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Case Study: PlateSpin and FinalBuilder

Adam White, Manager of Test Engineering at PlateSpin talks about how FinalBuilder™ revolutionized their build process.

[Note: This article is also available for download as a PDF here]

Overview

"Were a small emerging company, and we didn’t have the resources to hire a fulltime build manager. We needed something that would make our lives easy when it came to building the product. The test team is the main consumer of the product builds at PlateSpin so it was very important that they be able to run builds as needed as well as on a specified schedule."

Challenges that PlateSpin needed to address

"We realized that we were going to need a robust tool to automate our builds, and we identified some key requirements before we started evaluating solutions.  These are some of the functional requirements that we identified, which were based on our existing build process:

  • Make  maintenance of build process painless
  • Allow schedule and non-scheduled builds to be setup easily
  • Able to compile applications, setup/installers and help files from source
  • Work with our version control systems
  • Zip & UnZip files and other archive formats
  • Run automated testing
  • FTP files to/from servers
  • Send detailed emails on success or failure

In addition to the functional requirements, we also identified vendor support as a critical feature that we would have to evaluate. "

Why PlateSpin chose FinalBuilder

"Before selecting FinalBuilder, PlateSpin was using a mixture of DOS batch files, scripting tools and many manual processes to create new software builds.  To clean up this mess, we evaluated a range of automated build tools and found that FinalBuilder handled all the PlateSpin requirements with ease.  FinalBuilder provided a rich intuitive user interface, and the easy to follow workflow made the user experience painless."

"Extensibility was another key feature that we evaluated.  When we started using FinalBuilder there were a few tools we use that were not directly supported by the built in actions.  Using FinalBuilder's action development environment, ActionStudio, we were able to develop actions to support VMware ESX, VMware GSX and Microsoft Virtual Server. Support for VMware WorkStation, VMware Server and Microsoft Virtual Server has since been added to the  product, but we still rely heavily on VMware ESX server so we continue to use our custom made actions for that."

"Our old build process was quite complex, and while converting the process into a FinalBuilder project we found a few issues that caused us to contact the VSoft support people. They were extremely quick at responding to and resolving these issues.  Another nice touch is FinalBuilder’s automated checking for new releases.  This lets us keep up to date with all the changes and fixes without having to go and manually check the download site."

Licensing

"The FinalBuilder licensing model is flexible enough that it allowed FinalBuilder usage to grow within PlateSpin, and it allowed us the ability to give all developers access to the tool. We started off with licenses for two people but soon expanded as different functional groups wanted to use FinalBuilder. FinalBuilder is now used extensively by the development, test and IT organizations."

At PlateSpin FinalBuilder equals flexibility

"The tool is able to handle so many different situations while making it easy to maintain and adapt to changing environments.  Both our developers and testers use it for our production build processes on our two products - PowerConvert and PowerRecon. "

"Using FinalBuilder's variables and workflow actions, we're able to dynamically alter the build process by changing a few variables on the fly.  This really solved our previous batch-file-spaghetti-mess!"

"The error reporting and build summary functions make it straightforward to pinpoint build problems and find a resolution. We are usually able to identify build failures in about 30 seconds with the help of the detailed log that FinalBuilder provides."

"We have also found ways to use FinalBuilder for tasks other than automated builds.  In Test Engineering we had problems finding efficient solutions to two problems. The first was finding a way to bootstrap our automation with something that is understandable and maintainable by all members of the test team. The second is sending out various metrics to teams on a regular interval.  To tackle these problems we decided to use FinalBuilder."

At PlateSpin FinalBuilder can solve 95% of build headaches leading to increased ROI

"By using FinalBuilder we got out of a build process that wasn’t maintainable and into something that was manageable by almost anyone.  We can now run a build quickly and easily, which saves us a significant amount of time and money.  The builds are easy to start, allowing anyone on the team to run them. This helps turn issues around quickly as there isn't one person holding up the build. If our build manager goes on vacation we know we’ll be OK because FinalBuilder takes care of all the details. On the testing side we now have an automation boot strap process and infrastructure that is as flexible and maintainable as our build process. "

Conclusion

"FinalBuilder has revolutionized the way that PlateSpin builds its products. It has given us the ability to side-step a lot of issues that are common to an unstructured build process.  This tool is much more than a build tool as we use it across the organization and are consistently finding new and interesting uses for it. FinalBuilder is a pleasure to use and is a great addition to the toolset at PlateSpin. This tool doesn’t interfere with our process or introduce more complexity. It allows us to do things quickly, easily and painlessly. For these reasons, and more, FinalBuilder has easily become the standard build tool at PlateSpin."

About PlateSpin

PlateSpin is one of the new breed of start-ups that are thriving in today’s markets; focusing on solving difficult business problems with truly innovative technology. The enterprise datacenter is very complicated and difficult to manage. With shrinking budgets and increased capability expectations, datacenter managers are looking for a change. In March of 2003 PlateSpin Ltd was founded to address these needs. Recognizing the changing trends in the datacenter – a move back to virtualization and consolidation – PlateSpin tackles the challenge of how datacenter managers can more easily leverage the benefits that these trends are promising.

About PlateSpin's Products

PlateSpin PowerConvert streams servers between physical machines, blade infrastructures, virtual machines, and image archives over the network. PlateSpin PowerConvert is used in some of the world's largest data centers for accelerated server consolidations, rapid disaster recovery, automated test lab deployment, and ongoing data center optimization

PlateSpin PowerRecon provides new levels of intelligence and visual analysis for consolidating and optimizing the data center by collecting hardware, software and services inventory with absolutely no manual effort or disruptive agent technology.

About VSoft Technologies

VSoft Technologies have been in business since 1996, and are focused on developing automation software for software developers, software configuration managers, system administrators, network administrators and IT professionals.  Both FinalBuilder and Automise save time and money, and at the same time being easy to use, flexible and powerful solutions to automation tasks.

Visit our website at either http://www.finalbuilder.com/ or http://www.automise.com/ to find out more information and to download fully functional 30 day evaluation editions.

FinalBuilder™ is a Trade Mark of VSoft Technologies Pty Ltd. All other product and company names listed are trademarks or trade names of their respective companies.

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