At Threeplicate we recently automated a ton of things that we used to do manually until a few weeks ago. They’re all related to software development, but after all that’s what we do.

We always had the mandatory continuous integration builds for all our projects, managed by the excellent Team City, and we’ve always been able to make a build in one step, but we wanted to go even further.

For ScrewTurn Wiki, every time we push changes to our internal repository (hosted at Codebase), the build server generates 3 ZIP packages (source, binary for local storage, binary for SQL Server storage) and publishes them to our website as development snapshots. It also updates the project’s public repository mirror on BitBucket. This level of automation allows us to release fixes to the public with exactly zero effort and with a latency of less than 5 minutes. We still don’t have automation for production releases, as they involve updating the website, but it’s something we’ll work on sooner or later.

For Amanuens, not only we can make a build in one step, but we can also push a new version to production to Windows Azure with a single mouse click, with zero downtime and full service continuity. This level of automation allows us to release new versions very frequently, even multiple times a day. That is why we’re able to fix small and trivial bugs in only a few hours. In this case a production deployment takes roughly 40 minutes and has a cost of about €0.15, and that is the reason why we do not launch new deployments automatically on new commits (we’d have dozens deployments a day).

For the Amanuens website, with the help of Deploy, we publish updates automatically in a matter of a few seconds after a commit.

Now, automating things not only gives us geek satisfaction, but has at least two undeniable advantages:

  1. it saves a lot of time that can be spent doing useful things, because babysitting a new Azure deployment takes time and attention
  2. it reduces human mistakes, because it’s extremely easy to forget something along a boring and convoluted process.

All in all, automation fires innovation, because the time you save allows you to focus on real work. That’s the philosophy behind Amanuens, by the way.

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