Spinnaker Operating Models: How to choose a model with best ROI for your business?

Spinnaker is a widely deployed open source continuous delivery platform adopted by thousands of enterprises. Today, small and large enterprises are now facing the challenges of adopting and supporting Spinnaker in their organizations. In this blog we take a look at the pros and cons of these three approaches, some perspectives on their ROI implications, and how OpsMx is taking an ROI-optimized approach to Spinnaker.

1. Three Spinnaker Operating Models

As is typical with open source, a key decision for organizations is what approach to take for managing the entire adoption journey including installation, customization, on-boarding, maintenance, and support. For most open source, including Spinnaker, there are three primary ways organizations do this:

  • Do-it-Yourself (DIY): Install, customize, maintain, and support Spinnaker yourself (DIY)
  • Commercial open source and support: Use Commercial open source distribution license and expert support
  • Managed Spinnaker or Spinnaker-as-a-Service: Use Spinnaker installation that’s fully-managed and either hosted or deployed to your public cloud or on-premises infrastructure

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each of these approaches.

1.1 Do-it-Yourself (DIY)

In the words of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella,”today, every company is a software company.” The rise of open source has been a key driver of this change, providing enterprises with a plethora of viable free alternatives to expensive proprietary solutions and total freedom and flexibility to customize or “roll your own”. For the Googles, Amazons, and Facebooks of the world, the DIY approach makes perfect sense given their:

  • Top engineering talent
  • Vast resources
  • Huge Scale
  • Complexity of environments

For most organizations though, a 100% do-it-yourself (DIY) approach is not practical or cost-effective due to high staffing costs, need for out-of-the-box enterprise features, and business risks associated with open source.

Pros: 

  • Flexibility. Provides customers with the most flexibility and control
  • Complexity and Scale. Well suited for large organizations with ample resources and talent to support large-scale complex environments

Cons:

  • Business risks of DIY. Reliance on community-based updates, bug-fixes, and support creates operational and business risks.
    • Errors and service outages. Lack of expertise and best practices often leads to mis-configuration errors, and service outages
    • Security incidents and breach resulting from vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, delayed fixes, and lack of best practices.
    • Slower release velocity. Community-based support, updates, and fixes all take time and can delay releases.
    • Decrease in revenue and competitiveness caused by slower release velocity
    • Missed customer commitments from delayed or bad releases caused by over-reliance on community support
    • Decreased developer productivity from the need to always engage the community for support and fixes
    • Not a core competence. May burden and distract staff from more strategic and valuable projects.
  • Higher costs of DIY
    • Development and Maintenance Costs to develop missing enterprise features
    • Ongoing costs to maintain customizations and custom integrations
  • Production failure and risks of untimely mitigation
    • Lack of SLAs for community-based support creates risk as application delivery is mission-critical

When should you DIY?

As we see, for organizations with very large scale and complexity and who have the required expertise, talent, resources, and culture, DIY can be the right (and sometimes only) approach. For most, however, a 100% DIY approach to Spinnaker generally ends up being too expensive, not practical and may expose the organization to unacceptable levels of business and operational risk.

1.2 Commercial Open Source: A reliable way to lower cost and reduce risk

Today, there are 2-3 vendors that support Spinnaker as their primary business and OpsMx is one of them (more later in this post). Commercial open source vendors typically help enterprises with Spinnaker adoption with:

  • Expertise in Spinnaker, CI/CD, and DevOps
  • Enterprise open source distribution to provide missing enterprise grade features, hardened security, and pre-configured best practices
  • Mission Critical Support Organization needed to support global enterprise Spinnaker deployments and teams

The Spinnaker journey tends to have 4 initial stages; technical evaluation, internal POC, limited pilot, and full-scale production. A commercial open source vendor may be brought in at any point in the process, but typically the decision to use a commercial open source distribution and support services is made between the POC and full-scale production phases – before the migration and onboarding mission-critical production applications. This decision is primarily driven by the need for enterprise-level policy, compliance, and security features, and expert support services with SLAs to augment internal staff and mitigate business and operational risks.

Pros: 

  • Reduced error and failure rates by leveraging vendor’s expertise, distribution, and best practices
  • Lower development costs by using vendor’s pre-built enterprise-ready distribution
  • Reduced maintenance costs because updates and fixes are provided by the vendor
  • Faster issue response and resolution from 24X7 vendor support and SLAs.
  • Increased productivity of internal staff as they can focus on more valuable work instead of fixing issues and bugs

Cons:

  • Subscription / Support License Cost. (Despite this cost, overall costs tend to be much lower than if you DIY.) 
  • Potential for vendor lock-in depending on the vendor. With OpsMx, you do not have vendor lock-in.

When does commercial open source make sense?


Commercial open source is an excellent option for many enterprises to speed deployment, reduce cost, and mitigate business risks, especially for mission-critical and production environments. Enterprises need to select the right open source partner, however and beware of vendors who will try to lock them into a proprietary distribution that limits options, potentially negating many of the advantages of open source.

1.3. Managed Spinnaker or Spinnaker-as-a-Service (SaaS)

A sub-category of commercial open source is Managed Spinnaker or Spinnaker-as-a-Service. These services are based on these same commercial open source offerings, but designed for customers who want a fully managed Spinnaker installation. Managed Spinnaker provides all of the benefits of Spinnaker but without the staffing expenses and effort required to deploy, manage, maintain, and support it. Typically the Spinnaker installation is deployed to either on-premises or public cloud infrastructure, or in the case of a SaaS offering is hosted and maintained on the vendor’s infrastructure.

Pros:

  • All of the benefits of commercial open source plus:
  • No infrastructure costs as they are baked into the subscription fees
  • Minimal Staffing Costs as all of the setup, configuration, maintenance, and support is provided by the vendor

Cons:

  • Less flexibility and control as modifications, upgrades, and bug fixes are done by the vendor

When does managed Spinnaker make sense?
A managed Spinnaker service can be a great option, especially for smaller enterprises who may not have the required engineering/SRE resources, expertise, or desire to manage a Spinnaker installation. And while subscription costs are higher, a managed Spinnaker offering can produce ROI as good or better than a commercial open source option. Another approach offered by some commercial open source vendors is Spinnaker-as-a-Service (SaaS.) OpsMx Provides both Managed Spinnaker and Spinnaker-as-a-Service options.

 

2. ROI: How to think about the ROI of various models?

2.1 Do-it-Yourself (DIY)

As detailed earlier, doing it yourself has its pros and cons. There is significant evidence, however, from numerous research studies on open source infrastructure solutions which have “found that higher operational costs associated with self-supporting community-based infrastructure software far outstrips the cost of commercial subscription support, when that software is used in a mission-important or mission-critical capacity.” Based on our experience, we believe the same to be true for deploying Spinnaker to enterprise production environments, once higher staffing, development and maintenance costs, and increased business and operational risk are fully considered.

2.2 Commercial Open Source Support 

For organizations that need to be enterprise-ready for mission-critical production applications from day one, but lack the scale, expertise, and resources to do it themselves, commercial open source offerings are normally the best option. They generally enable higher ROI than a do-it-yourself approach with:

  • Faster adoption and time to value with a commercial enterprise distribution and expert onboarding services
  • Reduced cost and resources for installation, onboarding, customization, maintenance, and support
  • Reduced errors and service outages from expert configuration and application of best practices
  • Better security and compliance from expert configuration managed updates and fixes, and best practices
  • Reduced business risk due to fast issue resolution with 24×7 support SLAs

2.3 Managed Spinnaker

Managed Spinnaker services are similar to commercial open source offerings, but designed for customers who want the benefits of Spinnaker but not the expense and effort required to deploy, manage,  maintain, and support it. In the case of a fully managed SaaS offering, the Spinnaker installation is also hosted and maintained on the vendor’s infrastructure. A managed Spinnaker service can be a great option for smaller enterprises that may not have the required staff, expertise, or desire to manage a Spinnaker installation. And while it costs more, a managed Spinnaker offering can produce ROI as good or better than commercial open-source option based on staffing cost savings.

 

3. OpsMx : True Open Source + Lowest Cost = Optimized ROI

At OpsMx our goal is to enable customers to achieve the best possible ROI from their Spinnaker deployment. We partner with enterprises throughout their Spinnaker journey and software delivery transformation. While every organization and CI/CD implementation is different, our customers’ Spinnaker journeys generally follow a similar path and we partner to make customers successful:

  1. Technical Evaluation. We start by doing a free technical evaluation to determine if a POC is right next step.
  2. Internal Spinnaker POC. Based on the evaluation, internal Spinnaker POC is scoped and performed.
  3. Limited Pilot. From the successful POC, we work with you to scope a limited pilot during which a number of your applications are taken to production. During the pilot, we offer services for Spinnaker installation, enterprise application onboarding, and customizations for your organization’s specific environment.
  4. Full-Scale Production. As you move into production, we offer our Open Enterprise Spinnaker distribution and expert open-source Spinnaker support to ensure fast and smooth onboarding of your enterprise applications and users.

For Customer case studies and ROI of Spinnaker please email hello@opsmx.com

3.1 OpsMx offerings and their impact on ROI

OpsMx’s offering is designed to be a partnership with customers to help them successfully navigate their Spinnaker journey, driving efficiency, cost savings, and ROI. To help customers through their journey we offer:

3.1.1 Open Enterprise Spinnaker (OES) Subscription

An OpsMx Open Enterprise Spinnaker (OES) subscription provides enterprises with the software distribution, services, and support they need to be successful at a low monthly cost. Unlike most proprietary distributions, OES is architected to be pluggable on top of Open Source Spinnaker. This means you’re enterprise-ready “out-of-the-box,” without being locked into a single proprietary distribution, and you always have immediate access to Spinnaker community upgrades and fixes. OES is bundled with 24/7 mission-critical support and provides a comprehensive set of enterprise-grade features:

  • Spinnaker Lifecycle Management – Making the operations reliable and efficient
  • Easy User and Application Onboarding – Making Enterprise-Scale adoption smooth and painless.
  • Audit & Compliance – Provides built-in Compliance and Audit features to enforce compliance and catch violations 
  • Automated Risk Assessment (CV) – Uses Machine-learning to provide risk assessment during all stages of continuous delivery
  • Enterprise Security– Ensure identified critical Security vulnerabilities are fixed, secrets management and secure APIs
  • Continuous Deployments to all your Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure
  • 24/7 Mission Critical Support 

How OES increases your ROI:

  • Reduces Business Risk. Access to OpsMx experts, best practices, and 24/7 support help mitigate operational and business risks.
    • Increase Spinnaker Adoption by Smoothing the User and Application onboarding
    • Improved security from security fixes for open source vulnerabilities, reduction in misconfiguration errors, access to fast issue resolution, and best practices
    • Avoid Compliance Violations through Compliance and Policy Templates. Makes sure enterprise-wise adoption is fast.
    • Lower Risk through Audit of all Delivery Actions
    • Reduce Production failures and Increase Developer Productivity using AI-driven Risk Assessment.
  • Increase Developer and Org Productivity 
    • Reduce the workload on your Experts by using Machine learning to learn from their actions
    • Faster release velocity. Access to OpsMx 24/7 support, timely updates, and bug fixes reduces errors, failures, and
    • Increased revenue and competitiveness from increased release velocity
    • Increased developer productivity for support and fixes
  • Lower costs
    • No costs to develop missing enterprise features
    • No ongoing costs to maintain customizations and custom integrations
    • Avoid Costs of Manual Release verification 
  • Reduced Risk of untimely production failures
    • 24/7 mission critical support with SLA mitigates the risks of community-based support
    • Reduced errors and service outages. OES, expert support, and best practices reduce misconfiguration errors and service outages

3.1.2 Managed Spinnaker and Spinnaker-as-a-Service

OpsMx Managed Spinnaker and Spinnaker-as-a-Service for customers who want all the benefits of Spinnaker, but without the staffing costs and hassles of installing, managing, maintaining, and supporting it. OpsMx Managed Spinnaker is a fully-managed, highly available, and secure Spinnaker installation with nothing to maintain that deploys to on-premises or public cloud and includes 24×7 mission-critical SLA support. For some enterprises, this option provides very high ROI and dramatically accelerates onboarding and the overall Spinnaker journey.

3.1.3 On-boarding and other services

OpsMx’s provides a range of services including CI/CD strategy, Spinnaker onboarding, support, and training. OpsMx’s proven onboarding process achieve Continuous Delivery in 30 Days

  • Speeds up onboarding,
  • Eliminate errors with best practices
  • Avoid errors, and reduce costs
  • Archive Compliance with best practices
  • Train Dev & Ops teams for success
  • Minimize cost

Below is a sample on-boarding:

 

Getting Started with Spinnaker

OpsMx partnership model is a lower-cost alternative and produces a much better ROI than DIY and other commercial open source options. Our goal is to provide a low-cost, high ROI alternative to DIY and expensive commercial open source offerings, enabling virtually any organization to begin their Spinnaker journey and software delivery transformation. No two CI/CD implementations are the same, however. We would love to hear about your unique challenges and see if we can help you with your Spinnaker CD journey. Contact us at hello@opsmx.com or at www.opsmx.com to schedule a conversation with one of our CI/CD experts.

 

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