Most software companies desire to have their products and services available for trials. This allows customers to test drive the product or service before purchase as well as gives marketing valuable leads for customer acquisition and marketing campaigns. Many companies also want get feedback from customers from their unreleased products through trials. If you have a SaaS service or a hosted product, this is achieved by making the product registration page to have a limited N-day trial built into the service itself. However, if you are in the business of delivering packaged software, it is not that easy. With an automation engine, baked images of your product and public clouds such as Amazon AWS or Azure, even packaged software companies can quickly jump start a trial program in weeks. We used a cloud management product automation engine and AWS cloud to put together trials of several of our products in less than 4 weeks. Since going live a few months ago, we have successfully provisioned with 99.99% reliability over 500 trial requests and thousands of AWS cloud EC2 machines.
Cloud management platforms such as BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management have been extensively used in many enterprise use cases to manage private, public and Dev/Test clouds as well as to automate provisioning and operations that has resulted in cost savings and agility. One cool new use case we recently used CLM for is product trial automation. Let me describe the basic flow:
- As soon as trial users registers at the bmc.com trial page, a mail gets sent to a mailbox.
- A provisioning machine running BMC Cloud Lifecycle management retrieves mail, interprets the request and starts the automation flow. Automation uses CLM SDK to make concurrent service request calls for provisioning for each trial user.
- Based on the mail containing the service request, CLM starts provisioning of ‘product-1’, ‘product-2’,… trial machines on Amazon AWS cloud using service offerings and blueprints pre-defined in CLM containing baked AMIs. Each product trial has an associated service blueprint describing the environment of a collection of AMIs to provision. These service offering blueprints range from a simple single machine application stack to a full stack multi-machine application environment. It even includes target machines. Once the provisioning of the trial machines is completed, CLM automatically executes scripts and post-deploy actions as Bladelogic jobs to properly configure the trial machines that includes executing running BSA jobs to properly configure all the targets depending on the blueprints.
- As soon as machines are provisioned and configured on AWS cloud, a mail is sent back to the user indicating that machines are ready and URLs are provided to the user to login and trial the product.
- At the end of the trial period, the trial machines are decommissioned automatically through BMC CLM. This is extremely important to govern the sprawl of EC2 machines.
Cloud lifecycle management products such as CLM with their advanced automation, orchestration, blueprinting and governance capabilities can be used to solve new interesting automation use cases such as product trials that we hadn’t envisioned earlier. With over 500 trials and thousands of machines successfully provisioned and decommissioned on Amazon cloud, we feel good that we are eating our own dogfood in creating and using our solutions to manage product trials.