Gartner’s new ARA Magic Quadrant highlights future for DevOps

DevOps has evolved into a mainstream strategy this year, with application release automation and continuous delivery at the heart of a long list of multiple tools and categories. As the enterprise looks to capitalise on this trend and increase release velocity without sacrificing quality or stability, application release automation (ARA) tools are top of the shopping list.

“By 2020, 50% of global enterprises will have implemented at least one application release automation solution, up from less than 10% today,” according to Gartner’s new ARA Magic Quadrant report.

Application release automation and DevOps

This is the first Magic Quadrant for Application Release Automation that Gartner has ever produced – a clear indication that ARA tools have a big role to play as DevOps teams strive for a continuous delivery pipeline that rapidly turns out small releases in a stable and secure fashion.

The ARA market is just six years old, but it has already grown from US$20 million in 2010 up to US$219.7 million last year, according to the report. And with enterprise adoption poised to grow by a factor of five in the next three to four years, it looks like we are at the beginning of significant investment by enterprise IT teams. Companies trying to take DevOps to the next level are looking to ARA tools to deliver.

It may be a relatively new market, but there are a number of players already jockeying for position.

There’s a strict criterion for inclusion in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. Only vendors offering a comprehensive ARA solution that includes automation, environment modelling and release coordination functionalities were considered. All the companies named are also generating at least US$1 million in annual revenues solely from ARA products licensed to at least 20 paying, production-level customers.

Leaders in the ARA field

While big names like Microsoft and Puppet are described as niche players, Gartner has singled out Automic, CA Technologies, Electric Cloud, IBM, and XebiaLabs as leaders in the ARA field.

“We believe that being placed in the leader’s quadrant is a clear recognition of our product innovation and our focus on the needs of enterprise IT teams,” said Derek Langone, CEO of XebiaLabs. “It is a testament to the tremendous value our global enterprise customers have been able to create in a short period of time, as they use XebiaLabs to power the software delivery of mission critical applications, from flying satellites to space to managing transactions worth billions of dollars.”

One big reason a wide variety of industries are turning to the top ARA tools, from financial services to retail, to transportation and beyond, is the ease and speed with which they can be implemented and can scale for large organisations. This simplicity represents a significant improvement over the alternative of building custom programs and scripts to link other tools in the pipeline.

IT teams have made costly and time-consuming mistakes by trying to retrofit continuous integration tools like Jenkins and Bamboo, or provisioning tools such as Chef and Ansible. Application release automation is designed to be a central hub where companies can plan and orchestrate their software release pipeline and ensure continuous and reliable deployments.

Automation is the future

Gartner’s report mentions automation, environment modelling and release coordination as the key evaluation requirements that enterprises are looking at. ARA tools help teams to dispense with inconsistent manual methods at every stage of the product life cycle. They’re enabling businesses to manage and co-ordinate an increasingly complex set of tools, processes, and systems.

Accessibility and scalability are important too. Businesses need to be able to visualise and comprehend the progress and current status of all active releases. They also need the freedom to add new tools and technologies and integrate them into the pipeline. Easy integration with the latest technologies allows customers to retain maximum flexibility and business agility.

There’s also demand for a platform that’s accessible for management and provides a rich set of metrics. Managers need to maintain control and visibility, without hampering the autonomous decision-making that enables DevOps teams to innovate. Some orchestration tools are just too complex and technical; if you can’t extract actionable insights, all of your metrics are going to waste. And if you aren’t gathering all the right data in the first place, there’s no insight to be found.

Gartner’s ARA Magic Quadrant is defining this new space. The firm is confident that ARA tools are set to take centre stage as enterprises try to expand on the agility gains they’re made from DevOps and other automation initiatives. Companies have already dipped a toe in the water, now they’re ready to dive in with application release automation and make the promise of continuous delivery a reality.


Written by Simon Hill. Edited for web by Cecilia Rehn.