IHG’s Strategy for Delivering Change at Velocity with Chef Automate

Automation Drives Velocity

The world has changed, and with it so too has the way we do business. We now can manage nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives from our phones. Therefore, convenience has become the currency companies use to attract customers. To provide that convenience, every company now finds that it’s a software company. Meeting demand means being able to iterate and scale more rapidly than ever before.

Recently, we chatted with Mike Rich from IHG about their use of Chef. He told us that the key to his organization being able to deliver their applications with velocity is standardizing around automation. You can watch a recording of the interview below.

“…one of the requirements is that the applications have to be Chef’d… so that we can rapidly redeploy them… and rapidly scale.”

With Chef, the teams Mike serves are able to use the cookbooks at their disposal to rapidly spin up their applications, whether for internal development, or scaling out production. Because they standardize their configurations within Chef, they know they’ll get a consistently configured instance, whatever their needs might be. This lets them focus more on driving new innovations, and spend less time chasing down inconsistencies between environments.

Optimize Around Speed, Efficiency, and Risk

We use “velocity” as a metric specifically because it’s a measure not only of speed, but direction. If we’re able to increase the frequency with which we can deploy code, but need to roll back or patch half of those changes, we can find that we’re moving very quickly, but in circles. Increasing velocity means not only improving our speed, but doing so while improving efficiency and mitigating risk at the same time. For Mike, the results his team was able to achieve speak for themselves:

“We’ve pushed approximately 1.5 million individual changes over the past year and a half using Chef Automate, and we’ve had a total of 30 individual changes that had negative impact on production.”

Mike went on to point out that even those negative changes were all able to be reverted in short order. The efficiency wins achieved by standardizing around automation not only enabled this rapid development cycle — daily deliveries at present — but meant that the team at IHG had the tools to detect, correct, and automate through any new issues that might arise quickly and effectively.

Iterate, Innovate, Automate!

We can’t stress enough Mike’s advise for newcomers to automation.

“Just grow one grain of rice first, and then grow another… I think you’ll be surprised, after a year, how far along you’ve come.”

Modern environments are complex. Trying to solve for everything you manage right out of the gate is apt to leave even seasoned admins and developers intimidated. What’s wonderful about automating with Chef is that your successes are additive. Even if all you do is bootstrap a server, or run an InSpec profile, you’re collecting data from your estate that you can use to guide development. As you automate each component you manage, you no longer have to worry about how to configure it on new systems you deploy, and before you know it, you have the dexterity to deploy any system to any environment, be it premises, in the cloud, or even on a developer’s laptop!

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Author Nick Rycar

Nick is a Technical Product Marketing Manager working out of Chef HQ in Seattle. When he's not busy preparing product demos, he's torturing his colleagues with terrible puns and needlessly esoteric pop-culture trivia. Mostly he's just another confused New York transplant in the Pacific Northwest.