System U is the fourth largest retail group in France, employing 63,000 staff across five supply centers and 1600 points of sale. In 2011, System U formed the GIE-IRIS group to manage their IT infrastructure, consisting of 400 staff across R&D, technical support, and operations, and managing two dedicated data centers in Western France. The Architecture Manager set a goal to accelerate application deployment time and reduce operational costs.
System U manages over 600 distinct applications, performing around 20,000 deployments per year across 2,000 logical servers—all running on IBM i applications written in-house that constitute 65% of the deployment workload.
Application deployment at System U was perceived as slow and high-risk. Most deployment processes were still manual, representing a significant cost for the group. Different tools and processes were used for IBM i, web, and client/server, creating a multitude of homegrown scripts that needed regular maintenance. Staff would work weekends to perform deployments and check results manually.
In addition, the Development and Operations departments are separated, with quite distinct tool sets used by each and formal hand-offs from Dev to Ops. A more collaborative “DevOps” organization is in the planning stages to achieve a continuous and end-to-end delivery pipeline across each development platform.
Vincent Le Guern, Software Architecture Manager at System U, launched a project to increase the level of automation in application deployment. “Our overriding requirement was to accelerate our deployments and reduce operational cost. We could only achieve this through automation. We also needed to simplify and get around the issues we were facing due to all the separate tools we used to deploy to different platforms”.
Le Guern’s team selected DROPS from ARCAD Software after an extended Proof of Concept. Le Guern explained their reasons: “We preferred DROPS because it was clearly way ahead in terms of support for IBM i, which is our core system. Also, with DROPS we could standardize on one single tool for deploying all of our technologies: Java, Oracle, DB2, and RPG. DROPS made deployment simple by masking all the complexity and technical detail so that operators no longer needed to know which technology was behind.”
DROPS is now the principal deployment solution used for applications at System U. Around 200 applications are already configured within DROPS. On the Linux side, System U uses GitHub for source code management, and Jenkins with Maven to orchestrate the build process and transfer binaries into an Artifactory release repository. Currently, DROPS drives the scheduling of deployments, collecting deliverables directly from Artifactory and automatically transferring to any of 900 target servers.
On the IBM i side, 70 target IBM i partitions are defined. DROPS collects an ARCAD version directly and deploys application artifacts to a target partition. ARCAD is used both for version control and for automating the build process on IBM i. However, DROPS can work with any tooling on IBM i, including Git and Jenkins.
Further, thanks to a tight collaboration with ARCAD R&D staff, the System U team was able to actively participate in the specification of certain DROPS features, which enhance the overall performance of the product in a multi-platform production environment.