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Case Study

Case Study: gDev Leverages the Cloud

Provides comprehensive virtual lab automation to partners worldwide

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gDev is an Austin, Texas-based outsourced services firm that leverages a global network of providers to deliver high-quality software development at the lowest cost and in the shortest time period possible. gDev maintains project scorecards for each provider and certifies them in particular services based on their delivery and acceptance track record.

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The gDev network of partners is comprised of approximately 4,000 developers from a number of countries, including China, Mexico, Ukraine and Vietnam, who serve as the ‘talent pool' available to customers. At any time, there are about 1,500 developers actively working on various gDev projects. These projects are typically short-term contracts in comparison to traditional outsourced projects, which are typically several months or years. The average length of a project is one to two weeks and the longest project gDev provides is four weeks.

gDev runs a massive globally distributed development platform, where gDev partners work on developing and maintaining enterprise-class software products. With this setup, gDev faced two primary challenges.

Primary Business Challenges
The first challenge was that gDev's partners found it difficult to re-create development environments for the enterprise products in gDev's portfolio. In addition, since the outsourced projects were typically between one to four weeks in length, it was critical for these environments to be created quickly. gDev needed to give engineers sufficient time to work on the development project versus spending valuable time creating the environment. gDev searched for technically competent partners across the globe, but they often could not tap into certain countries because developers did not have access or could not easily get access due to bandwidth constraints to the development environments. Because of this, gDev was presented with a cyclical problem. While they would prefer to set up a local lab when there are sufficient developers available, they found that they could only search for developers if they could access a lab and be productive immediately. To solve this issue, gDev needed to efficiently provide these large development environments (around 25 GB each) to the distributed developer pool.

The second challenge was creating a standardized mechanism for arbitration. Software testing is a key component in the delivery process for each of the development teams. As the network of third-party developers, or partners, completes projects, the software module is handed over to the customers who have submitted those projects. Every so often, the environments used by the partners and customers would differ and software that was working on the partner system would fail in the customer's environment. This difference would lead to delays in the process. gDev needed a mechanism for arbitration, i.e., a standardized environment that produces standard results regardless of who is testing.

gDev Begins Looking for a Geographically-Agnostic Solution that Can be Accessed Remotely
Given the challenges that gDev faced, they started looking in earnest for a management solution that would help users deploy an enterprise-class environment in a matter of minutes, as well as be accessible from any remote geographical location. With thousands of developers subscribed to and part of the platform, it was critical for the solution to support massive scalability in terms of users and the number of managed virtual machines. The cost of the solution was also an important factor in addition to it needing to be operationally easy-to-use and efficient.

gDev explored and evaluated a number of options, but after due diligence found VMLogix LabManager - Cloud Edition to be a good match for their requirements. In September 2009, gDev deployed VMLogix LabManager - Cloud Edition enabling them to manage a virtual lab on the Amazon public cloud through Amazon Web Services.

VMLogix LabManager - Cloud Edition at gDev
gDev's partners from across the globe have been provided user accounts and access to the virtual lab. The partners are now able to access the virtual lab through a web browser from any location across the globe. Through the lab, they have access to consistent lab machines and interfaces running enterprise software development environments. For gDev, this is a cost-effective solution because the cloud model requires only operational expenditures and no capital expenditures. This solution allows gDev to achieve their goals with the option of quickly scaling the lab up or down depending on needs, and providing on-demand access to resources for partners from across the globe.

Overall, gDev business has benefited from the flexibility and scalability that the cloud provides, with easy access from any country in the world. gDev has also been able to take advantage of a number of specific capabilities of VMLogix LabManager - Cloud Edition. They created a library of virtual machine templates and are able to allow several end users to deploy their own instance of a virtual machine in an on-demand manner. They launch large virtual machines (typically several tens of GB) on the public cloud and access the virtual machine console through the web browser. In addition, by using browser-embedded RDP for Windows or SSH for Linux on the public cloud, gDev can use the machine instances for a temporary period and then discard them when no longer required. gDev also is able to provide pristine environments for enterprise software development on demand with powerful automation capabilities that ensure that no administrator involvement is necessary.

Lowering Project Costs, Accelerating Software Delivery Time and Streamlining Team Collaboration
Since deploying VMLogix LabManager - Cloud Edition, gDev has realized significant business benefits. One of the biggest benefits has been the ability to expand the engineering talent pool, which drives down project costs for end customers.

gDev's business thrives on finding from the global talent pool the best possible engineering resources at the best possible cost structures. With globally accessible virtual labs, gDev has effectively been able to target the worldwide software developer community for their projects. As the competition for outsourced engineering projects has increased, there has been a downward pressure on gDev's costs, enabling the company to take on projects that used to be cost-prohibitive but are now achievable largely because of their globally accessible development platform.

gDev has also been able to accelerate software delivery times. Software partners now run standardized tests on every deliverable, produce a report and deliver the report to the customer along with the software module deliverable. This best practice has reduced issues due to environment differences between the software developer and customer by as much as 99 percent. Another benefit that gDev has experienced is significantly improved productivity and the ability to quickly resolve conflicts because they now have access to pristine and consistent environments.

Best of all, the VMLogix environment is easy for gDev's partners to work with and special training is not required in order for developers to start using the solution. This means that gDev can increase their partner ecosystem and partners can immediately start working and producing development projects via the cloud.

Future Plans and Looking Forward
As gDev's globally distributed development and testing environment platform stabilizes and provides growing returns to gDev's business, the plan is to continue to grow and expand the partner network leveraging this platform. Currently, gDev is executing approximately 450 projects every week through its partners using the platform. In the course of the next few quarters, the plan is to grow the environment to support approximately 1,500 projects per week on the same platform. The ability to deploy development and testing environments on the public cloud provides gDev with the flexibility to hire talent from across the globe. gDev is relying on the VMLogix LabManager - Cloud Edition platform to support this massive scalability of 1,000s of managed virtual machines and will continue to leverage Amazon Web Services to support the massive infrastructure scale - which will continuously drive down operational costs.

More Stories By Ravi Gururaj

Ravi Gururaj is Founder and CTO of VMLogix. He has over 19 years of technology product development, management and marketing experience. Prior to VMLogix, he was Managing Director of Trilogy E-Business Software Pvt. Ltd., the Bangalore-based offshore development center of Trilogy Inc. of Austin, Texas.

Ravi received an MBA with high distinction from Harvard Business School, where he was elected a Baker Scholar, and graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar in the Management and Technology (M&T) program, receiving a BSE in Computer Science & Engineering from the Moore School and a B.Sc. in Finance from the Wharton School.

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