Unum Group Architect Charts a DevOps Course to a Hybrid
Transcript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how Unum Group has beneﬁtted from a better process
around application development and deployment using HP tools.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: HP
Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the HP Discover Performance
Podcast Series. I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions,
your moderator for this ongoing discussion of IT innovation and how it’s
making an impact on people’s lives.
Once again, we're focusing on how IT leaders are improving their services'
performance to deliver better experiences and payoffs for businesses and end
users alike, and this time we're coming to you directly from the HP Discover
2013 Conference in Las Vegas. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BrieﬁngsDirect podcasts.]
Our next innovation case study interview highlights how employee beneﬁts provider Unum
Group has been building a DevOps continuum and is exploring the beneﬁts of a better process
around applications development and deployment. And we are going to learn more about how
they've been using certain tools and approaches to improve their applications delivery.
So join me in thanking our guests for being here. We actually have a panel today. We're joined by
Tim Durgan. He is an Enterprise Application Architect at Unum Group. Welcome, Tim.
Tim Durgan: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: We're also here with Petri Maanonen. He is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for
Application Performance Management at HP Software. Welcome, Petri.
Petri Maanonen: Hello, Dana.
Gardner: Let's talk a little bit about what's important for your company. You're a large insurer.
You're in the Fortune 500. You're one of the largest employee beneﬁts providers in the U.S. and
you have a big presence in the UK as well. What are some of the imperatives that have driven
you to try to improve upon your applications delivery?
Durgan: Even though, as you said, we're one of the largest employee beneﬁts providers in the
United States, we began to realize that there were smaller companies starting to chip away in
segments of the market.
It became imperative to deliver products more rapidly to the market, because delivery was a
multi-year effort, which was unacceptable. If it took that long from concept to delivery, there
would be a completely new market dynamic at play.
We started to look at application architectures like service-oriented architecture (SOA) to deliver
agility, process automation, and rules automation, all very mainstream approaches. We
discovered pretty quickly that to use those approaches effectively you needed to have a level of
We had an SOA governance initiative that I led and we brought in technology from HP to aid
us with that. It was the Business Service Management (BSM) suite of tools, the
Systinet Repository, and some partner products from HP.
What we discovered very quickly is that in enterprise architecture, where I am
from in the company, bringing in an operational tool like monitoring was not
hailed as, "Thanks for helping us." There was this organizational push back and
some of that. It became very clear to me early on that we were operating in
silos. Delivery was doing their efforts, and we would throw it over the wall to
QA. QA would do their job, and then we would ultimately move it out to a production
environment and operational aspects would take over.
It really dawned on me early on that we had to try to challenge the status quo around the
organization. That's what started to get me focused on this DevOps idea, and HP has a number of
products that are really allowing that philosophy to become a reality.
Gardner: Tell me what you think that philosophy is. Does it differ from perspective and position
within organizations as an enterprise architect, sort of a über role over some of these groups?
How do you deﬁne DevOps?
Durgan: I have a couple of principles that I use when I talk about DevOps, and I try to use titles
for these principles that are a little disruptive, so people pay attention.
For instance, I'll say "eliminate the monkeys," which essentially means you need to try to
automate as much as possible. In many companies, their development process is ﬁlled with
committees of people making decisions on criteria that are objective. Machines are very good at
objective criteria. Let's save the humans for subjective things.
That's what I talk about when we say eliminate the monkeys, get people out of the middle. It's
really interesting, because as an architect, I recognize the automation of business process. But
somehow I missed the fact that we need to automate the IT process, which in a lot of ways, is
what DevOps is about.
Another principle is "fail fast." If you're going to deliver software fast, you need to be able to fail
fast. As an example that I presented here at the conference last year -- which I knew
most of the HP people loved -- was Palm. I'm sure they wished they had failed
faster, because that was a pretty painful lesson, and a lot of companies struggle with
Unum does. We want to put a product out quickly, but if it's going to fail, we would
love to know it's going to fail very quickly, not make millions of dollars in investments.
Another one is visibility throughout. I will say monitoring is a team sport. In a lot of companies,
there are 50 or 60 monitoring tools. Each team has a monitoring tool. You have to have a secret
decoder ring to use each monitoring tool.
While diversity is normally a great thing, it isn't when it comes to monitoring. You can't have the
ops guy looking at data that's different from what the developer is looking at. That means you're
completely hopeless when it comes to resolving issues.
My last one is "Kumbaya." A lot of IT organizations act competitively. Somehow
infrastructure believes they can be successful without development and without QA and vice
versa. Business sees only IT, we are a complete team and we have to work collaboratively to
So those are really the ways I think about DevOps at the company.
Gardner: Petri, when you hear words like "process automation for IT" and a common view of
the data across IT groups, it must be music to your ears?
Maanonen: Oh, sure. And the team has been very accurately capturing the essence of how
DevOps needs to be supported as a function and of course shared among different kinds of teams
If you look at HP, we've been supporting these various teams for 15 years, whether
it has been testing a performance of an application or monitoring from the end-
user perspective and so forth. So we've been observing from our customers -- and
Unum is a brilliant example of that -- them growing and developing their kind of
internal collaboration to support these DevOps processes. Obviously the
technology is a good supporting factor in that.
Tim was mentioning the continuous delivery type of demands from the business. We have been
trying to step up, not only by developing the technology, but actually bringing very quickly
supportive software-as-a-service (SaaS) types of offerings, Agile Manager and Performance
Anywhere for example. Then, customers can quickly adopt the supporting technology and get
this collaboration and a DevOps cycle, the continuous improvement cycle, going.
Gardner: Now, of course, this isn't just a technology discussion. When you said Kumbaya,
obviously this is about getting people to see the vision, buy into the vision, and then act on the
vision. So tell me a little bit more, Tim, about the politics of DevOps?
Durgan: So you are going to ask me politics for this public interview. At Unum there is none,
ﬁrst of all, but I hear there is at other companies. I think the problem that a lot of companies
have, and Unum as well, is that unfortunately we all have individual expectations and
performance. We all have a performance review at the end of the year and we have things that we
need to do. So it is, as you mentioned, getting everybody to buy into that holistic vision, and
having these groups all sign up for the DevOps vision.
We've had good success in the conversation so far at Unum. I know we've talked to our Chief
Technology Ofﬁcer, and he's very supportive of this. But because we're still on the journey, we
want data, metrics, and some evidence to support the philosophy. I think we're making some
progress in the political space, but it's still a challenge.
I'm part of the BSM CAB (Customer Advisory Board), and in that group is, they talk about these
other different small monitoring products trying to chip away at HP's market. The product
managers, will ask, "Why is that? And I say that part of the problem is BSM is pitching
The assumption is that a lot of organizations sign on to the enterprise monitoring vision. A lot of
them don't, because the infrastructure team cares about the server, the application team cares
about the app, and the networking team cares about the network. In a lot of ways, that's the same
challenge you have in DevOps.
Requests for visibility
But I hear a lot of requests from the infrastructure and application teams for that visibility into
each other's jobs, into their spaces, and that's what DevOps is pitching. DevOps is saying, "We
want to give you visibility, engineer, so that you can understand what this application needs, and
we want to give you visibility, developer, into what's happening in the server environment so you
can partner better there."
There is a good grassroots movement on this in a lot of ways, more than a top-down. If you talk
about politics, I think in a lot of cases it has to be this “Occupy IT” movement.
Gardner: I suppose one of the biggest motivators is results, and Petri, looking both at Unum and
other users of some of your products, what are some of the paybacks that are tangible and
identiﬁable when DevOps is done properly, when that data is shared and there is a common view,
and the automation processes gets underway?
Maanonen: What we hear from our customers, and obviously Unum is no exception to that, is
that they're able to measure the return on investment (ROI) from the number of downtime hours
or increased productivity or revenue, just avoiding the old application hicccups that might have
been happening without this a collaborative approach.
Also, there's the reduction of the mean time to resolve the issues, which they see in production
and, with more supportive data than before, provide the ﬁx through their development and testing
cycles. That's happening much faster than in the past.
Where it might have been taking days or weeks to get some bugs in the application ﬁxed, this
might be happening in hours now because of this collaborative process.
Gardner: Tim, what about some of the initiatives that you're bound to be facing in the future,
perhaps more mobile apps, smaller apps, the whole mobile-ﬁrst mentality, and then more cloud
options for you to deploy your apps differently, depending on what the economics and the
performance and other requirements dictate. Does DevOps put you in a better position vis-à-vis
what we all seem to see coming down the pike?
Durgan: It is, if you think about movement to the cloud, which Unum is very much looking at
now. We're evaluating a cloud-ﬁrst strategy. My accountability is writing this strategy.
And you start to think about, "I'm going to take this application and run it on a data center I don’t
own anymore. So the need for visibility, transparency, and collaboration is even greater."
It’s a philosophy that enables all of the new emerging needs, whether it’s mobile, cloud, APIs,
edge of the enterprise, all those types of phenomena. One of the other major things we didn’t
touch on it earlier that I would contend is a hurdle for organizations is, if you think about
DevOps and that visibility, data is great, but if you don’t have any idea of expectations, it’s just
What about service-level management (SLM) and ITIL process, processes that predated ITIL,
just this idea of what are the expectations, performance, availability, what have you for any
aspect of the IT infrastructure or applications? If you don’t have a mature process there, it’s
really hard for you to make any tangible progress in a DevOps space, an ALM space, or any of
those things. That’s an organizational obstacle as well.
Make it real
One of the things we're doing at Unum is we're trying to establish SLAs beginning in dev, and
that’s where we take fail fast to make it real. When I come to the conference and presented it, I
had a lot of people look surprised. So I think it's radical.
If I can’t meet that SLA in dev, there's no way I am going to magically meet it in production
without some kind of change. And so that’s a great enhancement. At ﬁrst people say, that’s an
awful lot of burden, but I try to say, "Look, I'm giving you, developer, an opportunity to fail and
resolve your problem Monday through Friday, versus it goes to production, you fail, and you're
here on the weekends, working around the clock."
That, to me is just one of those very simple things that is at the heart of a DevOps philosophy, a
fail fast philosophy, and a big part of that development cycle. A lot of the DevOps tooling space
right now is focused on some ALM on the front end, Agile Manager, and deployment.
Well, those are great, but as an application architect, I care about design and development. I think
HP is well-positioned to do some great things with BSM, which has all that SLA data, and
integrate that with things like the Repository, which has great lifecycle management. You start
having these enforcement points and you say, "This code isn't moving unless it meets an SLA."
That decision is made by the tool, objective criteria, decided by the system. There's no need to
have a human involved. It's a great opportunity for HP to really do some cutting-edge and
Maanonen: We see that the cloud and mobile, as you mentioned, Dana, are coming into play and
are increasing the velocity of the applications and services being provisioned out to the end
users. We see that this bigger and larger focus, looking from the end user perspective of receiving
the service, whether it’s a mobile or a cloud service, is something that we've been doing through
our technology as a unifying factor.
It's very important when you want to break the silos. If the teams are adopting this end-user
perspective, focusing on the end user experience improvement in each step of the development,
testing, and monitoring, this is actually giving a common language for the teams and enhancing
the chances of improved collaboration in the organization.
Durgan: That's a really good point. You start to hear this phrase now, the borderless enterprise,
and it’s so true. Whether it’s mobile, cloud, or providing APIs to your customers, brokers, or
third parties, that's the world we now live in. So we need to increase that quality and that speed
to market. It’s no longer nice to have; You've got to deliver on that stuff.
If you don’t adopt DevOps principles and do some of these things around failing fast and
providing holistic visibility and shared data, I just don't see how you change the game, how you
move from your quarterly release cycle to a monthly, weekly, or daily release cycle. I don’t see
how you do it.
Gardner: It’s interesting here at HP Discover. We're hearing a lot about HAVEn, a platform
that’s inclusive of many data and information types, with scale and speed and provision.
We're also hearing about Converged Cloud, an opportunity to play that hybrid continuum in the
best way for your organization. And we heard some interesting things about HP Anywhere, going
mobile, and enabling those endpoints at an agnostic level.
But after all, it’s still about the applications. If you don't have good apps and have a good process
and methodology for delivering those apps, all those other beneﬁts perhaps don't pay back in the
way they should.
So what’s interesting to me is that HP may be unique in that it has a very strong presence in the
applications test, dev, deployment, fostering Agile, and fostering DevOps that the other
competitors that are presenting options for mobile or for cloud don't have. So that’s a roundabout
way of saying how essential it is to make people like Tim happy to the future of HP?
Maanonen: Absolutely. Tim has been pointing out that they're coming from a traditional IT
environment and they're moving to the cloud now very fast. So you can see the breadth of the
HP portfolio. Whatever technology area you're looking at, we should be pretty well-equipped to
support companies and customers like Unum and others in different phases of their journey and
the maturity curve when they move into cloud, mobile, and so forth. We're very keen to leverage
and share those experiences we have here over the years with different customers.
Yesterday, there were customer roundtable events and customer advisory boards, where we're
trying to make the customers share their experiences and best practices on what they've learned
here. Hopefully, this podcast is giving an avenue to the other customers to hear what they should
But the portfolio breadth is one of the strengths for HP, and we're trying to stay competitive in
each area. So I am happy that you have been observing that in the conference.
Gardner: Last word to you Tim. What would you like to see differently, not necessarily just
from a product perspective, but in terms of helping you cross the chasm from a siloed
development organization and a siloed data center and production organization? What do you
need to be able to improve on this DevOps challenge?
Durgan: The biggest thing HP can do for us is to continue to invest in those integrations of that
portfolio, because you're right, they absolutely have great breadth of the offerings.
But I think the challenge for HP, with a company the size they are, is that they can have their
own silos. You can talk to the Systinet team and talk to the BSM team and say, "Am I talking to
the same company still?" So I think making that integration turnkey, like the integrations we're
trying to achieve, is using their SOA Repository, their Systinet product as the heart of an SOA
We're integrating with Quality Center to have defects visible in the repository, so we can make an
automated decision that this code moves because it has a reasonable number of defects. Zero is
what we'd like to say, but let's be honest here, sometimes you have to let one go, if it’s minor.
Very minor for any Unum people reading this.
Then, we are integrating with BSM, because we want that SLA data and that SLM data, and we
are integrating with some of their partner products.
There’s great opportunity there. If that integration can be a smoother thing, an easier thing, a
turnkey type operation, that makes the portfolio, that breadth something that you can actually use
to get signiﬁcant traction in the DevOps space.
Gardner: Well, great. I'm afraid we will have to leave it there. We've been learning about how
Unum Group has been working towards a DevOps beneﬁt and how they've been using HP
products to do so.
So join me in thanking our guests: Tim Durgan, the Enterprise Application Architect at Unum
Group. Thank you, Tim.
Durgan: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: And also Petri Maanonen. He is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for
Application Performance Management at HP Software. Thank you, Petri.
Maanonen: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: And I'd like to thank our audience as well for joining us for this special HP Discover
Performance Podcast coming to you from the HP Discover 2013 Conference in Las Vegas.
I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of
HP sponsored discussions. Thanks again for joining, and come back next time.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: HP
Transcript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how Unum Group has beneﬁtted from a better process
around application development and deployment using HP tools. Copyright Interarbor Solutions,
LLC, 2005-2013. All rights reserved.
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