If you’re busy and not technical, here’s the punch line: Taoti has added a very slick new piece of technology to our workflow: CASCADE (which stands for Customer Administered System Configuration and Automated Deployment Engine.) This tool uses cutting-edge technologies (Jenkins/Ansible/Gitlab) to provide for a “continuous deployment” development process.
The result is a faster, more efficient, and less error-prone way to get new features safely deployed to a live website as they are created and approved. This system also allows us to ‘roll back’ iterations of the site (should there be a problem) with the click of a mouse and create automatic testing plans to ensure that new iterations of the site don’t break the current version.
This new CASCADE service is now included on all of Taoti’s projects automatically. It’s also included with our managed hosting service, for those sites that we also host. And we’re happy to say that there are no additional costs. If you have a few minutes and want a few more details, read on…
Back in the day, when you wanted to edit your website, you tweaked some HTML and uploaded the edited file to the web server FTP. Those days are gone.
Your site is a highly complex system of code and databases. Editing it usually involves changes to both. Plus, at your level, you don’t want to be tinker with the site and then just ‘hope it works’ when you upload the changes for the world to see—you have various levels of development environments on which to test drive changes. To make matters even more complicated, you have a whole team supporting your website—probably split between organizations and potentially dozens of people—with different developers making different changes in different places at different times. Without a good system in place, you can see chaos would ensue with so many hands touching your website.
Warning: We’re about to drop some jargon on you. Sorry in advance. So far, the industry standard to deal with these issues has been some sort of version control system. Taoti uses the industry standard “git” but “subversion” or “SVN” is another popular form of it. These tools allow multiple people to work on the same code by ‘branching’ segments of the code and then ‘committing’ them back to the ‘trunk.’ Then someone tests things out on a testing server, and if everyone looks okay, they push things to the live server. This is a huge improvement over ‘hot fixing’ the site (making code changes on the live server), but there is still a lot of manual process in all this code pushing. (This is known as developer operations, or ‘DevOps.’) Manual processes introduce human error and inefficiency.
So Taoti is thrilled to announce the next generation of DevOps: something called “continuous integration.” This cutting edge technology (called CASCADE) allows developers to automate development workflow between local, development, staging, and production (live) server environments. Code is created, built, committed, tested, pushed, and then the resulting dependencies and database changes cascade back down to the other environments so that everyone is working on the latest and greatest version of the website. All automatically. (Unless you’re a developer, you probably don’t appreciate how cool this is. But trust us, it is game-changing stuff!) Powered by new technologies (Jenkins, Ansible, and GitLab), CASCADE automates testing, simplifies deployments, and generally takes our development work into the next era of web development.
No down time. No upgrades to approve. And no additional costs. It’s just a new feature that is included with every account that we host. There’s nothing you need to do. We just thought we’d let you know what was going on behind the scenes as we keep upping our managed hosted service for our clients. (If you really want the gory details of continuous integration, Aaron Cois of Carnegie Mellon wrote a great piece about it.)