Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's not done until it's deployed and working!

It may amaze some people, but there are still development teams out there that think their job is done when they hand over to the test team. It should be obvious to everyone that the business derives no value from a system until it is deployed and working. Finger pointing and claiming that "it works on my machine" doesn't make money for the business!

Scripting or otherwise automating the deployment of an application is an invaluable aid to the whole development process. It speeds the process, thereby reducing the code/test feedback cycle. Even more importantly, it makes the process repeatable. The same script used for deployment to test should be used for deployment to production, thereby exercising the deployment scripts as part of the test cycle.

Likewise, if your project has difficulty with deployments, having a developer present during production deployments will pay dividends. There is nothing like first hand experience for bringing home to the development team the issues faced when their application is used in anger.

Until you have confidence that your deployment will go perfectly every time, involve the development team in every production deployment. And make automated deployment a requirement of every development project.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Wikipedia - continues to amaze me every day.

I am often faced with situations I have absolutely no technical information or background on. All Believe it or not, in many situations, all I have as starting tools are my instincts. However, this is rapidly corrected by good ol' google search and wikipedia lookups although, I still do miss speed reading documentation in book form.

On vacation with nothing better to do than just relax, I came across these amazing pictures ..

English Wikipedia Featured Pictures

Friday, November 2, 2007

double your broadband speed

I have been struggling with my DSL service since I moved into this new home. For some reason, my modem was training to 4M instead of the 8M in my previous home. My first reaction was acceptance that this was due to the distance factor from the exchange (which IS a significant factor). However, after months of resentment that life should be better, I decided to do something about it.

I had suspected that my internal home wiring was a factor. I knew that I should get a boost by changing things around, however, did not expect the level of impact. 15 minutes of investment boosted my speed from 4 MB to 8 MB.

So here is what I did and some explanation of what was causing the problem.

In the picture above, scenario A is your typical home internal wiring. The pair comes into the home through a special wall plate (NTE) and is then distributed around the home. This is a spiderweb typically. Worse, there may be other devices using the phone lines .. intercoms, alarm systems, pay-per-view box etc. The ADSL modem is typically on the end of one of these legs so, the signal to the modem has the interference and loss caused by the spiderweb of internal home wiring in addition to the normal loss and interference.

Scenario B uses a special device called an NTE5 central adsl splitter that plugs into the wall-plate where the copper pair from the exchange enters your home (you will have to do a mini external home survey to find where the pair disappears into the wall into your home).

You can see from the diagram that the signal to the modem does not have any of the issues with the internal home wiring. This also eliminates the need to put splitters on each and every outlet that has a phone.

This is a 15 min job. Really trivial. Only limitation is that your ADSL modem now has to be located and plugged into this wall plate only. Here is a good link / site that explains further.


The issue of having the ADSL modem locked into one place possibly far away from a computer is really a non-issue now-a-days. Two options / reasons : most ADSL modems now have WIFI built in (G or N standards will be more than enough). Alternately, there are powerline ethernet devices that work very well. What these devices do is basically make your internal home power (220V) cables into a transmission network for ethernet. Fairly pricey still, however, extremely flexible and they work !! I use the NetGear Powerline Ethernet HD adapters and have no complaints.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Maturing IT support - framework / model

I find the model I created useful in evaluating where teams stand in their maturity and the kinds of things I ask them to focus on to move up the value chain and improve their performance.

An example, to move from a state of 'managed' to 'measured', I ask teams to put in place measures in the following areas :

A> Business KPI reporting in the context of the system being measured. B> Measures around the utilization of the system (beyond CPU etc.). The most basic is a graph of concurrent user logins at 15 min intervals. More sophesticated is transactional level measures. C> Systems availability reporting which of course is always 99%+. A better way is measuring business impact i.e. #minutes downtime / call centre agent / month.

I've fallen and I can't get up

Too often I get a plea for help wherein a development/delivery manager runs into problems taking a system into production. Guess most often where they run into trouble .. yep ! Performance.

When questioned about the technical details, same old pattern. Lack of understanding of underlying middleware, database, 3rd party tools etc.

When a team displays such a lack of understanding, what I hear is the team saying to me - "I can code it, however, I don't know how to actually make it work !"

Performance considerations are intrinsic to good development practices & design. While a focussed effort on performance optimization for a week using a highly skilled team always yields amazing results, it is a bad idea to deliver under that assumption.

This is often the simple difference between average and good teams.