other customers, will help your company achieve success more quickly.

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