Category Archives: Technology

Understanding Technical Debt: Cutting Corners That Can Cost You Later

Understanding Technical Debt: Cutting Corners That Can Cost You Later

Understanding Technical Debt: Cutting Corners That Can Cost You Later

Cloud technologies are known to offer many benefits, but it’s safe to say that two words dominate expectations when it comes to development cycles: faster and nimbler. As more organizations implement agile development, it’s becoming clear that expedited time to market is an expected standard – and so is the speedy development that goes along with it.

As fast turnarounds and flexible production become a baseline of cloud development, so does the necessity for developers to fix, tweak, change and adapt as they go. On a sprint, it’s tempting to prioritize speed over completion, especially when a deadline for an impatient client is drawing closer. As a result, some developers are tempted to rush and cut corners in an effort to meet the delivery deadlines. Because of this, many in our field are becoming familiar with the term “technical debt.”

The danger, of course, is that even though those shortcuts can seem like an efficient way to achieve speed to market, they can damage teams in other ways. For instance, last year when LinkedIn suffered a hack and millions of email addresses were stolen, the company was harshly accused of cutting corners, which led to the vulnerability. Whether they did or did not is still debatable, however the cost to the brand and revenue were apparent from the mere idea that the company scrimped when it came to coding.

Every organization that’s using agile should be well aware that sometimes cutting corners can turn into technical debt that will cost your organization later – and can ultimately cause deadlines to be missed, sabotaging the same cycle time you were trying to protect.

Managing technical debt

Many developers make the mistake of thinking they know what corners they can cut without sacrificing quality. But as development evolves and uncompleted changes and abandoned directions pile up, the team can find themselves staring at a serious technical debt that must be paid.

The causes of debt are fairly common. The pressure to release a product prematurely, a lack of collaboration and knowledge-sharing, or a lack of thoughtful testing or code review and key documentation, are just a few dynamics that can lead to a significant amount of debt. So how do you keep this from happening to your team?

One tip to keep in mind is resolving issues as soon as they appear instead of putting them on a back burner. The earlier the stage of detection, the less expensive those issues will be to fix. Issues left unresolved, on the other hand, will expand into a technical debt that will eventually demand more time and money in eliminating. As one example, consider legacy code where the software engineers spend so much effort in keeping the system running, thereby supporting the debt that there’s not enough time to add new features to the product without additional expense.

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Common shortcuts – and their costs

When work cycles are on the line, developers tend to cut some of the same corners over and over. A good example is Quality Assurance work, such as code reviews, unit testing, integration tests and system tests. Many developers feel comfortable skipping tasks here for one simple reason. Because this is work undertaken to validate the code, rather than actually writing the code (other than corrections found by the QA activities), they assume it can be eliminated with minimal risk.

The truth is that cutting corners here can mean sacrificing knowledge and productivity. While it might not be immediately apparent, the overall productivity of the team tends to be higher during a lot of these activities since they increase interactive learning within the team, which in turn leads to higher levels of output.

One way to protect this valuable phase is to implement processes that are used as a check list among every development cycle. In my company, we call this Tiempo Quality System (TQS), a defined set of best practices and processes that standardizes the engineering process. By using a configurator that ensures best practice QA activities are defined up front, TQS minimizes overhead while maximizing overall team productivity. Similar systems can easily be implemented among any development team and are a great way to eliminate technical debt.

Managing quick cycles without cutting corners

All of this might sound as if agile developers need to choose between delivering on fast-paced cycles or executing on solid development. Rest assured, both are possible.

One solution is tracking velocity to produce data that shows the production delays resulting from a backlog of coding issues. By demonstrating the exact fault lines that jeopardize product quality, developers can head off debt at the start. Things like Code Reviews should be looked at not merely as QA activities, but as opportunities for the team to learn together, create improvements on producing the code and work towards optimization.

The shortcuts worth taking

Developers must accept that the pressure to cut corners will never go away. So is it taking a shortcut ever acceptable? Under some circumstances, yes. One category that qualifies would be issues that aren’t showstoppers when working on release or deadline driven products. In this situation, rather than delaying time to market, refactoring can and should be implemented after meeting the deadline.

Predictable release schedules, deadline adherence, and expedited development cycles are good things and should always be prioritized in intelligent cloud development. At the same time, it’s critical to adopt a long view and not sacrifice quality in the pursuit of speed. Manage your technical debt during development and you’ll find it that much easier to deliver a high-performing product – on deadline.

By Bruce Steele

Bruce Steele is the COO of Tiempo Development. He drives Tiempo’s software engineering, professional services, consulting and customer support initiatives. Mr. Steele is a seasoned executive with over 25 years of management experience in the areas of operations, corporate development, sales and strategic planning with leading technology firms. He can be reached at bsteele@tiempodevelopment.com.

Private And Public Cloud Migration Standards

Private And Public Cloud Migration Standards

Cloud Migration Standards

Ever since cloud computing has seen mainstream adoption, the ability to migrate data between public or private clouds is becoming a key concern, especially due to the large size and the cost involved in the switch. The first question that comes to mind when discussing cloud migration is if there are any cloud standards that will ensure interoperability? This is because in the absence of such frameworks, the effort of translation or manual data transfer operations might exceed budgets, especially for large public clouds. Hence it is essential to understand if there are any interoperability standards that may help in the migration. Another key point is to understand the reasons behind a cloud migration whose assessment will justify such a shift.

We can say that cloud interoperability is still a topic under discussion by various cloud providers including HP, Red Hat, Rackspace, Citrix etc. The forum known as ‘OpenStack’ is promoting to build an open platform with open standards that various cloud providers can integrate in their systems making them more interoperable. The platform is backed by several players as seen in this list of supporting companies and many are hopeful that the cloud community will soon witness a complete set of standards along with guidelines to form an OpenStack certified cloud system. The standard is expected to cover all major components in the cloud including compute, networking, storage and OpenStack shared services running on standard hardware and providing an OpenStack dashboard. The custom user applications will run on top of this framework. This is collectively known as OpenStack cloud operating system that is easier to move between public and private cloud setups due to ease of interoperability.

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Another organization that runs by the name of Open Data Centre Alliance (ODCA) is also working to formalize the a specifications set for enterprise ready cloud. They have released a virtual machine interoperability usage white paper that describes their suggestions with examples from a test bed which features several offerings in this proposal along with architecture diagrams. The paper concludes with the statement that, “A capability for VM interoperability is an important precondition to truly realize the oft expressed benefits of virtualized clouds, such as the ability to balance resources through fungible pools of resources, business continuity and load balancing by leveraging distributed publicly available resources, as well as demonstrable avoidance of lock in to a single Cloud Provider, platform or technology.”

There is a cost associated with cloud migration which becomes a significant factor in making a decision about this move. The key factors to consider include IT service reimplementation, data destruction and sanitization, developers resource training, user guidance, regulatory compliance, vendor lock-ins and portability. Hence it comes down to whether or not this shift is justified in terms of expenditure, downtime and future gain in the business. Ideally one should look into cloud systems can support at least one open standard to facilitate future migration.

By Salam UI Haq

Simplifying Workplace Collaboration Using Cloud Communications

Simplifying Workplace Collaboration Using Cloud Communications

Simplifying Workplace Collaboration Using Cloud Communications Cloud…

gives enterprises an opportunity to streamline all their business operations into one big place, the “Cloud”. With multitudes of small, medium and big enterprises embracing the Cloud and the early adopters broadening their penetration, why should communications be left behind? For years, voice communications systems within an organization, big or small, were never considered to be a good candidate for deployment on the Cloud under a SaaS or IaaS model. Thanks to the “liberalization” of communication technologies, Cloud based communications have made their way into the Cloud and are here to stay. Services like Twilio have now made it easier than ever to build enterprise communication services which entirely reside on the Cloud, saving customers the cost, complexity and time it requires to set up an on-premise voice communication infrastructure. Customer services, both internal and external will stand to benefit the most.

communications

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

In the early days of phone based customer service, complete voice routing and phone systems had to be installed in a dedicated customer care “call center”. This changed with IP based voice systems which promised significant cost savings, both in terms of infrastructure required to operate a service center and also the cost of voice calls. With Cloud, another major shift is happening, serving voice based services directly from the Cloud, without the need for sophisticated and bulky infrastructure and delivering better, if not same quality of service. Cloud communications have also achieved something which even IP telephony could not: liberalization of voice communication services. This is evident with the success which Twilio has achieved, both in terms of adoption and the quality it delivers. What’s interesting is that even independent developers can put together a voice communication service within minutes! I personally tried it to route calls from an online number, which I purchased on Twilio, creating a voice menu for the number and then routing the call to the relevant person based on what the caller selects. It took me less than an hour to achieve this.

Enterprises now have a plethora of collaboration and communication services to meet diversified and changing needs and requirements of the modern workforce with the goal to increase productivity and keep the focus on business instead of managing the infrastructure. Unifying all these collaboration and communication services deployed in-house for employees and external customer care services not only improves employee collaboration and customer care but also addresses the changing workplace with small teams placed remotely and home based or mobile employees. Solutions served out of the Cloud give enterprises, small and big, the opportunity to deploy UC (Unified Communication) and extract all the benefits which comes with this strategy while at the same time cut down on IT cost, both in terms of the spend on infrastructure and its management.

Frost & Sullivan has announced an eBroadcast featuring talks from Cloud communication industry experts. This eBroadcast will give you an update on the Cloud UC (Unified Communications) and external customer care markets. It will also discuss some of the benefits of cloud communications and will recommend strategies for selecting the right cloud solution and provider.

To register, visit this page.

By Salam UI Haq

Four Tips For Integrating Mobile Cloud Applications Into Your Treasury Department

Four Tips For Integrating Mobile Cloud Applications Into Your Treasury Department

Four Tips For Integrating Mobile Cloud Applications Into Your Treasury Department

The global enterprise mobility market is expanding at a rapid rate – predicted to bring in $140 billion a year by 2020. As the market continues to expand, so do the varying needs of mobile businesses who rely on cloud-based solutions. For mobile employees, having full product functionality at their fingertips is critical, and cloud-based services enable a much more efficient solution than legacy apps.

However, companies shouldn’t assume that “mobile” equates to “road warrior.” Employees that are primarily office-based also find value in access to data on mobile devices. Applications that provide access to specific, critical pieces of time-sensitive data are a value-add for treasury.

One example is the corporate treasurer, who is mainly in-office and benefits from a consolidated treasury management system for cash management, payments, and treasury transactions. There are times when treasurers can’t access their desktops or laptops. In fact, recent data revealed more than 66 percent of finance professionals process cash flow transactions from their mobile devices. Even though they don’t need access to every piece of information in the system, they will have urgent tasks, such as approving an urgent payment, or viewing a key report that requires instant response. In these instances, a mobile application that extends the necessary functionality from their existing treasury system is a quick and easy solution to meet their needs. It pulls core data from the cloud, without the need for a complex interface or large amounts of processing power.

Not surprisingly, the same requirements are just as important to everyone in the treasury team. That is why, when evaluating treasury technology, organizations are seeking cloud providers that offer a mobile application to extend a system’s core functions directly to employees’ mobile devices, addressing the on-demand needs of the treasury team.

The consumerization of IT is a driving factor behind mobile app adoption within the enterprise, and has impacted almost every line of business. Given the sensitive financial data that corporate treasurers access on a daily basis, it’s critical they take precautions when integrating mobile applications into their daily routine. To ensure sensitive information remains safe and secure, below are four tips organizations should consider when launching mobile applications specifically aimed at streamlining the role of a corporate treasurer:

Identify core needs: At the recent 2013 Hosting and Cloud Transformation Summit, 451 Research chief analyst Eric Hanselman noted that “enterprise IT risks being left in the dust” if they don’t speed up their adoption of cloud computing. While this is true, it is also critical that organizations don’t dive headfirst into mobile cloud adoption when dealing with the treasury department, where executives leverage mobile applications to tap into sensitive financial information. Enterprise IT must first identify the key needs of the corporate treasurer, which are very different than the requirements of a road warrior. They rarely require all the bells and whistles that some mobile applications provide. Rather, they need a solution that extends core treasury management functionality to their mobile device. This empowers them to make informed, time-sensitive financial decisions on the go.

Focus on security: Security is a top concern when it comes to mobile cloud computing. This should be at the top of an organization’s checklist when approving mobile cloud applications for any line of business, including the corporate treasury department. The good news is cloud-based software is now trusted in business-critical environments by many large enterprise and government agencies. When evaluating applications for the treasury department, an organization needs to make sure its solution adheres to the latest and most rigorous security standards to ensure its data is completely secure.

Cost: Treasury teams do not have unlimited budgets, so mobile solutions must be cost-effective. This almost always rules out in-house developed or internally hosted/supported software applications with custom designed mobile access. Mobile access must be native to the application and not require customization to put in the hands of the treasury team.

Ease of Use: While most employees leverage mobile applications in their daily lives, this does not mean they will know how to navigate all applications introduced into the business. It is critical that mobile applications improve ease of use and are as intuitive as any mobile application that one would download from the cloud.

In summary, as more organizations deploy cloud-based solutions to mobilize their workforce, the treasury department should not be left out simply because they don’t frequently travel for business. Cloud-based services and mobile applications bring numerous benefits to the treasurer. If implemented correctly, extending the core functionality of a cloud-based treasury management system to the mobile environment can streamline processes and increase efficiency.

bob-stark_smallBy Bob Stark

Bob Stark is responsible for global product and marketing strategy at Kyriba, with a focus on thought leadership, product positioning, and market development. Bob is involved in a variety of strategic initiatives including risk and hedging compliance, eBAM, supply chain finance, SWIFT connectivity, and global business alliances.  Bob is a 15-year veteran of the treasury technology industry, with a particular focus on treasury management systems. He has previously held strategic roles at WallStreet Systems, Thomson Reuters, and Selkirk Financial Technologies. 

He is a regular guest speaker at treasury conferences and is an active member of the Association for Financial Professionals.

Cloud Growing Pains – Failure Is Inevitable

Cloud Growing Pains – Failure Is Inevitable

Growing up with floppy disks as the standard for storage was not pretty, my school days were filled with corrupt assignments and missing files because the things were very fragile and tended to fail at the slightest sign of an electrical field. And there was no use bringing a backup floppy disk because chances are that would fail too. Not to mention random crashes on very slow computers and you quickly learn to save fast and save often, then keep lots and lots of backup. Now fast forward decades later and we have cheaper and faster computers, reliable flash storage, the internet, and even the Cloud. We do not even need to carry our data with us physically because of online file storage services.

But some things never change, and that is failure and all of its forms. It seems to be looming in every corner, and there is no escape, not for any technology. So the core best practice that any business trying to make it in the Cloud could have, is to expect failure and plan for it. After all, each node whether a server, hard drive or networking equipment consists of mass produced commodity hardware parts that may or may not last years. All Cloud service providers architect and design their systems so that when one or several pieces of equipment fail, the system or environment should be able to recover automatically.

Elasticity and fault tolerance actually go hand in hand. Elasticity requires bootstrapping just like fault tolerance. And the reason to bootstrap may be to meet additional demand (elasticity), or sometimes to replace a box which is having problems (fault tolerance). So basically when a new box is required, one boots and is given orders and then it finds and installs required resources to become what piece of equipment it needs to be. This should happen especially when others start failing.

Even though, the Cloud provider has architected his systems to be elastic and fault tolerant, does not mean that your existing software that you are bringing to the Cloud becomes elastic and Fault tolerant as well. If you want to move to the Cloud you have to architect your application to make full use of the advantage of fault tolerance and elasticity provided by the Cloud. Moving unoptimized spaghetti code to the Cloud is just asking for trouble, just like migrating a set of tightly coupled objects. The Cloud is forcing developers to architect their applications to work and take advantage of the elastic and fault-tolerant nature of the Cloud. And you do not just plan for failure within the Cloud but of the Cloud itself. But it is a fool’s errand to count on a single provider. You should consider using many different providers as elements in your vast enterprise. This also takes care of elasticity and fault tolerance, by removing any single point of failure.

By Abdul Salam

Is Performance Still An Issue In The Cloud?

Is Performance Still An Issue In The Cloud?

The initial promise of cloud generated a lot of excitement particularly in the test and development worlds. It was easy to use and just as easy to dismiss. Although that gave way to disappointment as early adopters discovered most if not all of the familiar old problems around administration, networks and performance applied to the cloud as much as dedicated. With most first generation cloud platforms adopting iSCI-based storage platforms, performance particularly stood out as an issue, and it became accepted opinion that cloud could never outpace dedicated equipment. Is that still the case? A third party benchmark test on seven leading cloud platforms using a dedicated server sheds some interesting light on the discussion

As cloud moves from being a bleeding edge technology to a more common place service tool, it’s still common to find IT professionals assuming that cloud performance simply cannot match up to that of dedicated hardware. Early experiences with cloud platforms have left many with sub-optimal experiences, and there is a widespread view in the market that high IOPS applications are best left in-house.

Are your four cores the same as mine?

To understand the origins of this belief, remember that the cloud was created as a tool for testing and development. As its adoption spread, and excitement over its potential grew, developers and then businesses put more and more demands on their cloud environments.

This led to a natural, if not unfortunate, dynamic at the commodity end of the market. With a focus on expanding profit margins and controlling expenditures, many businesses decided to trim costs around the biggest single expense of a cloud platform — the back end. The short-sighted decision to save money by using cheap storage systems led predictably to subpar performance – which in turn led to some of the more publicized outages in recent years.

Another factor is a lack of standardization. A recent study that benchmarked the performance of major players in the IaaS space discovered a wide variance in specifications. For example, with a common instance type of 4 cores/16GB, the variance between one provider and another can be as much as 50 percent. This means some specifications can be misleading to the point of being meaningless. If one platform performs at only 50 percent rate of its neighbor, then twice as many resources must be provisioned.

In another example of unreliability, commodity cloud players with iSCI in the back end have an ethernet hop in their infrastructure that inevitably slows down performance. As a result, applications that require high IOPS don’t function smoothly on those platforms. This results in the classic trade-off of price versus performance.

All of which means, that potential buyers must do thorough research on cloud platforms to understand what they will actually deliver. A detailed analysis of a platform’s technologies is essential before making a sizeable investment. It’s a pity that so few cloud providers share the details of their infrastructure with end users, or allow them to audit their platforms. While commercial secrets may be kept and embarrassing details hid, it means that IT providers have to use the rumor mill to make decisions about where they host their applications.

You get what you pay for

Given the background of some cloud performance issues, some IT pros might be surprised to hear that cloud platforms can outperform dedicated servers. But they can – and there’s even third party data proving that shared technologies can compete with and even outclass dedicated hardware. The platforms simply have to be built with performance in mind and managed correctly.  Of course its still true that with several platforms, if performance is an issue, using dedicated can be the better option. But why don’t all cloud providers offer competitive performance?

The answer is roadblocks. The two most common obstacles work in tandem — expense and the relentless race to the bottom. When providers like Amazon and Google  prioritize offering low-cost services, they must cut costs elsewhere to enable those offerings – and those cuts often mean a failure to invest in the proven technologies needed to provide high performance. As a result, users eager to find an economical platform will often experience weak performance.

To “re-brand” cloud environments as reliable, speedy and secure, providers must invest the capital necessary to build an optimal, high-quality platform. Only then will they deliver the performance their customers deserve. This puts cloud providers who have already built out low cost storage in a bind. Should they rip out their existing infrastructure and replace what they have with high-end technologies such as fibre channel? The disruption is prohibitive and the cost would surely have to be passed onto the user. When a customer can leave with little or no notice, it would risk the business. So it is unlikely that we will see a wholesale rebuild of a platform any time soon.

Is it game over for dedicated?

Inevitably there will be applications that do not run well in the cloud. For instance, some proprietary big data applications more or less have to be run on dedicated servers. Customers like to stick with habits and suppliers too, which will keep dedicated around for some time. Look at how many mainframes are still deployed. But for the most part, the choice is obvious. Just take a look at the latest round of financial results from hosting providers. The numbers paint a picture of a flat or barely growing dedicated hosting customer base and revenues. Meanwhile cloud revenues and momentum grow inexorably.

By Daniel Beazer

Daniel Beazer has an extensive history of research and strategy with hosting and cloud organizations.  As director of strategy at FireHost, Daniel Beazer oversees interactions with enterprise and strategic customers. In this role, he identifies pain points that are unique to high-level customers and utilises his significant knowledge of cloud computing and hosting to help them. 

Cloud Infographic: Raise Your Cloud IQ

Cloud Infographic: Raise Your Cloud IQ

Cloud Infographic: Raise Your Cloud IQ

What Is?

Data Center

A purpose-built facility for housing ICT resources, e.g. computing servers and telecommunications equipment. Very large enterprises (e.g. Facebook, Google) operate their own facilities. Others are “carrier neutral” and make up the points of presence for telecoms firms to build their networks and that make up the Internet’s backbone. Some are used expressly to provide colocation services to business customers. Datacentres are also the “homes” of cloud services

Virtualization

In a technology environment, a concept whereby the logical entity (like a network, server or desktop platform) is separated from the physical entity (the hardware itself). In a cloud hosting situation, this would mean that virtual machines perform the functions historically provided by dedicated servers, offering significant performance and resilience advantages… More Cloud Jargon Terms can be found over at: http://uptothecloud.6dg.co.uk/cloud-resources/jargon-buster

What is your cloud IQ? Attached is an insightful and very creative infographic produced by SAP.

SAP_m2m_April_23

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