20 Jun

What’s the deal with Custom Roles?

At LaunchDarkly we believe that the ability to finely tune access controls in the fast-paced developer space is mission critical. We’ve introduced custom roles, modeled after Amazon Web Services’ IAM service, to all of LaunchDarkly’s enterprise customers, allowing admins to control permissions at a granular level. Yet custom roles are more powerful than plain access control restrictions in that they allow you to extend functions inherently reserved for engineering teams to other stakeholders in your organization.

Let’s assume your organization has the following teams: Engineering, Customer Support, Sales, and Marketing. We’ll define policies for each that allow the organization to become more efficient and less dependent on the engineering team.

Customer Success

The value of custom roles is demonstrated quite well in the case of the customer support team, so we’ll start there.

Let’s say a team member has received a support request where a specific user has reported broken functionality on a new feature that is impacting other core features and the team is scrambling to investigate. In an organization without LaunchDarkly the customer support team would have to provide the engineering team with steps to reproduce the bug and wait for them to implement a fix. With LaunchDarkly and custom roles, the support team member can disable the problematic feature for that particular user to temporarily resolve the issue, and depending on the prevalence of the issue elect to kill switch (turn off) that feature for all users.

The support team member is empowered to remedy issues in-real time. Moreover, the engineering team is no longer launched into emergency response mode; features toggled off can be resolved at a later time.

Here is a simple custom role to support that new value:

This custom role would also be useful to sales team member, allowing that stakeholder to turn a feature on or off for a specific user based on customer plan selection. It’s less likely that the sales team would need access to the kill switch, so we would remove that in this case:

 

Marketing

The marketing team can also benefit from custom roles. Let’s say the team wants to A/B test  a new logo or design assets. Without LaunchDarkly and custom roles, the marketing team would have to coordinate this process with engineering releases. With LaunchDarkly and custom roles, engineering could implement flagged features to allow them to do this on their own schedule and tag the features with a marketing tag. This tag could be used to identify marketing features and also double as a custom role requirement.

When the marketing team is ready to run the A/B tests, it has full control over the features and goals with that marketing tag, relieving the engineering team of the burden of supporting marketing once it has implemented the features. The engineering team can move on to exciting new features while the marketing team tests and analyzes its theories.

This marketing role is also very easy to create:

Engineering

Defining custom roles for the engineering team is probably the least interesting topic in that custom roles don’t quite offer this group anything it didn’t have before. Nevertheless, we can use roles to avoid destructive operations that might affect other team members or end-users.

Imagine a scenario where a flagged feature exists in a production environment and a developer accidentally deletes that flag. An action like this would disable the feature for all end-users. Ideally we would restrict this permission to designated decision-makers.

For this purpose, we’ve created a slightly modified version of the built-in “Writer” role which does not allow for deletion of resources:

For a full list of resources and actions, and more details about the policy creation process, check out our custom roles documentation.

07 Jun

Tim Wong launches the Technical Account Management Program at LaunchDarkly

I’m just getting started. (Image credit: Viktor Hanecek)

I’m excited to join the LaunchDarkly team after spending the last nine years at Atlassian Software. At Atlassian, I was one of the founding members of their Technical Account Management team. In a scant three years, we grew the program from two people to twenty, representing companies that are household names across the globe. I hope to take my experience and build a rockstar program here at LaunchDarkly.

What is Technical Account Management (“TAM”)?

The purpose of the TAM program is to help our customers get the absolute most out of LaunchDarkly’s capabilities. No two companies have quite the same needs, so we offer directed, proactive, and strategic guidance that is suited to each company. We take the time to learn how your teams work, to understand the various use cases that you have, and to collaborate with you to develop solutions to your needs.

One way to understand how new technologies come to be adopted is through the lens of People, Process, and Technology — the technologist’s version of the three-legged stool. Within this analogy, the LaunchDarkly platform is the Technology leg. It offers a new and powerful capability, but it is only useful if the teams adopting it understand and internalize both what it does for them and how to implement it.

Particularly as teams scale and usage expands across the organization, there needs to be an ever-expanding center of knowledge. The learnings from the early wins with the platform need to evolve into a program of change. We’re building the TAM program to help teams move from reactive troubleshooting and problem-solving to making proactive and strategic choices. I like to think of it as the difference between asking “What was this flag supposed to do?” to “How can we know that a release will be successful even before we launch it?”

Our aim with the TAM program is to be a trusted advisor. To be successful, we know that we first need to understand what you’re trying to achieve before we can collaborate with you to get it across the line.

What else do you do?

I’ve been working in tech for over a decade, and I can spend far too much time talking about the viability of various tech trends and movements. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for close to 30 years and am a bit of a foodie. In my spare time, boardgames have been a passion of mine for the last decade and a half: I’m mrwong on boardgamegeek.com.

Finally, I make a great mojito.

02 Jun

Week n+1

Start? This is just the next step in the journey (image credit: Andrew Lipson)

I recently wrapped up my first official full week at LaunchDarkly. Although, I’ve been working with the team as an advisor/consultant for a number of months. Over the past year I have been advising and consulting with various start-ups looking for a good fit. I would often remark to folks that I was “company dating.”

More like introductions from friends than tinder. (Photo credit: Reddit post)

Honestly, I have very little dating experience. My wife and I met my 2nd (her 1st) year in college and haven’t looked back. Similar on the job side, I started at EMC a year after graduating and then was the first internal transfer to VMware. For almost 15 years I enjoyed the stability and resources of a large company. But, then I started to feel the need to grow and participate in the changing landscape I saw in software development trends.

Since leaving VMware I have spent a lot of time thinking about the gap between the old school development frameworks (e.g. waterfall) and newer practices (e.g. agile, scrum, continuous deployment). Tools like git, continuous integration, and automation have radically changed how we release. At EMC and VMware we measured our releases in years, or sometimes months (the same way a parent refers to their 22 month-old toddler). Compared to GitHub where we released multiple times a day.

This whole cloud thing is likely just a fad. (Photo credit: Twitter)

Recently, I’ve started to bucket these tools into three phases of for software development: Concept, Launch, and Control. I’m working on a blog series to discuss each of these in-depth, but this framework is what got me excited about LaunchDarkly. Feature management, while not the shiniest tool, provides the foundation for eliminating risk and delivering value as teams push to move faster and to be more reliable.

In addition to my passion for our product, this intelligent team, my carless commute, I did have one additional objective: to be a part of a diverse and equitable company. Not simply an organization that accepts diversity, but one that actively pursues a more diverse and inclusive team as a imperative for building better products and services. So far a great start to my next long-term relationship.

25 May

Launched: Single sign-on

Spend some time at a software shop, and you’ll inevitably collect a pile of accounts for services, internal and external. Since you value security, each of your passwords are long and unique and safeguarded in a password manager. You imagine a world where you don’t need to manage passwords for each and every service you use.

That’s why we are excited to announce support for single sign-on via the industry-standard Security Assertion Markup Language 2.0 (SAML 2.0). Knowing that SAML integrations can be cumbersome and complicated, we refined the administrator experience to be simple and clear. We built a test-drive mode so administrators can verify their SAML configuration end-to-end before enabling single sign-on in LaunchDarkly for the entire team.

Our single sign-on implementation is accompanied by a couple other benefits. With LaunchDarkly’s just-in-time user provisioning, administrators can onboard new employees from their identity provider without having to also create accounts for them in LaunchDarkly. Simply grant the new employee access to LaunchDarkly via your identity provider. Then LaunchDarkly will automatically create a new account when the member visits LaunchDarkly for the first time. Additionally, any changes to the member’s profile or assigned roles will be propagated from your identity provider as soon as the member signs into LaunchDarkly.

We currently support Okta and OneLogin, with support for additional identity providers on the way.

Single sign-on is available to customers on our enterprise plans. If you’re interested in learning more about our enterprise plans, contact sales@launchdarkly.com.

Behind the curtain

Alexis and I collaborated on the single sign-on feature. The very first step we took was creating a feature flag for SSO in LaunchDarkly. With our feature flag seatbelt on, we didn’t need to maintain a long-running branch for the feature, which meant we thankfully didn’t have to suffer from massive merge conflicts. Every optional change that could be hidden behind that feature flag could be released incrementally and without extensive manual QA review.

When we demonstrated the feature in progress to a customer, we didn’t need to use a staging system; we could demo on production because the feature was hidden behind a feature flag. When we were ready for the feature to be beta-tested, it was very easy to enable it for one customer and then another. The SSO feature flag remains today, and now our sales team uses the flag to enable the feature for their customers.

23 May

Risk Elimination and The LaunchDarkly Value-Add

My first week at LaunchDarkly brought me out of the shadows in a hurry.  It began at an offsite strategy session at DFJ, our lead investor, where I learned valuable details about Waterfall vs. Agile software development methodologies. I also gained important insights into a key industry trend affecting the development community: the transition from Waterfall to Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD).

What I’ve learned as a marketer has deepened my appreciation for what makes the LaunchDarkly solution so unique.

For starters, there are three main categories of customers who will benefit from partnering with LaunchDarkly:

  1. Companies interested in switching from Waterfall to CI/CD
  2. Companies currently switching/recently switched from Waterfall to CI/CD but not yet feature flagging
  3. Companies that are currently engaged in CI/CD, and using a homegrown feature management system

What’s clear is that all three of these customer segments experience different challenges. But all fall into to what our VP of Product and Platform, Adam Zimman, calls “The Risk Gap.”

What is The Risk Gap?

In software development, there is inherent risk in launching new releases. Risk in this case can be broken down into two categories:

  • Risk of losing product value
  • Risk of losing time

The longer it takes an engineering team to launch a new software release, the greater the risk of feature obsolescence. Another risk factor is competitor time to market; those companies that don’t enjoy “first mover advantage” can suffer from demoralized developers who lose interest because they can’t ship quickly enough.

The Risk Gap also means that there is greater operational risk associated with feature releases that carry greater value. The more value associated with a feature update, the greater the risk to your Ops team, because of changes made to your code base.

The Risk Gap is closely linked to the Iron Triangle concept that suggests the following:  while teams should strive to release high value features at a quick pace, the reality is that they’re often forced to pick one or the other (speed vs. quality).

The Iron Triangle mantra is “Fast, good, or cheap. Pick two.”

Let’s see how this affects the three customer categories who will benefit from using LaunchDarkly by examining the Risk Gap/Iron Triangle framework.

CategoryPainDoes Have Does Not Have
Companies interested in switching from Waterfall to CI/CDTakes Dev team a long time to launch releases.-High Quality
-Low Cost - traditional Waterfall methodology
Fast Delivery
Companies switching/recently switched from Waterfall to CI/CD but not yet feature flaggingQuality of releases is at risk.-Fast Delivery via CI/CD
-Lower Costs - not using a feature management platform
High Quality
Companies doing CI/CD + using a homegrown feature management systemA homegrown feature management system is costly to develop and maintain.-Fast Delivery - quick release cycle
-High Quality - continuous feedback loop
Lowest Cost

Each customer category is missing one of the three components of the Iron Triangle: either quality, speed, or lowest cost.

LaunchDarkly’s value-add

LaunchDarkly exists to close the Risk Gap – enabling the largest software engineering teams in the world to responsibly employ the CI/CD methodology, accelerate development cycles, eliminate the risk associated with large releases, and cut costs of developing/maintaining homegrown feature management systems.

For the first time, you don’t have to make tradeoffs with LaunchDarkly.

When you combine the great team here, a revolutionary product, and the opportunity to learn from brilliant minds every day, I am very much so looking forward to bringing our product to market.

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.