Website fleet management: challenges and opportunities

Chris Yates
VP Marketing
11 Oct 2019

How many websites and applications do you think the average medium to large organization runs? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands?

Waaaay back in 2015, Forrester Research interviewed digital leaders at enterprise organizations and found that, on average, they were maintaining 268 customer-facing sites. That seemed like a lot at the time!

Fast forward to 2019, and the challenge looks far worse.

Image showing various large organizations and their domain counts

Public-facing sites and applications have proliferated across organizations, from global CPG and life-sciences companies to colleges and universities, agencies, and software companies.

These applications range from critical anchor properties—like corporate or brand .coms and .edus—to campaign microsites with limited lifespans, and department or project sites that proliferate at universities.

No matter how big or small, every website or app is a point of risk—and a potential source of waste from duplicated efforts to host, maintain, and secure—if you don’t have a platform strategy.

What are the challenges in managing website fleets?

  1. How does IT respond to this patchwork of websites, using different CMSs and tooling (from Drupal to Java to Node.js), often built by different teams or by digital agencies?
  2. How does the organization control costs and drive predictability?
  3. How do websites built and maintained by different teams remain secure?
  4. How do organizations maintain the right governance of all of the organization’s digital property and processes?
  5. How do organizations out-innovate their competitors–large and small?
  6. How do teams and organizations know that they’re constantly improving?

Running tens or hundreds or thousands of websites and applications across an organization is a huge challenge. But it’s also a massive opportunity–if done right.

With the right platform strategy and tools, organizations can create a win/win solution for both digital teams focused on building great customer experiences and IT organizations charged with keeping all those sites and apps secure and performant (not to mention cost efficient!).

Platform.sh solves many of these technology problems with a set of tools to manage websites and web apps at scale. At the same time, we can facilitate a win/win scenario between groups that have often been at odds.

The Platform.sh vision for website fleets

Platform.sh powers website fleets today for well-known brands and organizations—Orange, the University of Missouri, Unity, EBSCO, and The British Council, to name a few. But we’ve got big news.

First - we’re announcing a new key feature for teams managing website fleets at scale: Source Operations.

Wish your site—or 1,000 of your sites—could update themselves when they need security patches? Source Operations can do that. Want to take the innovation happening in one business unit and deliver those features across your fleet? Source Operations can do that, too.

Today, we’re delivering a public beta of the Source Operations feature that enables Platform.sh customers to automate code updates to their sites. We’ve created a series of posts to explain how it works in detail:

  1. Source Operations: automate maintenance, from single sites to fleets
  2. Three ways to manage website fleets (scheduled automation, scripting, and GUIs)
  3. Admiral: how to keep your fleet afloat (an example framework for fleet automation with Platform.sh)

Yeah, we couldn’t resist the puns with that third one, sorry.

The TL;DR summary: Source Operations enables mass updating of site code for your fleet of web apps and almost anything other action you can script.

Like the idea of WordPress or Drupal multisite, but wish you could update sites selectively? Now you can.

Source Operations is available as a public beta today, and you can check out our documentation here for more detail.

We’re rolling out more fleet-focused features over the coming months

Source Operations is just the first of many additions to the Platform.sh fleet management toolset. In the next several months look for:

  • Enhancements to user and organization management in the Platform.sh console and API
  • Integration with external user authentication systems to manage your development teams
  • Robust logs and metrics at the site and organization level
  • Sweet dashboard capability to keep apprised of the state of your apps–and your site fleet

We’re building on the Platform.sh core capability

That means you’ll get polyglot support for dozens of languages and frameworks, declarative infrastructure, where a few lines of config transform into containerized services in an instant, and a GitOps-driven workflow that adapts to the way your team works. Oh, and of course, you can deploy across multiple cloud providers in 25 regions around the world, with 24x7 support.

How to get started with a fleet strategy

Platform.sh can provide the tools you need to deliver improved time to value and align digital and IT organizations. We want to go a step further and help you with your website fleet management strategy, too.

Ready to start? I’d love to hear from you directly.

More content on website fleet management to read and share