As Skillsoft’s software platform expanded to more than 100 microservices, the engineering team looked to Harness to standardize deployments, enable scalability.
Skillsoft (NYSE: SKIL), a leading platform for transformative learning experiences partners with enterprise organizations and serves a global community of learners to prepare today’s employees for tomorrow’s economy. Skillsoft customers gain access to multimodal learning experiences that build skills and grow a more capable, adaptive, and engaged workforce.
Skillsoft nurtured an entrepreneurial environment within its business that proved beneficial as the company grew. But, as its software platform expanded to include about 100 microservices, each team of engineers created a unique delivery process to fit their own needs – adding complexity that made standardization more difficult at scale. The operations team would then take the code and manage the deployments. Many manual steps and inconsistencies invited errors, which then added delays for reviews. In some cases, engineers would hand-deliver configuration changes between environments.
“It was not very efficient, and we couldn’t get the economies of scale we wanted,” recalled Anil D’Silva, Senior Director of DevOps at Skillsoft. “We had to standardize in a way that let engineering deploy from their development environment right into production with as little friction as possible. We had just moved to AWS as our production environment, so we wanted to be on the cutting-edge for deploying software as fast and as safely as we could.”
Skillsoft wanted delivery and deployment standardization, self-service, and speed with two-week lead times and 90-minute deployments as the goals to help accelerate time-to-market for new features and products. The company was also seeking certification for FedRAMP, the U.S. government program for adoption of cloud services, so deployment consistency and compliance were critical.
“We couldn’t continue delivering all microservices at the same time,” added D’Silva. “That’s not continuous delivery (CD). So we stepped back and asked, ‘why can’t we just have engineering be responsible for the complete deployment cycle?’”
Adding to the urgency was team burnout and frustration due to deployments occurring every other Saturday. That cadence forced over 40 people across operations and engineering to work or be on-call during weekends along with at least three hours of downtime that also impacted customers. Skillsoft finally made the decision to move away from its manual, homegrown, Jenkins-based deployment process.
The challenges, frustrations, and friction from its inconsistent deployment processes became a high-visibility challenge that pushed Skillsoft to find a CD solution. D’Silva evaluated Argo CD and Spinnaker before selecting Harness.
“Choosing Harness gave us a lot of potential, but we first had to fix our process,” said D’Silva. “We wanted Harness to make our lives easier. We started from scratch with a standardized YAML that we turned into Helm templates in order to make the deployment process self-service and repeatable. We took our time so we could take full advantage of Harness.”
Skillsoft’s engineering team is arranged into 17 squads, each contributing microservices to the platform. With Harness, squads now run self-service deployments, taking ownership of the entire process and nearly eliminating deployment efforts for operations. Creating common templates in Harness also helped Skillsoft use a common secrets management solution, which was critical for its FedRAMP certification and other initiatives.
“We barely had to train anyone on Harness,” D’Silva said. “There’s a big green flag for successful deployments, and if something goes wrong, they can just read the Harness log. Next, we plan to implement quality gates in Harness to ensure services hit their service level agreements (SLAs).”
With the standardized, frictionless process for development teams to automate otherwise manual work with Harness CD, Skillsoft now has the deployment velocity and consistency it long desired and has given Engineering complete ownership of the delivery process. That adds up to a lot of time saved for Skillsoft’s 17 teams and 200 developers.
“With Harness, we can rollout changes to 100 microservices in less than 45 minutes — that used to take more than three hours,” added D’Silva. “We don’t even think about it anymore. Engineering can do it by themselves, too, eliminating the effort operations used to take on. And, operations was happy to give up that tedious work. Harness is saving us a huge amount of time.”
Using Harness to standardize CD has also given Skillsoft the confidence to begin moving deployments to business hours rather than weekends. Harness also provides more visibility into metrics and trends as Skillsoft works to hit broader deployment goals.
“Now, anyone can deploy 24/7 and I don’t have to be awake 24/7,” D’Silva concluded. “Harness is simple. I don't want to be worried about individual deployments going out. And, as we continue to meet the goals for what a CI/CD pipeline should do for Skillsoft, Harness is a big part of that progress.”