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A Lesson in History: Why Spinnaker is Revolutionary

A Lesson in History: Why Spinnaker is Revolutionary hero graphic

Nov 21, 2019 by DROdio

In 1900 there were only 4,192 passenger cars built, and they had to traverse mud and dirt roads. Last year, there were 70,000,000 built (a 16,000x increase), and there are over 250,000,000 cars driving on today’s roads.

As PBS reports in the Ken Burns Special, Horatio’s Drive:

“In the spring of 1903, on a whim and a fifty-dollar bet, Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson set off from San Francisco in a 20-horsepower Winton touring car hoping to become the first person to cross the United States in the new- fangled “horseless carriage.” At the time there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire country, all of them within city limits. There were no gas stations and virtually no road maps as we know them today. Most people doubted that the automobile had much of a future. Jackson’s trip would prove them wrong.”

The trip took him 63.5 days — that’s 1,524 hours. Today, it can be done in under 29 hours, a 52x decrease.

What enabled that 52x decrease in travel time?

On June 29, 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which  created a 41,000-mile “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways” to eliminate unsafe roads, inefficient routes, traffic jams and all of the other things that got in the way of “speedy, safe transcontinental travel.”

The magnitude of these changes is so large that it’s hard to imagine what life was like before them.

Spinnaker is doing the same thing for software delivery.

In our analogy, application teams are the drivers, and applications are the cars. The ability for a company to deliver value to its customers is dependent on the driver not having road rage (aka, happy developers), and the car being able to quickly get to its destination safely and without catastrophic accidents. Neither of these things is often true today. Teams are frustrated that their code sits on the shelf for weeks or months at a time, and companies have built brittle, pothole-strewn roads into production. What’s worse is that today’s applications (cars) don’t have quality built into them, so they are often breaking down on the side of the road. Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson would have recognized the current state of software delivery, because it looks a lot like his trip from San Francisco to New York did a century ago.

Spinnaker paves a highway to software delivery that all teams can use

As Andy explains in this interview I did with him, Spinnaker is an interstate that enables drivers to get their workloads into production with safety and speed, in a consistent way, across the entire organization. Spinnaker’s opinionation provides seatbelts (like canary deployments) that give drivers the psychological safety to drive faster with fewer catastrophic accidents. Spinnaker prioritizes guardrails over gates; roundabouts over stoplights, to provide a single paved road to production across all developers without slowing teams down — or worse, stopping them entirely. Instead of every team driving on their own rutted dirt road to production, each in different ways, all teams can use the same highway. And when a developer switches teams, s/he doesn’t have to also navigate a new road with different rules.

Roundabouts, not Stoplights. Context over Control.

As Armory’s CTO Isaac Mosquera described in his Spinnaker Summit keynote, Spinnaker also works on the concept of “context over control,” which means that at Netflix, application teams can go off-roading if they wish — no developer at Netflix is required to use Spinnaker — but if they go off the golden path to production, they are responsible for errors they create. Netflix allows drivers to go off-roading because sometimes they have very good reasons to do so, and since Netflix is a learning organization, that off-roading can help inform and improve the opinions of the paved road for everyone else. Iterate and improve the best-practices through learnings.

Armory enhances and reinforces these principles by creating a superhighway for Global 2,000 enterprises. Our Policy Engine and Pipelines as Code lets companies create HOV lanes for application developers, giving them special access to arrive at their destinations faster than the other drivers. Our Terraform and Vault integrations cut tunnels through mountains that would otherwise have to be navigated around, and provide a turbo boost to the cars driving on that superhighway.

Spinnaker provides a highway for companies looking to deliver software with more safety and velocity, and Armory upgrades that to a superhighway and turbochargers the cars. But don’t just take it from us. Serge Poueme from SAP just wrote a fantastic blog post titled “Pipeline Redemption: How Spinnaker is shaping delivery excellence at SAP.”

And my favorite quote from Serge’s post?

I can safely say that Spinnaker is contributing by pushing innovations faster to the cloud. Dare I say that we are on the highway to heaven? I think I can. Especially when considering where we are today: Spinnaker runs deployment pipelines for ten of our development teams.

Well said,  Serge.

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