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How 3M HIS Uses AWS Service Catalog to Flatten the Learning Curve for Continuous Delivery

Continuous delivery (CD) has many advantages: faster build/test/deploy cycles, less manual work for developers, higher quality software, and more reliable updates.

So why doesn’t everyone work this way?

One reason is that the path to implementation can be bumpy. Particularly for large enterprises, there can be a steep learning curve—especially when teams are expected to acquire the skills to provision their own continuous delivery pipelines from scratch.

This last point was a concern at 3M Health Information Systems (HIS), a division of the global science company 3M and a leading provider of software for the healthcare industry.

“Teams that are new to continuous delivery might spin their tires for six months building their own pipelines and still not end up with something that is particularly well engineered,” says James Martin, manager of automation engineering at 3M HIS, which has been engaged in a multiphased rewrite of its IT operations and development processes for the last several years.

After lifting and shifting all applications to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud a few years back, and then adopting an agile development methodology, 3M HIS began using CD on a platform that included AWS CodePipeline and Jenkins. But manual pipeline provisioning was holding the company back from its ideal CD state.

“Infrastructure was being provisioned and software was being deployed by a central operations team,” says Martin. “It was largely a human-involved process that introduced risk and was prone to delays because of operational backlog. And, of course, if errors were introduced, debugging them would eat up even more time. We wanted to speed this process up so we could move closer to autonomy for our product teams, but first we had to ensure we could maintain good governance and controls at all times.”

For assistance with this project, 3M HIS turned to an AWS Partner Network (APN) member designated as a Premier Consulting Partner and an AWS Public Sector Partner. The company 3M HIS selected also holds AWS Financial Services and DevOps competencies, and its employees have more than 100 AWS certifications.

The project team decided to add AWS Service Catalog, used by enterprises, system integrators, and managed service providers to organize, govern, and provision cloud resources on AWS. By taking advantage of AWS Service Catalog, 3M HIS can preconfigure pipelines for specific teams and purposes, with all required governance and control rules already baked in. Then, by using AWS CloudFormation templates, Martin’s team members can have those pipelines ready to go in minutes.

“The biggest benefit is how much time we are saving,” says Martin. “By using AWS Service Catalog, I can have a new pipeline ready in 10 minutes, instead of needing days to build it manually. That means less startup time for new apps and much faster feedback loops with customers once the applications are deployed.”

Next steps will include adding AWS Lambda, a function-based serverless compute product that runs code in response to events. “We’re working toward a fully automated, self-service scenario in which a team submits a request through a web form,” says Martin. “AWS Lambda will monitor for approvals and then make API calls to fulfill the request.”

“It’s hard to overstate how relevant AWS Service Catalog is to our agile methodologies and CI/CD processes,” says Martin. “Especially for complex, global organizations like ours, AWS Service Catalog with AWS CloudFormation templates can really flatten the DevOps learning curve and make it much easier to provide product teams with self-service automation.”

Find out how to get started with AWS Service Catalog here.

Read the full 3M HIS case study.