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Posted 12 Sep 2012


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Agile Development Requires Agile Support

12 Sep 2012CPOL4 min read
Agile development requires agile support.

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Agile development has become the standard methodology for application development. The days of long term planning with giant Gantt waterfall charts and detailed requirements is fading away. For years the product planning process frustrated product owners and businesses because no matter the plan, nothing ever went to plan. Agile development throws the detailed planning out the window and instead focuses on giving developers some basic requirements and pointing them in the right direction. Constant collaboration via quick iterations with the end users, product owners, and the development team helps ensure the project is done correctly.

The various agile development methodologies have helped greatly with creating products faster, but not without causing new problems. Complicated application deployments now occur weekly or monthly. Most of the products are web-based and deployed as a software service model. System performance and availability of these apps becomes mission critical. This is all much different from the old process of mailing new releases of client-server apps on CD once per quarter or year.

The steady stream of new products and product enhancements puts a lot of pressure on IT operations to keep up with the software deployments and adding infrastructure capacity. The problem is most operations teams still move slowly thanks to change orders, documentation, procedures, testing and other processes. Operations can slow the process down and push back on the development team in some organizations. The DevOps movement is trying to solve some of these problems by integrating the development and operations teams more together.

Rapid Change Introduces New Problems

The rapid product change ultimately creates some application problems along the way. Higher rates of change increase the likelihood of new application defects. Delivering applications as a software service also means that scalability of applications is critical. Development teams struggle to keep up with application defects and scalability concerns in their applications.

Fixing application problems is a never ending job for agile development teams. Fixing problems before your customers do and fixing them quickly is critical. Most companies really struggle with this due to the divide between the development and operations groups. Fixing application problems typically requires querying databases, looking at log files, reviewing config files, reviewing error logs and other similar tasks. It becomes difficult to work on new features when your lead developers are working on defects from the last product version.

Developers Need More Visibility

The problem is most developers are not given access to see server and application information in the production environments. The operations team doesn’t trust giving all the developers the keys to the kingdom to log in to production and poke around the servers. The challenge is either give them no access, or potentially too much access. Those with access can still waste time figuring out the location of the application and how to connect to it over VPN. In addition, reproducing problems in test environments takes too much time and isn't always possible.

System administrators spend a lot of time helping developers track down server information.

Most companies give key developers access to all of the production resources so they can help resolve application defects. The problem is only those key people have access and they become a bottleneck. They end up spending 25-50% of their time on a daily basis trying to solve application issues because they are the only ones with access. These key employees’ time is best spent on strategic new projects, not addressing application defects. This job should fall to entry level developers, provided they have access to all the information they need to troubleshoot the problems.

The solution to agile application support is giving all the developers limited access to the production environment and all the server information they need to see. Some companies create their own solutions internally to collect log files, centralize errors or other things to address the problem. Some developers even have access to server monitoring or other tools. But they key is giving them access to everything they need so they can see the full picture and giving access to the whole team. Giving access to everyone scales up the application support team and creates collaboration around providing improved application support.

Stackify Enables Agile Application Support

Stackify has created a solution that can give all developers a secure and read only view of the entire production server environment without console or remote desktop access. They provide a web application that provides real time visibility to the important information that developers need to see. An application centric view enables them to see all of their apps across multiple datacenters and environments. They don’t need to know where the application is deployed, just the name of the application to find it and dig in to see more. All your developers can see server health, application health, log files, config files, windows event viewer, deployment history, application notes, and much more. They can receive email and text alerts when problems arise and even safely query your production databases.

Stackify enables companies that do agile development to scale up their application support team by getting more team members involved. The lead developers can spend more time on new projects. Application issues can be fixed quicker than ever. Operations can spend less time helping developers collect server information. Agile application support starts with Stackify.

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This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Matt Watson (Stackify)
CEO Stackify
United States United States
Founder & CEO of Stackify. Focused on helping software development teams support their production applications.

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