Standard Bank: Our DevOps Journey (part 1)

The beginning.

Welcome to the first of a series of blog posts that describe Standard Bank of South Africa‘s DevOps journey. This series describes how Standard Bank is transforming its delivery process to provide new features and services at velocity.

Standard Bank is the largest bank in Africa. As an established bank with a long history, it has a technology legacy that is the product of more than 40 years of development. It’s a large mainframe shop, and its overall platform environment is quite heterogeneous. For example, some of the platforms include Red Hat, SUSE, Solaris, and AIX. In the front end of the technology stack, there is, for example, Java and AngularJS, and it goes all the way to Cobol in the back end. The existing release and management processes worked, but were too slow.

It was clear to Standard Bank that, to remain relevant, there needed to be changes. Approximately 18 months ago, Dawie Olivier, who was then Chief Information Officer for the retail bank,responded by trying to accelerate service delivery. His ultimate goal was a deployment pipeline that could support continuous deployment. Of course, introducing continuous deployment into a large, established organization is challenging to say the least. Dawie and his team were able to implement continuous integration but then ran into roadblocks. The team found it difficult to get everything they wanted to build into the production environment.

Then, a year ago, Dawie became the Executive Head of Group Technology Build, with a far-reaching mandate that took in everything from solution architecture to integration all the way down to just before production. He and his team reached the point where they were building a complete release train but it took too long.

One problem was in provisioning the different environments, from the ones that ran on developer machines to the ones that ran in production. Each of these environments was provisioned and governed differently, so getting consistency was always difficult. Another problem was that getting a new virtual machine could take weeks.

It was time to start breaking down silos. A close partnership between Dev and Ops was essential if there was going to be any real improvement but it demanded a real change in the way work happened at Standard Bank. Dawie reached out to Mike Murphy, Head of Group Technology Operations, his counterpart in the world of release infrastructure. Together they thought about the problem of how to release services and applications quickly. This was where Standard Bank’s DevOps journey began.

After studying case histories and success stories, and reaching out to DevOps practitioners around the world, Dawie and Mike wanted to expand the conversation even more. In the spirit of DevOps, Mike and Dawie decided against a top-down approach. Instead of delivering a plan they expected others to follow, they decided to put people from Dev, from Ops and from the business side together in a room, connect the group with other smart people, and let them define the journey. Not surprisingly, they also brought Chef into the conversation.

Next: Planning the Journey.

Roberta Leibovitz

Former Chef Employee