XebiaLabs XL Deploy Review

This intelligent deployment tool can accelerate and scale deployment automation


What is our primary use case?

We help our customers in improving their business agility by leveraging DevOps frameworks in the best possible manner driven by a continuous improvement approach. On that mission, We use XLDeploy in order to drive deployment automation for our customers. One of the best things about it helps in simplifying and speeding up deployment. In most deployment automation solutions you build deployment scripts. Either you will write a lot of scripts, or you knit your deployment plans together.

In the case of working with XL Deploy, you are not going to write as many scripts. The process has more to do with understanding what you want and then it actually generates the deployment plan and the automation that is needed for the application deployment.

It's a highly scalable solution. It's a bit different from a lot of the other tools in the market. Other tools are more workflow-based and this is a model-based deployment automation engine. It works across all major application platforms, container platforms and cloud platforms. We find it to be a very good fit for what we need to accomplish and it's very easy to manage and to maintain it from an enterprise skill perspective, as well.

I think the model-based automation itself is a marked differentiator that sets this product apart from anything else on the market. Secondly, It is also agent-less which is what we prefer as compared to an agent-based approach which increases the maintainance overhead

These are two key contributing factors to describing our primary use case.

How has it helped my organization?

For our organization, the speed of deployment is paramount. The speed at which we can deploy is enhanced by automation with this product and has been much faster than anything else we experimented with.

If you ever write a lot of deployment scripts and playbooks, et cetera, and you have to maintain all of this it becomes a burden. In this case, we didn't have to do as much of that maintenance. First of all, as an example, say somebody writes a script and he leaves your company in a year's time. Then somebody else looks at that script and the guy who wrote it came at it from a certain perspective and it may not be easy to interpret. It works for some cases, but in other cases, it isn't quite right. You don't exactly know what cases it was written for or what other scripts it had to be used with. There's lost knowledge of the purpose of the script because the person who wrote it is gone.

Instead, with XL Deploy this is scalable because you define your deployment package using your favourite CI tools, and you point it to a logical application-centric environment to which it needs to deployed. The rest of how it needs to get deployed and based your specified deployment pattern like blue-green, canary etc, the deployment plan  is generated by XLDeploy and the application is deployed.

We don't really spend time building scripts and maintaining scripts as part of something someone has to remember any more. XL Deploy does that for us and the deployment knowledge does not get lost. So, you actually accelerate processes of deployment and automation is much faster than with other platforms.

We don't feel the learning curve for XL Deploy is very high. For the company, this means you don't necessarily need the same level of specialist skills for a successful deployment. It is much easier for people who are new to it to learn how to use it. That has become a big element for us pushing ahead, and it has made a serious impact on the way we apply scripts and deploy applications.

What is most valuable?

Ensuring our deployment techniques are no more people dependent and scalable automation are clearly the most important to us and our business needs.

Overall the key features from which we benefited are

1. Model based deployment automation and speed of deployment

2. Agentless

3. Visibility and Insights on the Deployment process

4. Self Service deployment for our teams

5. Ensuring compliance

What needs improvement?

Though the product is very good, I think the product can still be improved in a couple of ways. For example, there are new platforms that keep being developed. I think the developers of the product can speed up to support the new platforms as they are released. Having said that, they already have a plugin framework and the guidance provided on that ensures that we can build the plugins for new platforms.

We experienced a scenario where we had to use a certain platform for which XebiaLabs didn't have a plugin for specifically. But the plugin framework they provide actually guides us through a process so we can build the plugin and apply it easily. Because of this, my team could actually build a plugin for that platform without much difficulty. 

From that perspective, the product is extensible and that makes it easier. From an enterprise perspective, which rampant change and innovation inspiring our developers to explore new platforms based on business needs, it is very helpful that XLDeploy can be extended to support the new needs.

I think you find would find it to be the best of all the similar type of products that you've seen out there. 

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using this solution for two years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability of the product is very good. We haven't any issues with it.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I think scalability is one of the biggest factors that is a benefit of the product. What we accomplish is more-or-less independent of the people who can use the product. We don't have to pay for people with particular scripting skills. In fact, a lot of our people who got trained picked up using the product pretty quickly and they become functional using the platform without a big gap in time. Often people were ready to use it very well much earlier than what we thought it would be possible.

Some of them really picked it up the design of the product well. I have seen this in cases of people who are 60 plus years old — who have pretty much been doing something for the last 25 or 30 years in a particular way. When we introduced them to this platform, they've managed to pick it up and changed their style of doing things in a very short time. That tells us a lot about the product and its people-friendly from an adaptability perspective. When somebody has had habits of doing certain things in a certain way for so many years and they are able to adapt to this platform quickly, that makes the product very effective in speeding up velocity and scale across the enterprise.

We already have about 150 users on the solution and expect that will grow.

How are customer service and technical support?

I find that the technical support is very, very prompt. It is worldwide support and accessible 24/7. You raise an issue to support and they respond promptly with an answer of a fix. When we have approached technical support to this point, we've never had a problem with them in terms of how they responded.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

We have had experience in the past with many solutions and sometimes use them if required. 

So these tools played a part as components of a framework. Because customers have already made some choices we have to make integrations revolving around some of these tools that they chosen and invested in. It is our job to get things integrated into the value-stream and ensure that the visibility of the information and control from governance, audit and compliance perspective is simplified for our customers.

Previously we used Jenkins. So, initially, a lot of the work was scripted on Jenkins. We moved away from that solution to now use Jenkins for CI, XLRelease for CD and Release orchestration and XLDeploy for Deployment automation.

Obviously, in the initial days while in experimentation for our team, we started with open source solutions because they were essentially free and we did not have better direction as to what we needed. It was an easy way to start on things because you can experiment without any cost involved. But, when you look at the whole problem from an enterprise-scale, you've got to look at it from a different angle because a lot of the factors come into the picture. That's when you have to take a realistic look at that solution you are currently using and say, "Well, is that really going to make sense from an enterprise skill perspective?" If it doesn't make sense, then it is time to make a change.

When we looked for an enterprise-scale solution, it did not meet our requirements from a security, scalability, or from an automation capability standpoint. It was nowhere close to what  XL Deploy and XL Release provides. We decided we wanted a scalable, dynamic automation across the enterprise. We didn't find anything to be a good fit until XL Deploy and XLRelease.


How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. Once our deployments were automated, it was even easier and in a matter of minutes, we could do the deployments.

We have got only one person who looks after the maintenance at this point internally. One person and he only takes care of that part-time rather than as a full-time employee. With just a few hours he can go over everything that might be a concern.

We have deployed XLDeploy on containers. The container-based platform also helps us to manage things much more easily. 

What about the implementation team?

We are a solutions partner for XebiaLabs for their product line. So, basically we provide specialist consulting, implementation services to our customers. Implemented in the right way, clients will make the most of the product and scale best practices effectively. This will maximize the benefits from CD — and overall from a DevOps perspective as well.

What was our ROI?

We save in a number of ways including spending less time on solutions, using fewer specialists and spending less time in costly training.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The licensing costs for this product are based on an annual subscription. I don't remember the cost price-point at this time and it is not my responsibility. But the ROI from the tool is huge.

What other advice do I have?

I think XL Deploy is a very versatile product, and it actually makes a lot more sense than a lot of other options which are on the market. It actually helps our technical people to adapt to it much faster. You don't need a lot of specialists and technical skills. That's where I find it makes it easier for most of the teams to pick this product up pretty quickly. That, to me, has been a big factor because new users for the platform can easily adapt to it. That means you can scale this faster and more teams can be involved in using it faster. Without that, you're always stuck because of the lack of specialist skills and hampered in scaling DevOps practices effectively across the enterprise.

If you only have a budget for a few specialists and have a lot to roll out, then you have to wait for the specialists to complete work they need to do before you deploy. This makes you wait longer for anything to be deployed. That becomes a big stumbling block.

In the case of using XL Deploy, we don't face that problem anymore. The other thing that is a benefit is that we also used the other product, XL Release, which helps to orchestrate the Continuous Delivery and Release journey. It simplifies the DevOps journey and makes visibility, control, governance, audit, compliance much easier.

On a scale from one to ten where one is the worst and ten is the best, I would rate this product a nine. There's always room to make a product better. 

XLDeploy has excellent dependency management for application deployment, We would like that capability extended to a more visual manner making it easier for teams to understand their dependencies.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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