Modern Times

Heavy motivation to automate everything, even the automation itself, is the common understanding of the most DevOps teams. There seems to be a dire necessity to automate everything – even automation itself. This is common understanding and therefore motivation for most DevOps teams.

In my role as Configuration and Release Manager, I saw in close to every project I joined, gaps in the build structure or in the software architecture, I had to fix by optimizing the build jobs. But often you can’t fix symptoms like long running build scripts with just a few clicks. In his post I will give brief introduction about common problems in software projects, you need to overcome before you really think about implementing a DevOps culture.

  1. Build logic can’t fix a broken architecture. A huge amount of SCM merging conflicts occur, because of missing encapsulation of business logic. A function which is spread through many modules or services have a high likelihood that a file will be touched by more than one developer.

  2. The necessity of orchestrated builds is a hint of architectural problems. Transitive dependencies, missing encapsulation and a heavy dependency chain are typical reasons to run into the chicken and egg problem. Design your artifacts as much as possible independent.

  3. Build logic have developed by Developers, not by Administrators. Persons which focused in Operations have different concepts to maintain artifact builds, than a software developer. A good anti pattern example of a build structure is webMethofs of Software AG. They don‘ t provide a repository server like Sonatype Nexus to share dependencies. The build always point to the dependencies inside a webMethods installation. This practice violate the basic idea of build automation, which mentioned in the book book ‚Practices of an Agile Developer‘ from 2006.

  4. Not everything at once. Split up the build jobs to specific goals, like create artifact, run acceptance tests, create API documentation and generate reports. If one of the last steps fail you don’t need to repeat everything. The execution time of the build get dramatically reduced and it is easier to maintain the build infrastructure.

  5. Don’t give to much flexibility to your build infrastructure. This point is strongly related to the first topic I explains. When a build manager have less discipline he will create extremely complex scripts nobody is able to understand. The JavaScript task runner Grunt is a example how a build logic can get messy and unreadable. This is one of the reason, why my favorite build tool for Java projects is always decided to Maven, because it takes governance of understandable builds.

  6. There is no requirement to automate the automation. By definition have complex automation levels higher costs than simple tasks. Always think before, about the benefits you get of your automation activities to see if it make sens to spend time and money for it.

  7. We do what we can, but can we what we do? Or in the words by Gardy Bloch „A fool with a tool is still a fool“. Understand the requirements of your project and decide based on that which tool you choose. If you don’t have the resources even the most professional solution can not support you. If you understood your problem you are be able to learn new professional advanced processes.

  8. Build logic have run first on the local development environment. If your build runs not on your local development machine than don’t call it build logic. It is just a hack. Build logic have to be platform and IDE independent.

  9. Don’t mix up source repositories. The organization of the sources into several folders inside a huge directory, creates just a complex build whiteout any flexibility. Sources should structured by technology or separate independent modules.

Many of the point I mentioned can understood by comparing the current Situation in almost every project. The solution to fix the things in a healthy manner is in the most cases not that complicated. It needs just a bit of attention and well planning. The most important advice I can give is follow the KISS principle. Keep it simple, stupid. This means follow as much as possible the standard process without modifications. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are reasons why a standard becomes to a standard. Here is a short plan you can follow.

  • First: understand the problem.
  • Second: investigate about a standard solution for the process.
  • Third: develop a plan to apply the solution in the existing process landscape. This implies to kick out tools which not support standard processes.

If you follow step by step you own pan, without jumping to more far ten the ext point, you can see quite fast positive results.

By the way. If you think you like to have a guiding to reach a success DevOps process, don’t hesitate to contact me. I offer hands on Consulting and also training to build up a powerful DevOps team.