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Closing the Gap Between Continuous Deployment & Entitlement Management

Cloud Native Software Delivery

Scott Niemann
© Shutterstock / GreenTech

A significant gap often develops between continuous deployment of applications and accurate entitlement management—particularly as software producers shift to microservices that are delivered in containerized environments. This gap shouldn’t exist. Scott Niemann explains the impact of this gap and how to close it.

Software producers are changing the way they build applications. They’re shifting to microservices, delivered in containerized environments. In this rapid deployment environment, a gap often develops between continuous deployment and streamlined, accurate entitlement management.

That gap shouldn’t exist. Instead, the moment a container drops from the build pipeline to delivery is where entitlement management is needed, automatically determining who should have access to that particular piece of software.

SEE ALSO: “The DevOps platform is becoming increasingly accessible and user friendly”

Today’s challenge: Accurate, efficient delivery and deployment to end customers

Entitlement management, the process of managing employees’ access to applications based on usage needs and rights, is often a complicated practice of mapping who should have access to what applications, for how long, and in accordance with other parameters. When entitlements are managed manually, based on user roles, the process is cumbersome—a poor fit for modern DevOps environments that rely on the ongoing change that’s part of continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) methodologies.

Cloud native software delivery that’s connected to customer entitlements bridges this gap. A registry holding containerized products (including Docker containers and Helm charts) tied to information about customers’ use rights determines who actually gets to see the images. The result: containerized products are delivered only to entitled users through an automated process, adding value without additional processes.

If a producer validates entitlements through automated testing that’s incorporated into the order process, only entitled customers will have access to view images (or not). Without having to change anything in its CI/CD process, the software producer can validate entitlements on the back end, while maintaining the benefit of shipping directly what’s been validated through the producer’s pipeline. This eliminates the possibility of end customers receiving software that they’re not entitled to.

This approach supports a microservice application stack; enables easy upgrades, facilitating the frequent rollout of features; maintains consistency in deployment environments, often in run-and-discard contexts; and offers deploy ability in the cloud, with a minimal footprint. The result: the right users get the right software.

A DevOps process that supports producers and customers

Software producers often think of the CI/CD pipeline primarily in terms of productivity on the engineering side, but the impact is broader. Cloud native software delivery offers efficiencies for software producers (including software/business ops and product management teams) and their end customers alike. By simplifying the manual nature of providing legacy product releases to customers, deployment activity becomes part of the normal development process instead of standing as a separate or siloed activity.

By delivering containers based on entitlements, software producers accelerate the path to cloud native products and introduce speed and efficiencies harder to achieve through the delivery of monolithic software packages. Entitlement-driven container delivery provides a fully automated provisioning and monetization process and a single source of truth for usage insights, accelerates accurate revenue recognition, and eliminates issues related to time-consuming software distribution, installation, and updating (e.g., distributing physical media, site visits by engineers). These issues, always cumbersome, were exacerbated by the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cloud native software delivery allows software producers to scale through efficient management of licenses, entitlements, and software delivery, including to IoT devices. It can also facilitate evaluations, new purchases, service packs/updates, and downloads for specific customers. As long as an entitlement is valid, the customer can continue to be serviced with updates and changes to those images based on the product(s) they’ve purchased.

Additionally, by relying on continuous deployment that’s integrated with entitlement use rights and that provides a complete audit trail of customer activity, producers can improve the monetization of the registry artifacts that are to be delivered to the end customer. Provisioning and delivery to customers becomes a streamlined process, through which software is delivered only to the paying customers. This stanches the flow of revenue leakage and accelerates revenue recognition. This upside can help software producers feel engaged with the containerized deployments that DevOps teams champion—without worrying about revenue leakage or needing to rely on costly, error-prone deployment activities.

End customers benefit through the simplified deployments available in a cloud-native environment. They have clarity into and access to only the downloads that are relevant and available to them. The greater frequency of streamlined updates also improves users’ satisfaction with the software and experiences with the brand.

SEE ALSO: Balancing the benefits of edge computing with the risks

Improved Product Delivery

Cloud native software delivery is an important stage in supporting the full customer lifecycle, which also includes software licensing, renewals and customer growth, compliance intelligence and usage intelligence, and software updates. By using an entitlement driven continuous software container delivery approach, producers can feel good about taking advantage of the many advantages of containerized deployments.

Author

Scott Niemann

Scott Niemann, Director of Product Management at Revenera, has an extensive background delivering technical products for both SaaS and on-premise deployments. As a product owner using agile methodology, he brings expertise to software monetization practices for IoT and SaaS market, along with a strong background in customer-facing roles.


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