By Vincent Perfetti, Cloud Product Manager, GE
Throughout the years, General Electric has worked to continuously innovate in a number of industries, including the new GE Digital. With Digital products like Predix Industrial Cloud, CoreTech Solutions—a sub-business of Digital—and its leaders needed to ensure that the company was prepared to take on its new role in the technological world.
For some, this change might have seemed like an enhancement to the current processes and increased workloads, but to Vincent Perfetti—CoreTech’s Product Strategy and Customer Engagement Lead—it was a transformation that needed to start from the GE culture, where innovation and success meant prioritizing the customer wants and needs above all else.
To start this transformation, CoreTech abandoned the Traditional IT Model for the new DevOps Model. The Traditional IT Model seemed to hinder the progression of change by flowing work through a team like a waterfall. The teams would begin with an idea, then analyze, design, development, and test it before finalizing and releasing for consumption. Although this seems to be the most straightforward approach, it did not allow for products to be released at the speed the customers wanted, as the process would have to start over if a customer requested a change in the product. With this model in place, GE business units were hesitant to migrate to the cloud, often expressing confusion, negativity, and wariness—which led to a screeching halt in the GE cloud migration initiative to move 9,000 applications to the cloud by 2016.
On the other hand, the DevOps model—which combines Development and Operations to become one team—works in a continuous, circular fashion like the count wheel of a clock. One cycle of the wheel encompasses continuous building, integration, and testing; the second cycle provides constant delivery and deployment of the new integrations and products; and the third cycle allows for nonstop operations and assessment. All three cycles move together, allowing for faster release time and response time to customers, improved collaboration and quality of released products, and decreased ticket numbers from the customers.
CoreTech witnessed the improvements DevOps provided while migrating GE’s myGEaviation application pillar to the cloud, which meant migrating over seventeen Aviation applications. When GE migration teams compared the myGEaviation deployment time through the Traditional Model and the DevOps model, they found that the Traditional model would have taken more than two years, whereas the DevOps model allowed for the pillar to launch in ten months. This calculation meant that applications could go live in hours as opposed to days, and customer functionality could be delivered up to five times faster than the Traditional Model. Overall, the DevOps model led to a 240% increase in myGeaviation’s speed-to-market.
Though CoreTech had seen the successes of the new IT model, there were still cultural improvements to be made. Customers and GE businesses still feared the new push towards cloud migration; most businesses explained that they did not know enough about the cloud to trust it with their applications. To encourage this change, Perfetti organized the three elements to cloud success: education, communication, and facilitation. Although all three pieces are unique, they must work together—like DevOPs—to encourage customers to migrate.
Perfetti noticed that the same technical terminology—like “monitoring”—meant different things across businesses. With this, simple architecture conversations were bogged down by debates and misunderstandings. Likewise, cloud migration led to a sense of ambiguity, which spanned across not only the traditional data center employees—who felt their jobs were being displaced—but also by GE Application Developers and Enterprise Architects. What was truly needed was educational resources that were hands-on, globally available, GE-specific, and consistent between businesses—like GE’s Cloud Portal. This portal is GE’s go-to resource on everything cloud, and allows customers to stay informed about new trending cloud topics, training tools, and support information, all with the goal of accelerating GE’s journey to the cloud. With these improvements, over 300 employees across GE enrolled in cloud training classes in 2015, including 3 global classes.
In addition to education, Perfetti found that sharing GE’s cloud message with all the businesses at scale was a formidable challenge, but was a critical part to transformation. CoreTech’s communication plan covered three facets: leveraging a current platform that most staff use, presenting a holistic message, and continuing as a program that kept customers interested and engaged. For example, CoreTech’s Cloud Release Notes provide detailed information for GE cloud customers regarding what updates, fixes, and new services have been added. However, CoreTech doesn’t just publish the notes; they post notifications on GE’s social media site, broadcast announcements on the cloud portal homepage, and ask service owners to present their updates to business Enterprise Architects, which ensures that everyone knows about the new updates and can access the information easily and quickly.
Once the customers have this information, they are able to begin their cloud migration journey. Still however they often need help taking those first steps, so CoreTech offers options to begin facilitating cloud migration. The App Studio provides coaches and training for migration, while incubating and accelerating the adoption of strategic technology, such as cloud and Predix. Through their coaching, teams smoothly transition to the cloud by having a transparent application portfolio that aligns with their business goals.
With the CoreTech teams using the new DevOps model and the three elements to success to improve their work, GE’s cloud migration has made more headway in the past year that ever before. Within 2015, CoreTech helped closed four datacenters, migrate 639 applications to the cloud, and decommission 1,364 applications. Though CoreTech teams continue to improve their internal culture to accommodate the customers’ needs, the progress they have made directly reflects in the GE cloud migration successes.