Expediting New Product Deployments with Agile Operations and DevOps (2020)

By Andrew Frederick, Comcast

Deployment Engineering in the cable sector is where the rubber meets the road. These groups are responsible for taking products from the prototype stage to a scaled solution across the entire enterprise.

Deployment Engineering is an in-house specialty that creates the cloud resource experience and delivers that to the local headend. An idea begins much like how a single raindrop falls thousands of miles upstream, then gathers and runs to the ocean. This is a useful analogy for the lifecycle of a product, too.

By the time it reaches the ocean – in this analogy, our customers -- it reshapes the environments that it passes through. Cable products can be based on web applications, but when dealing with real time video or streaming video, it becomes impractical to distribute content centrally, and must be decentralized in order to maximize efficiency. One can simply look to the Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) that the industry’s Multiple Systems Operators (MSOs) have spent billions of dollars building to move video to the edge as evidence of this truth.

Deployment Engineering holds the unique perspective of being at the nexus of product creation and customer integration. Over the years, the methodologies change (waterfall, agile, lean, scrum, Kanban, CI/CD, etc.) to embrace new ways of tackling problem spaces, and offer meaningful ways of reinventing the wheel. Such methodologies will continue to change and evolve with time – however, the problem space of deploying products at an enterprise scale has a core foundation of challenges that are common to nearly all products. Therefore, it becomes more critical for engineering leads, architects, and executives alike to understand the environment and problem spaces than it is to be masterful of any given tool used on the same old problem. Whenever shifts occur to adopt the latest methodology, as an industry, we put our momentum at risk and can be prone to recreating and reliving the same mistakes. We sacrifice the valuable experiences and lessons learned to move to a new methodology, and in doing so tend to be more focused with how we’re operating in the new system rather than staying focused on the big picture. This paper aims to reinforce the common elements within new products and deemphasize the tools used to build them. In other words, technique matters more than the actual tools used to build something.

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