Improving how we deploy GitHub. We aimed to improve the deployment process for all developers at GitHub and mitigate risk associated with deploying one of the largest developer platforms in the world.
Over the last year GitHub has doubled the number of developers contributing to the main GitHub.com application. While this seems like a solely positive thing on the surface, the 2x increase in folks contributing to the core software exposed some problems in terms of tooling. Tooling that worked for us a year ago no longer functioned in the same capacity. While GitHub itself has been a fantastic vehicle to drive change for GitHub, the deployment tooling and coordination has not enjoyed the same levels of success. One of those areas was our deployments.
GitHub.com is deployed primarily through chatops using a branch deploy model (we deploy branches before merging into the main branch). This meant that developers can add changes to a queue, check the status of the queue, and organize groups of pull requests to be deployed and merged. This all functioned using chatops in Slack in a room called #dotcom-ops. While this is a very simple system it started to cause some confusion while monitoring a deploy as a single chat room managed the queue, the deploy, and many other tasks for many people at the same time. All of a sudden this channel that was once a central part of a crucial information system was overwhelmed by the amount of information being pushed through it. Developers could no longer track their change through the system which resulted in a reduced capacity for that developer and an increased risk profile for GitHub.
This is just one step of about a dozen spread across hundreds of messages, it is hard to keep track and validate the state of a deploy.
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