The Story of Sauce - The Journey Continues

Posted by Joe Alfaro in The Story of Sauce

Back in early January, Sauce Labs had our second annual company kick-off, an occasion for both imagining the future and reflecting on the past. The previous year's kick-off was my first with the company, where I presented my vision for transforming the company into a DevOps organization based on pragmatic scrum. It was also where I came up with the idea to write these blog posts to chart that transformation and its many stages, inspired in part by Gary Gruvner's book "Leading the Transformation: Applying Agile and DevOps Principles at Scale," as well as his keynote presentation at the event. At that time, I honestly wasn't sure how everything would turn out, but a year later we've been able to achieve substantial growth as an organization, undertake projects at a scale that was previously unimaginable, and even advance our conceptual framework of what our organization and operations can be. 

As an organization, we've passed through many stages, some of them difficult, as I described in my previous posts. The most worrisome, although expected, was the "changing of the guard," as the team went through a process of self-selection between those who were ready for the change, and those who opted out for a different situation. Eventually, though, that process reversed itself, and we've added substantially to the team with both developers and management. We've been able to bring on new skill sets and diversify our scrum teams, enabling them to tackle operational issues, take on new projects to expand our capacity and reliability, and add new features to our product, all at the same time. Previously we would have been hard-pressed to address even one of those activities. 

A year ago our development focus was on performance and reliability. The Great Holiday Outage of 2015 demonstrated that we had significant operational issues that had to be addressed, that were endangering the survival of the company. We made changes in our organization, processes, and data center that enabled us to reach 99.5% uptime over this past year, with a goal of hitting 99.99% this year. Having achieved stability, we have been able to begin working on new features, like the Beta version of Analytics that was recently released, and take on the epic adventure of building out a new data center in Las Vegas.

In December we closed a $70M round of funding, and used that to acquire TestObject and expand our real device offering to include manual testing and private clouds. If we hadn't evolved our organization to become more agile, and demonstrated to investors that we could achieve stability and growth, I suspect that I would be writing the epitaph for Sauce Labs, rather than this retrospective. And because we had rationalized our organization and our functional processes, we were able to easily integrate the team from Test Object, a process that would have been challenging, to say the least, back in the days of *Dev.

There are two concepts that have emerged for the future of Sauce Labs. The first is Sauce N+1. Most of our operational challenges are brought about by having a single instance of Sauce, but what the Las Vegas data center project made us realize is that we should have multiple instances that are available at multiple locations. This wasn't conceivable before our teams had the experience of a successful project at this scale, but having now seen what could be achieved through an approach based on DevOps and scrum, we can begin to imagine even grander projects, and believe that we can achieve them. The second concept is the Living Lab. Having set out on this journey, we're now ready to provide our customers with an ongoing demonstration of how to implement DevOps practices and achieve real growth in productivity, capability, and morale. It has taken us a year to move from a position where we were, at best, playing catch up with our own daily operational requirements, to one where we are now able to lead others, but changes don't happen on this scale overnight. It takes time to experiment, adjust, and learn about your organization, but we're ready to help accelerate that process for you as you set out on your own transformative journey. 

Joe Alfaro is VP of Engineering at Sauce Labs. This is the ninth post in a series dedicated to chronicling our journey to transform Sauce Labs from Engineering to DevOps. Read the first post here.

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