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It's time to focus on DevOps database release management

Databases tend to be the last thing companies think about when going down the DevOps path. But that oversight can be costly. Here's what you need to think about.

The number one threat to your digital transformation is your organization's database release management process. When we released once, maybe twice a year, having a human manually review database changes made sense. We wanted the world's fastest computer, the human brain, to review the changes. This required the database administrator (DBA) to also look at the current state of the database to understand the changes in context.

Prior to database change deployment, one might ask, "Is the new index going to create too many on a table? Do the columns in this foreign key already have indexes?"

Now, with the number of applications and releases increasing, digital transformation is threatened by an error-prone, tedious and slow process. Here are five reasons why CIOs should care about database release management.

Your company is a software company

As Marc Andreessen told us in 2011, "Software is eating the world." Since all companies will engage their customers through compelling applications, the companies with the best software will be the winners. The proven way to improve software is releasing early and often. However, if your organization is mired in old-fashioned manual change, your business will never reach its full potential as a software company. When you hear, "That's not the way it's done here," you need to immediately question why that is the case and help your team understand that old biases need to shape how the organization can reach its IT and business goals. It's time to break some glass.

Fix the database problem first

Time and time again, we hear technology leaders say they should have addressed the database release management problem before tackling the easy problem of application release automation. A herd can only move as fast as its slowest member. No matter how much money and time you invest in DevOps, it will be a wasted effort until you speed your database releases. We call that the "velocity gap," when the pace of application releases surpasses database releases. I like to think of it as putting wagon wheels on a Tesla. It just doesn't make sense to use old and new methods of software releases together.

Outperform the S&P 500 with DevOps

My favorite part of the 2014 State of DevOps report, sponsored by Puppet Labs and DORA, was how it showed high-performing DevOps organizations outperformed the S&P 500 over a three-year period. And this has remained true three years later. As detailed above, you must adopt a complete DevOps strategy and include database release management to fully realize your company's potential. DevOps companies are more nimble and competitive in the market. They skate to where the puck is going to be and can take advantage of opportunities faster.

Competitors are beating you

We're talking about piano recitals, little league games and date nights being missed because your team members are waiting on a database release.

A recent Datical survey found that the pace of database release management is the biggest roadblock to digital transformation. Ninety-one percent of DBAs surveyed stated that their current database release management process is slowing application releases. Your greenfield competitors do not have this problem. Also, your older existing competitors are just as aware of this problem as you are. With competition from startups trying to take away your high-margin businesses and older existing competitors fixing this issue, you cannot afford to delay.

Retain your employees and improve their skills

Our best and brightest DBAs with decades of experience are tired of working weekends and late nights. This directly impacts their quality of life, and not only is it unnecessary, but it also can be completely avoided. As the U.S. economy flirts with full employment for high-skilled workers, CIOs cannot afford to lose their best employees to competitors that offer better working environments. We're not talking about Aeron chairs and foosball tables; we're talking about piano recitals, Little League games and date nights being missed because your team members are waiting on a database release. Unless CIOs resolve the unrealistic work-life balance created by outdated manual database change processes, their employees will find another job where this isn't a problem.

This was last published in December 2017

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How is your organization tackling database release management in a DevOps environment?
In the DeployHub world, the database, infrastructure, binaries, routers, variables are all treated as part of the Application Package. It includes steps for rolling forward and rolling back database changes as well.  As the saying goes, parts is parts.