MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN) used manual development and deployment processes for its .NET-based applications. Since it deployed Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and deployment automation solution Attunity RepliWeb
(formerly RepliWeb R-1) from Microsoft Partner Network member Attunity, developers reclaimed almost 40 hours a week. Now they can focus on improving applications and response time to meet business needs.
Real estate professionals throughout New England subscribe to MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN) for its innovative, web-based applications written in Microsoft ASP .NET, a web application framework that’s a component of the Microsoft .NET Framework
4. The core multiple listing service (MLS) application runs on 12 servers running Hyper-V virtualization technology that hosts hundreds of virtual machines running Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0, a component of the Windows Server 2008 operating system.
“Code release management and simultaneous deployment of software updates across our complement of virtual machines—with no downtime—required a lot of manual labor and oversight,” says Matt Lavallee, Director of Technology at MLS Property Information Network.
”We need 100 percent uptime and a seamless experience for more than 30,000 subscribers; with sessions load-balancing between virtual machines, the code running on all nodes has to be consistent to service customer requests reliably.”
Developers divided the MLS application into independent modules, or branches, for parallel development with a separate release branch. “A lot of coding was done between the modules and we could not track changesets very well,” says Lavallee. “There was a
risk that the release changeset for a given module might not coincide with the release changeset for another module. Developers spent a couple of days a month documenting the related changesets that were the appropriate point for release.” A changeset is a
logical container which contains everything related to a single code check-in operation.
Also, developers spent an average of 40 hours a week managing .NET application releases, documenting all the integration points between in-situ code and the new code. “Our application contains more than 1,400 pages. One change could affect the user interface
of hundreds of pages, so someone had to document what the net effect would be on all those front-end screens,” says Lavallee. “These issues were the number one pain point for staff and impacted our ability to respond quickly to the business.”
To improve source control and code release management, MLS PIN turned to Benjamin Day, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional. In August 2011, Day suggested that the company upgrade to Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, a collaboration
platform to automate software development. MLS PIN can use the improved build script format and server architecture, now based on Windows Workflow Foundation, a core component of the Microsoft .NET Framework, to standardize how it manages build environments.
“Developers can use continuous integration to trigger the build to run automatically when someone checks in code related to the build,” says Day.
||Using Team Foundation Server and RepliWeb, we reclaimed more than $100,000 in lost labor, while dramatically improving the simplicity and reliability of our deployment process.
| Matt Lavallee
Director of Technology, MLS Property Information Network
“Ben did a great job of showing us how to exploit the new version control tools in Team Foundation Server and to streamline how we got to a release build, but we still had to address our deployment issues,” says Lavallee.
MLS PIN worked with Attunity, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies. Attunity helped MLS PIN implement its Attunity RepliWeb software suite (formerly RepliWeb R1) to automate its critical .NET deployment workflows and web content
updates for its services. As a deployment automation solution, RepliWeb works through a connector that is added to the build definition in Team Foundation Server.
“Our approach is to provide a solution that takes advantage of Team Foundation Server and addresses the deployment needs of development and production teams alike,” says Garrick Herrmann, Vice President, Attunity.
“RepliWeb has a clever transactional mode for unified, synchronous updates,” says Lavallee. “It validates the release across every node based on what you have in Team Foundation Server, copies all the files out to the IIS nodes, and commits an IIS change
against all the nodes to point to the new release. We can also ‘roll back’ servers to the last known approved state.”
MLS PIN went live with RepliWeb in March 2012 and developers are happy that they can focus on developing and testing code.
“Using Team Foundation Server and RepliWeb, we reclaimed more than [US]$100,000 in lost labor, while dramatically improving the simplicity and reliability of our deployment process,” says Lavallee.
Using Team Foundation Server, MLS PIN developers simplified verifying consistency between builds. “We are saving at least two days a month in release time because we can easily identify, track, and manage changes across branches,” says Lavallee.
With RepliWeb, developers are less burdened by manual deployment tasks. “We spent 40 hours a week on deployment-related tasks and now we’ll spend about six,” says Lavallee. “Developers can write more code and QA staff can introduce quality assurance earlier
in the development cycle.”
Today, staff use the automated build environment and version control tools in Team Foundation Server to take the guesswork out of tracking builds because it’s easy to pinpoint which check-in "broke" the build. With RepliWeb, the team can deploy application
updates with more confidence. “RepliWeb transactional deployment is huge―being able to guarantee consistency across many servers is a big deal for MLS PIN and takes the worry out of deployment,” says Lavallee. “And the roll back feature helps mitigate the
risk of unintentionally published code.”
Improved Business Agility
Now MLS PIN can respond more quickly to urgent requests from the business. When the real estate crisis caused an upsurge of short sales in 2008, MSN PIN scrambled to create new functionality to accommodate these more complex transactions. “It took
us about six weeks, but today, using RepliWeb and Team Foundation Server for release testing and documentation, we could get that new feature set out at least a week faster,” says Lavallee.
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