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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

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