Tag Archives: software engineering

Have your IT systems joined Social Media?

No, your servers should (probably) not have a facebook profile, nor should your servicebus have a twitter profile, but as the work tools change and evolve, you should probably consider updating the stream of status mails to more modern “social media” used at work.

When you’re in DevOps you probably get a steady stream of emails from various systems checking in. It may be alert emails, health checks or backup completed emails. It’s been more “fun” getting these mails with the rise of unlimited mail storage and powerful email-search tools should you ever need to find something in the endless stream of server-generated mails.

As we’ve adopted new tools, the automatic messaging from the servers has more or less stayed the same – until recently. We’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid with Slack, Jira and other fancy tools, and recently we considered moving the IT systems along… and so we did.

Slack has a very nice API and even with free tier, you can enable a “robot” (a robot.sh shell script that is) to emit messages on the various slack channels. We’ve integrated the slackbot into our various (automated)workflows in our Continuous integration / Continuous Deployment  pipeline, so that releases which move from environment to the next – and finally into production, emits a message to a #devops channel . We’ve also made a #operations channel, and when our monitoring registers “alert events”, it emits messages onto this channel. Using this setup anyone on the team can effectively and easily subscribe to push messages.

As a sanity measure and not to have “yet another mailbox”, we’ve tried to preach that everything on Slack should be considered ephemeral (that is short lived), and if anything worth remembering is said, it must be captured elsewhere.
As many other companies we use Jira to manage our software development. A task is tracked from idea to delivery and then closed and archived. As a Jira task is long-lived we’ve also integrated the same CI/CD pipeline into Jira. Once the release train starts rolling – a ticket in Jira is created (by the scripting tools through the Jira API) and updated as it pass through the environments – and closed automatically when the solution has been deployed to production.

The ticket created in Jira contains a changelog generated from pulling the contained commits from Git included in the pull request and if possible (assuming the commit comments are formatted correctly) linked to the Jira issues contained in the release (build from the pull request).

The jira tickets created by the release train is collected in a kanban board where each environment/stage have a separate column giving a quick overview of the complete state of releases (what is where right now).

A future move we’ve considered was if we should have blogging by servers. Assuming agile developers is able to create reasonable commit comments which may be readable (and comprehensible) by non-developers, it might me interesting utilizing a blogging tool such as wordpress to provide a historical log of releases.

As you adopt new tools for communication, remember to also think of automated communication, which may have a useful place in the new tools. Often new platforms have readily available APIs which allows your IT platforms to provide – or receive -information much more efficiently than pagers, email or whatever was available once you set it up in times gone by.

(This post originally appeared on Linked)

Ephemeral Feature Toggles

At its simplest  feature toggle is a small if-statement, which may be toggled without deploying code, and used to enable features (new or changed functionality) in your software.

In an agile setup most developers love  having feature toggles available, as they often allow for a continuous delivery setup  with very little friction and obstacles. While this is true, it often seems developers forget to think of feature toggles as ephemeral, and doesn’t realize what a terrible mess, this can cause – given they don’t remove the toggles once the feature is launched and part of the product.

While feature toggles often is an extremely lean way to  introduce public features in software – short circuiting normal release ceremony, as it has already happened before the launch of the feature – which often literally is a button press in a admin/back end interface.

Feature toggles must be ephemeral when used to support Continuous Delivery.

Introducing feature toggles in source code is often just allowing an if-statement and toggling between two states. While it ought to be a single place a toggle occur in the source code, it may often be in views, models, libraries and/or templates – and thus leads to (potentially) a lot of clutter in the source code.

If feature toggles are allowed to live on, the next issue is often that feature toggles may become nested or unintentional crossed as various functions, components in the code, may depend on other features.

Feature toggles is a wonderful thing, but all toggles should not have a lifespan beyond the two sprints forward – allowing for the wins of the feature toggles, yet avoiding long term clutter and complications in the source code.

Other uses for feature toggles…

Feature toggles may exist as hooks for operations or to define various class-of-service for your users.

When used for operations, they may be used as hooks to disable especially heavy functionality during times of heavy load – black Friday, Christmas or whenever it may be applicable.

When used for Class-of-Service feature toggles can be used to determine which feature a basic and a premium user – or any other classes you may choose to have – have access to.

If you’re applying feature toggles as Operations hooks or class-of-service, don’t make them ephemeral, but have your developers mark them clearly in source code.