Target Tackles Complex Automation Challenge: Microsoft Sharepoint

Our friends from Target gave a presentation today at ChefConf, cracking a complicated challenge by using Chef: automating Microsoft SharePoint.

“When I told people I was Cheffing SharePoint, the reactions I got were typically, ‘Oh… I’m sorry’,” said senior engineer Naomi Reeves. But with a team of twelve developers dealing with an unmanageable fleet of 162 manually-installed SharePoint development servers, she said her team had little trouble convincing management to greenlight the six-month-long initiative. Reeves, along with her colleague, principal engineer Ron Tatro, described how value-stream mapping showed that the lack of automation was resulting in an average of 214 days waiting time to do only 19.5 days of work for every major SharePoint change. In a post-automation world, this has been reduced to 14 days of waiting time for 2 days of work.


Now, instead of those 162 long-lived development boxes, Target’s SharePoint developers can spin up fully-automated, time-limited development servers in a private cloud, allowing them to get to work right away. The Target team has also been able to bring their 19 production SharePoint farms under Chef management.

Reeves and Tatro’s initiative has been so successful that they have moved onto general-purpose automation of other commercial off-the-shelf software like SAP. “Who manages SharePoint now? The developers do,” Reeves explained, saying that there is no longer a need for full-time SharePoint administration services now that developers have self-service.

Target plans to release their SharePoint cookbook soon at their GitHub site, so stay tuned for that and watch for the announcement.

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Julian Dunn

Julian is a former Chef employee