Dell - Platform Update - Microservices with Docker

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The US-headquartered multinational tech business Dell sells computing hardware and electronics around the world. It employs around 100,000 staff globally and is perhaps best known for its innovations in supply chain management and ecommerce – particularly its direct-sales model and its build-to-order options for customers. It was a pure hardware business for many years, but in 2009 bought Perot Systems and entered the IT services market. Other acquisitions in storage and networking systems have followed, opening up opportunities for Dell to offer a suite of services to enterprise customers.

Behind the scenes, Dell’s systems and processes and global set-up map to the evolution of the business, creating a busy development cycle for its in-house IT services. In the mix regularly is the need to retire or phase out legacy systems and replace them with future-proofed platforms that are genuinely flexible and fit for purpose for the future.

The Challenge

Dell has put substantial resources into maintaining a longstanding .NET-based global procurement platform. Itfirmed up plans in early 2018 to wind down the platform in phases and to roll out something more flexible and scalable for the long term. There is demand from the business for lightweight applications and services that can be decomposed into distinct service modules for easier development, scaling and testing - for which a Microservices architecture is ideal.

Rather than outsourcing this development project, Dell’s preference was to use an internal team, which required some upskilling and shared learning ahead of the project launch.

The Solution

Robert Mujica, a senior principal software engineer at Dell – and technical lead for the projects – chose Framework after being impressed by the scope and detail of a public course Framework runs on Microservices and Docker. He felt immediately that something tailored along similar lines would deliver for Dell’s needs.

“I would say four-fifths of the public course was already a good fit, and Framework’s Tom Walker was very good at developing the rest for our purposes,” says Mujica. “It was an easy and simple – and enjoyable – process right from the off.”

There were ten team members on the three-day programme Framework developed, split evenly between senior architects and developers. Much of the time was spent in exploring high-level concepts step by step, before diving down into the detail of some specific topics and questions related to Dell’s slated projects.

“With training like this, you can bring in some of your potential pain points once you have the basics down, and that’s how it unfolded. The initial grounding was crucial, too, since we had ten individuals with different knowledge gaps to plug. When that’s the case, it’s hugely helpful to take time out and travel the same road together in a concentrated way.”

The training was based around a high-level exploration of Microservices and also how to use the the Docker container platform to streamline the development and testing once applications are in development.

“The plan from here is to roll out several projects in the next three or four quarters, in a staged way. It should minimise the disruption of any transition and help us ensure that each module is working well in a live environment before we take the next step,” says Mujica.

When the three days of training was wrapped up in April this year, Dell spoke to all ten attendees, and the feedback was positive across the board.

“Our trainer, Paul, was knowledgeable, personable and adaptable. The conversations we had around architecture and design in particular were first-class and really honest, too. Now we feel ready to dive in and deliver the project – it should take 12 to 18 months. Watch this space.”

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