20 Jul

Feature Toggling On, Three Years In

Wow, three years goes by in a blink of an eye. Three years ago John (LaunchDarkly co-founder) and I both started working full time on LaunchDarkly. We had an idea that we could draw on both of our experiences in software development to help make better software. Funnily, John and I had wanted to start a company together for a long time, but thought we didn’t know enough about any field. So, in the meantime, we’d both continued to work in software for decades. As it turned out, we know a lot about software development lifecycle and managing features effectively.

Now we have customers all over the world (literally) who use our software to eliminate risk and for feature management. One of the favorite parts of my job is to visit customers – I love hearing how they’re using LaunchDarkly and how we can help them manage features. Just in the last four weeks I’ve visited customers in Singapore and Switzerland. And amazing to me, their use cases were very similar – moving away from long lived branches, getting code out more quickly. A CTO in Hong Kong made a brilliant analogy of feature toggling to “lean manufacturing”. The idea of lean came from Toyota; if you circulate through your inventory more quickly, you can be more productive. The same can be applied to code – the quicker you can get it out to the real world, the more effective you can be in validating your ideas and honing its quality. I’m proud that not only do customers love us with a high NPS, but we were also recognized by Gartner this year as a Cool Vendor in DevOps.

Also, the company itself has grown. We have our own office now in Oakland! It’s in a beautiful Art Deco tower, and we are still able to enjoy eating lunch together every day. One of the happiest things the team did lately was rotate all the lunch tables so we had one long table (Hogwarts style). The team didn’t want anyone to have to sit alone if there was no room at a table. Adam Zimman, our VP Product, summed up why he liked working here with “I feel like I can bring my whole self to work; and I’d like to build a culture where everyone feels that way.”

What’s next for LaunchDarkly? We’ve got more functionality coming to help you with effective feature management. We’re hiring! And we’ll also be on the road more – we’ll be at NDC Sydney and Atlassian Summit. I recently met Jeff Lawson from Twilio – he mentioned to me he tries to meet with three customers a week, a worthy goal. My goal for the next year is to meet with at least two customers a week. Come by, say “hi!” We’d love to hear how you’re doing feature management.

19 May

LaunchDarkly achieves 500% annual customer growth; recognized as a Gartner Cool Vendor in DevOps

We hit a few big milestones this quarter, including growing our customer base 500% in the past year as new customers like Docker, TrueCar, and ProCore joined the LaunchDarkly family. And, we’re particularly proud that our growing family is a happy one: our NPS is an industry-leading 50, a full 20% higher than tech’s average. Just to put this in context, we’re now serving more than ten billion feature flags daily (we thought we had hit it big we surpassed one billion daily flags last year).

In short, the theme of this quarter is big.

We’re grateful to announce this week that Gartner has recognized us as a “2017 Cool Vendor” in DevOps Technologies for our feature management service, which removes a significant barrier to mainstream adoption of feature flags, a Continuous Deployment best practice. Gartner also recognized innovative tech compatriots Slack, Bugsee, Conjur and OrcaConfig.

Whether you’re releasing once a quarter or on the hour, we can help your team eliminate risk inherent with moving faster. We give back control over your releases through percentage rollouts, feature kill switches for unexpected events, and better user feedback through code driven A/B testing.  

It’s not about moving fast and breaking things; it’s about moving fast and being ready for the unexpected.  With over ten billion features being served every day, we’re ready for you.

 

Disclaimer:

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

12 Apr

How Spinnaker and Feature Flags Together Power DevOps

It’s very common for customers to be excited about both Spinnaker (continuous delivery platform) as well as feature flags. But wait? Aren’t they both continuous delivery platforms? Yes, they are both trying to solve the same pain points – the ability to quickly get code in a repeatable, non-breaking fashion, from the hands of the developers into the arms of hopefully excited end users, with a minimal amount of pain and heartache for everyone along the toolchain. But they solve different pain points:

  • Spinnaker helps you deploy functionality to clusters of machines.
  • Feature Flags help you connect those functionality to clusters of USERS.  

Spinnaker helps with “cluster management and deployment management”. With Spinnaker, it is possible to push out code changes rapidly, sometimes hundreds (if not thousands) of times a day. As Keanu Reeves would say “Whoa.” That’s great! All code is live in production! Spinnaker even has handy tools to run black/red deployments where traffic can be shunted from cluster to cluster based on benchmarks. Dude! For those who remember the “Release to Manufacturing” days where binaries had to be put on an FTP server (and hope that someone would install and download in the next quarter or so), code being live within a few minutes of being written is amazing. For those who remember “master disks” and packaged software, this is even more amazing.

Nevertheless, with dazzling speed comes another set of problems. All code can be pushed anytime. However, many times you do not want everyone to have access to the code – you want to run a canary release on actual users, not just machines. You might want QA to try your code in production, instead of a test server with partial data. If you’re a SaaS product, you might want your best customers to get access first to get their feedback. For call center software, you want to have an opportunity to test in a few call centers. You might want to have a marketing push in a certain country days (or weeks or months) after another country. You might want to fine-tune the feature with some power users, or see how new users react to a complicated use case. All of these scenarios can not be done at a server level. This is where feature flags come in. By feature flagging, you can gate off a code path, deploy using Spinnaker, and then use a feature flag to control actual access.

Together, Spinnaker and feature flagging make an amazing combination. You can quickly get code to “production”, and from there decide who gets it, when.

07 Mar

What Feature Flagging Management and a 4x Super Bowl Champion have in common

Recently our investors, SoftTechVC, had a panel with professional football players on “unleashing the elite” – how professional athletes need grit, determination, hustle and mental toughness to push themselves and their teams to the next level. The panel with was captivating and amazing. The pros talked about their unrelenting training schedules – the long hours not just working out, but studying game films and memorizing plays. They talked about sacrificing college parties, time with friends, time with their families, as well as injuries. Was the sacrifice worth it? Yes, they said. They were providing a better future for themselves and their families.

RonnieLott

Ronnie Lott visits SoftTechVC

After the panel, a friendly guy named Ronnie introduced himself and asked me about software development trends. I’d graduated from Harvey Mudd College, statistically amongst the worst football teams in the country, and Ronnie had graduated from USC as an All-American. Ronnie said my eyes lit up as we talked about whether software would soon be layers of AI building on AI. I said just as 20 years ago players didn’t have iPads to watch game film on, 20 years from now we’d be amazed at the technologies that software was using.

Then I wondered why football players were at a VC firm. Because they were investors in SoftTech. The money that Ronnie, his son, and the other players had hard-won on the gridiron was going on to fuel the dreams of entrepreneurs to build a better way to build software. I thanked Ronnie for his support of LaunchDarkly, and I hoped to return his trust in us. And in the meantime, as a down payment, he could have a LaunchDarkly t-shirt.
The first LaunchDarkly investors were literally myself and John, my-cofounder, putting our own money in. Then it was our colleagues who believed in us.  Even now that we have institutional investors, behind our institutions are still people, investing because they believe in us. Thanks Ronnie Lott, Malik Jackson, Duane Brown, and all the other investors in LaunchDarkly.

16 Feb

Net Promoter Score + Feature Flags for canary releases

Canary releases are a DevOps best practice of pushing new features to a subset of your customers. By pushing to a subset, this group can provide early feedback, verify functionality, and act as “canaries” to your entire population. Originally, canary had a negative connotation – miners took canaries down into mines, as canaries were more sensitive to bad air. If the canary stopped singing, the miners knew it was time to skedaddle.

Surprisingly, being a canary can actually make your customers even bigger fans! I heard a great use case from a LaunchDarkly customer People.ai,  AI for managing sales teams, who would automatically push new features out to users who had an NPS of over a certain threshold. Net Promoter Score (NPS) rates how strongly would a customer recommend your solution, so initially, this seemed bizarre.  Why risk showing your best advocates functionality that might be unstable, early, or fragile? However, the people who are happiest users (likely to recommend) are actually very excited about being the first to see new functionality. They love feeling plugged-in to new development. And in addition, with LaunchDarkly feature flag management, if a feature isn’t doing well, the team can instantly turn it off, reverting to the old, stable experience.

I love hearing stories about how customers are using LaunchDarkly’s segmentation capabilities to release better software, quicker.

 

10 Feb

LaunchDarkly Values

LaunchDarkly Team
  • Respect and integrity for our team, our customers, and our community.
  • We believe in teams, not fiefdoms. Leaders, not tyrants.
  • We’re building a place where you can learn and grow.
  • Work is not life.

When John & I started LaunchDarkly, we’d known each other for years, since being undergraduates at Harvey Mudd College. Part of why we started the company together is that we shared common values about the company that we wanted to work at. As a founder, you’re not only building a product – you’re building a culture.

As we got bigger, it was time to formalize our values from tribal “this is the way we work” knowledge to something more scalable. We surveyed our current team, and I was thrilled that, what I thought our values should be, the team already thought were in place. We reviewed our values at our last team meeting, and everyone gave an example of the time they’ve seen them practiced.

“Values are valuable when you have a hard decision to make,” is John’s and my view. By making our values public, we hope both our customers and our team can know who we are.