Skip to main content

Fight For Your Infrastructure

The 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know book was recently released. Kevlin Henney has gathered together advice from a wide bunch of programmers, many of which are from the Norwegian developer scene, and a good few of which I consider old friends.

They are even arranging a release party in Oslo next Monday at XP-meetup. So far, over 250 people have RSVP'ed to attend the event.

Unfortunately, I didn't get my act together to write a submission for the book before after the deadline, but I submitted it anyhow, in case of any 2nd edition of the book.

Anyhow, out of sheer jealously of all the attention the accepted submissions are receiving now, I figured I'd post mine here:

Fight For Your Infrastructure

It is in your role as a programmer to demand proper infrastructure from your organization, simply because nobody else will. If the organization does not provide it for you, you must explain them what you require, and dedicate as much of your own time as necessary until an adequate support level is reached. This is a continuous effort; As new hardware, tools and frameworks appear every year, you must consider which of these can be of benefit for your team, and make sure installations proceed smoothly. Be it the introduction of solid-state-drives for your team, or moving to a new distributed source code management tool, you must push for these changes to happen.

Some would argue that this is a job for IT-administrators, but unfortunately, this is often not the case. Some organizations suffer from having an underskilled or understaffed IT department, and even for experienced technicians, it is difficult to keep up with the portfolio of developer tools available. Some organizations are budget-wise structured in such a way that the IT department is not rewarded for investing in programming infrastructure, and provide programmers with the same hard- and software constraints as any other office worker.

The appropriate suite of tools depend on the size, location and configuration of the team. Starting with the most elementary pieces of infrastructure, a proper monitor setup and a powerful desktop computer is obligatory for almost any programmer, as well as mouse and keyboard of good quality. It is particularly good if the programmer can choose brand and models by personal preference.

Infrastructure is not only about IT. Basic environment requirements should include proper ventilation, and a kitchen-station nearby with free tea, coffee and water. To assist the flow of communication between programmers, there should be rooms freely available equipped with whiteboards, flip-charts and projectors.

Moving further into the infrastructure, programmers should have a solid network connection, allowing them to quickly access needed resources online. The internal network between developers and servers should be lightning fast, making it easy to do remote operations, like deployment and following logs.

Regarding services that should be provided internally, most would put a source code management tool on top of the list. Organizations are inreasingly discovering the use of continuous integration, and this environment should be powerful enough to provide feedback in the matter of minutes after a change in the source code. Knowledge bases such as wiki, issue tracker and pastebin should be standard in any developer environment.

On personal software, there should be room and routines for purchasing commercial licenses, as well as books and documentation. The operating system and application platform for which the programmers are developing should be flexible and practical, allowing scripted builds and automatic deployment, minimizing the amount of tedious repeated routines programmers have to go through.

Finally, there should be a presence of IT personnel that can absorb the infrastructure maintenance from the programmers. At the end of the day, it is our job to develop software, so outsourcing upgrades and monitoring to support staff should be allowed.

This work is licensed under a [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/ Creative Commons Attribution 3]

Comments

  1. This is a good point. Many developers assume that the state of the infrastructure is unchangeable.

    At my previous site, I discovered that forum.java.sun.com was blocked by the firewall. Initially, I got pretty angry and resigned. Then I sent an email to the firewall administrator. The response I got was illuminating:

    * The blocking was part of a preinstalled filter blocking forum.*
    * The firewall administrator opened access right away.
    * The firewall administrator got happy that he got direct feedback, and not the usual grumbling in the hallways.
    * He also remarked that people almost never request filter changes.

    Sometimes, a fight isn't necessary. Problems that you think may be due to difficult people, like the network admin, might just be the way they are because nobody pointed them out.

    BTW: Thomas: You're more than welcome on Monday if you wanna make the trip!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd love to come, Johannes, but it's a bit too much travel-hassle-money for me, I'm afraid :)

    Thanks for your comment! Good story.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Managing dot-files with vcsh and myrepos

Say I want to get my dot-files out on a new computer. Here's what I do:

# install vcsh & myrepos via apt/brew/etc
vcsh clone https://github.com/tfnico/config-mr.git mr
mr update

Done! All dot-files are ready to use and in place. No deploy command, no linking up symlinks to the files. No checking/out in my entire home directory as a Git repository. Yet, all my dot-files are neatly kept in fine-grained repositories, and any changes I make are immediately ready to be committed:

config-atom.git
    -> ~/.atom/*

config-mr.git
    -> ~/.mrconfig
    -> ~/.config/mr/*

config-tmuxinator.git  
    -> ~/.tmuxinator/*

config-vim.git
    -> ~/.vimrc
    -> ~/.vim/*

config-bin.git   
    -> ~/bin/*

config-git.git          
    -> ~/.gitconfig

config-tmux.git  
    -> ~/.tmux.conf    

config-zsh.git
    -> ~/.zshrc

How can this be? The key here is to use vcsh to keep track of your dot-files, and its partner myrepos/mr for operating on many repositories at the same time.

I discovere…

Encrypting and Decrypting with Spring

I was recently working with protecting some sensitive data in a typical Java application with a database underneath. We convert the data on its way out of the application using Spring Security Crypto Utilities. It "was decided" that we'd be doing AES with a key-length of 256, and this just happens to be the kind of encryption Spring crypto does out of the box. Sweet!

The big aber is that whatever JRE is running the application has to be patched with Oracle's JCE in order to do 256 bits. It's a fascinating story, the short version being that U.S. companies are restricted from exporting various encryption algorithms to certain countries, and some countries are restricted from importing them.

Once I had patched my JRE with the JCE, I found it fascinating how straight forward it was to encrypt and decrypt using the Spring Encryptors. So just for fun at the weekend, I threw together a little desktop app that will encrypt and decrypt stuff for the given password and sa…

The End of GitMinutes (my podcast)

I'm just about ship GitMinutes episode 46, which is going to be the final episode. I'll just paste the outro script here, as it sums up the sentimental thoughts pretty well:

I’m happy to have finally finished [publishing the last episodes from Git-Merge 2017], just in time before Git-Merge 2018 takes place in March. I won’t be going there myself, so I’m counting on someone else to pick up the mic there.

It’s sad to be shipping this one as it is probably the last GitMinutes episode ever. To go a bit down memory lane, 6 years ago, my daughter was born, and as I used a little of that paternity leave to set up my podcasting infrastructure and produce the first few episodes. Initially it was just going to be 10 episodes and call the experiment finished. Instead, I got to 46 episodes, the last dozen or so lazily tailing the last few Git-Merge conferences.

To every one of my guests, thank you so much again for coming on to share your passion in this little niche of computer science a…

Joining eyeo: A Year in Review

It's been well over a year since I joined eyeo. And 'tis the season for yearly reviews, so...

It's been pretty wild. So many times I thought "this stuff really deserves a bloggin", but then it was too inviting to grab onto the next thing and get that rolling.

Instead of taking a deep dive into some topic already, I want to scan through that year in review and think for myself, what were the big things, the important things, the things I achieved, and the things I learned. And then later on, if I ever get around to it, grab one of these topics and elaborate in a dedicated blog-post. Like a bucket-list of the blog posts that I should have written. Here goes:
How given no other structures, silos will grow by themselves This was my initial shock after joining the company. Only a few years after taking off as a startup, the hedges began growing, seemingly almost by themselves, and against the will of the founders. I've worked in silos, and in companies without the…

Working in Teams over Working as Individuals

I recentlypostedthis sketch on Twitter:

Thanks to a few mighty retweets, it gathered a lot of views (9000 impressions, whatever that means). While that's fun and all, I still felt a bit sad that such an awfully simple insight can garner much more popularity than a thorough blog post that I put some hours into.

So, rather than let Twitter get away with this, I'll steal my own content back into the blog :)

The thread went like this:

Pondering how to battle individualism in companies. For some, it is counter-intuitive that teams can be more responsive, faster and even more accountable than single individuals.

Having "teams" in place is no guarantee that team work is happening. Be wary of too large teams, "I/me/mine", personal contact details instead of team point of contact. Good team is sailing crew, not galley slaves.

Beware heroes, go-to persons, calling in favors and other shadow handling of work. Real teams make the work explicit, both requests/needs and re…