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Blue Shield of California is a non-profit mutual benefit corporation and health plan founded
in 1939 by the California Medical Association.
It is based in Oakland, California, and serves
4.5 million health plan members and more than 65,000 physicians across the state. In 2016, Blue
Shield deployed Open Source Puppet (OSP) for lifecycle and configuration management. They initially focused on monolithic applications, then built out the Puppet footprint and automated applications. Cody Campbell, principal automation engineer, came onboard to grow the new Puppet environment, build out a new team and begin to transform the monolithic apps and structure into a true DevOps environment.
Blue Shield quickly grew their Puppet environment and soon had numerous developer teams using the system, configuring applications and pushing code through pipelines. The fast growth led to sprawl and Campbell’s small team spent increasingly more time on maintenance, managing the code base, dealing with Jenkins jobs and numerous custom integrations.
Supporting the platform became a challenge, as Campbell’s team was the only line of support. “We did our best to standardize, but nonetheless, we had to maintain everything. As we started looking at scaling this up and getting bigger, we were running into growing pains, big time. We had to look at an alternative solution to help us get to the finish line faster, where we didn’t have to control all this custom code,” Campbell recalled.
Campbell’s team needed to be free to focus on module development which was key for their business, rather than on integrating Puppet with other DevOps tools and constantly providing support to teams who were still adapting to a DevOps approach. “We really needed more support,” Campbell said.
This is the first end-to-end true pipeline that we’ve built where we can check code in at the development side and have it work its way all the way up to production with no hands touching it. That is a huge feat for us. I don’t think we would’ve been able to get to that point without Puppet Enterprise.Cody Campbell, principal automation engineer, Blue Shield of California
This is the first end-to-end true pipeline that we’ve built where we can check code in at the development side and have it work its way all the way up to production with no hands touching it. That is a huge feat for us. I don’t think we would’ve been able to get to that point without Puppet Enterprise.
Cody Campbell, principal automation engineer, Blue Shield of California
Blue Shield engaged with the Puppet Enterprise (PE) account team to learn more about how the enterprise-grade, paid version of Puppet that comes with support services could benefit their business and bring the value they needed to speed up automation and free up developers to focus on shipping code.
The Puppet team focused on serving as trusted advisors to Campbell and his team in order to truly understand the business value they needed, as well as seek ways to solve their key challenges and streamline their DevOps environment.
“It was a great experience for us as Puppet became trusted advisors. Normally we’re a little wary when we’re dealing with sales teams, but we never felt Puppet was trying to pitch us a bunch of features. They were very collaborative trying to find a way to get to the finish line faster. We really felt that Puppet took the time to understand our environment and our needs and what we were doing with it. It helped immensely in designing a solution that would bring value and get through our rigorous evaluation process,” said Campbell.
“Puppet looked at the big picture of what we were trying to do and not at their feature functions, because we weren’t buying features, we were buying value for our business. It was a breath of fresh air that Puppet didn’t come in trying to sell us everything all at once just because we’re a big company. We were trying to make the most of our budget and Puppet understood that and steered us in the direction of what was best for us and not what was best for the deal. I appreciate that! We weren’t sold anything; we were guided to the right place,” recounted Campbell.
Blue Shield had been accustomed to using Jenkins Pipeline (a suite of plugins which supports implementing and integrating continuous delivery pipelines into Jenkins) and had expected to continue to use it with Puppet Enterprise. However, the Puppet team introduced them to CD4PE (Continuous Delivery for Puppet Enterprise) to simplify their infrastructure operations by removing Jenkins and using CD4PE as it’s tailored to the workflow.
At first Blue Shield preferred to stick with the familiarity of Jenkins and focused a dedicated team on it. Then they realized it would add additional overhead and complexity to the process.
“By having Puppet Enterprise married with CD4PE to access our code base and help with our production process, it added a workflow that we didn’t even know we needed because we thought we had it all figured out with Jenkins. CD4PE removed a lot of steps that we had baked into our process and gave control back to our users,” Campbell said.
“CD4PE has been the biggest game changer for us.”
Continuous Delivery for Puppet Enterprise gives IT teams a holistic approach to manage infrastructure at scale. By eliminating the silos and helping teams accelerate application deployment timeframes, it provides a simple yet prescriptive way to build, test, promote and deploy infrastructure code in order to deliver changes faster and more reliably.
“The support for integrations outside of just PE, and the capability for our users to interact with that environment without going to the code” were big reasons for choosing Puppet Enterprise, Campbell said. His team was still not mature in DevOps, but PE allowed them to set aside the open source environment and have a better console from which to work, with more visibility into their work. “They have better management of modules; we can step aside and let them work in the environment now. I think that’s the most important part about it,” said Campbell.
When they introduced CD4PE into the workflow, it enabled people to promote their own code
and work in the system without having to work with Campbell’s team. “We trust them because everything’s set up in a way that they’re in their own sandbox, their own development world, and they can play all they want. We don’t have to be in the way and we don’t have to have regular meetings with them because the process is automated enough to deal with itself and help them merge their code and test it.”
Blue Shield engaged Puppet’s Professional Services team to help speed up their implementation. “With the new environment versus what we could have done if we stuck with open source, we’ve ramped up double the teams well ahead of schedule. I credit that to CD4PE and to Puppet professional services who worked really closely with us to make sure CD4PE was properly configured and that we got the most bang for our buck,” said Campbell.
When asked about the value that Open Source Puppet had brought their business prior to PE, Campbell gave a nod to how it prepared them to be able to demonstrate to the business how they could succeed with Puppet. “Open Source Puppet was the only way for us to get up a footprint at a very low cost with a high amount of value. We could prove to the business that this tool worked without having to commit to millions of dollars worth of software. Once we had that ball rolling and we could show the value in that, it became a burning light in the company that people wanted to sign on. Puppet Enterprise then just made sense.”
Blue Shield plans to continue to grow their Puppet Enterprise footprint. “It’s become a way for us to really show our company a transformation into a fully operational pipeline where we can bring configuration from code to production, where it’s end-to-end, completely automated. Blue Shield has never really been successful at doing that until now. We are piloting containers for the first time this year. This is the first end-to-end true pipeline that we’ve built where we can check code in at the development side and have it work its way all the way up to production with no hands touching it. That is a huge feat for us. I don’t think we would’ve been able to get to that point without Puppet Enterprise,” said Campbell.
“The tool itself has brought immense value in that we are delivering our value to our business more swiftly than we were before.”
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