Add Your Voice to the Chorus

Today is the start of one of the really enjoyable activities that we have each year.  Today marks the start of the Rational Voice Jam, a two week long activity where the people at IBM/Rational look for feedback and ideas from EVERYBODY.  Some of the people in the Jam are IBM employees (like me) who have a hand in the development of the Jazz tools, or other IBM/Rational technologies.  Some of the people in the jam are interested in where our products are going.  Some of the people in the Jam are customers of our products, who have some strong opinions about what we should be bringing to the Jazz tools in the future.

The Jam itself is pretty wide open, with people submitting ideas in various theme areas.  You can select a theme, and zero in on all of the suggestions and commentary for just that theme.  Or you can watch the whole thing unfold.  It’s up to you how much time and effort you spend here.  I know some of our customers see this as a place where they can bring up ideas for new functionality, and attempt to get broad support from the user community for their ideas.  Others just like to read the ideas presented, and then vote for the ideas that have the most value to them.  Engage in a way that you feel comfortable with.

So if you’ve read this far, please take an additional couple of minutes to check out the Voice Jam.  You can share your ideas, or just take a look at the ideas that other people have already posted.  Vote for your favorites, and give us your take on how things should be done.  Make sure that the Jazz products move in directions that benefit you and what you do.

P.S.  I do know that some of the comments and ideas that came up in last year’s jam ended up getting translated into product requirements for some of the new functionality around server monitoring that we are exposing this year.  I really want to continue to see this work, so we can better serve our customers, and give them the features and functionality that is valuable to them.

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Deploying the Mental Infrastructure

Worldwide travel sounds great, until you have to do it in coach, flying for 24 hours to get to where you are going. Then it becomes a pain in the rear (or back, or leg, pick your stiffest joint after sitting like a sardine for 24 hours). This post isn’t about whining about air travel, it is about learning new things, and seeing how our customers use things in new and interesting ways.  I recently traveled to India for our India Innovate and VoiCE conferences, and while I was there, I heard many of the same types of issues and challenges from our customers in India.  Many of these challenges have to do with what you might think of as the MENTAL infrastructure required for a Jazz deployment.

Why Won’t They Use It?

One of the interesting things that I kept hearing our customers struggle with is in getting people/teams to adopt the CLM/Jazz solutions. The teams seem to get overwhelmed with all of the options available to them, and often struggle with how to get started and best use the tools. After hearing this multiple times, I thought that it might be a good idea to share some of things that I have seen work for our customers who most successfully adopt the Jazz tools.

Keep the process simple

It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to implement a lot of process control in Jazz. Don’t fall into that trap. Keep the process enforcement loose, with simple state models and a limited amount of restrictions. This way you can support a variety of teams with a common process template. For those teams that want more process enforcement, have them do it by creating “bad behavior” queries. A “bad behavior” query is a query that looks for conditions that a project wants to enforce (like no delivery without approvals). Having a widget that alerts a manager to bad practices allows the leader to address the situation with individuals, and also allows them to ignore these rules for exceptional situations. It also allows teams to adopt process enforcement based on the maturity of their team, the type of project, and their specific business situation, without having to change project templates or tooling customizations.

Share a Roadmap

One of the greatest strategies is the use of what I call a usage model. A usage model covers the basic use cases for the various development roles as they develop their software. If I am a developer, how do I fix a defect? How do I know what to work on next? A high level (no need to get super detailed) guide that let’s people know their workflow does two things. One, it lets everyone know that you are concerned about their role, and that you have thought about how each role will do their work, and written down some basic instructions for them. This builds confidence and reduces the fear and anxiety that many have when having to move from the tools/processes that they used to know. Two, it can serve as a small easy to consume reminder that developers, testers, analysts and others can use as a reference. Think of it as one of those “for Dummies” guides. Keep it simple, and at a high level, so people can see the bigger picture.

Adopt in Phases

Organizations can only absorb a limited amount of change, without losing effectiveness. Role out these changes to teams in waves of adoption, do not try to get everyone to adopt at once. As time goes on, your previously adopted teams will help your newly adopting teams, and you will begin to identify best practices for your organization. Having too many teams attempting their initial adoption at the same time will overwhelm your tools administrators. By staggering the adoption of the tool and process changes, you manage to level the workload that you are placing on your tools support infrastructure (both people and hardware).

Summary

Organizations that follow these three rules will typically have much smoother rollouts of the Jazz capabilities to their organizations. These rollouts involve organizational change, in terms of tools, process, and often development methodology, so they require careful management. Getting people to change their habits can be a challenge. The organizations that focus on changing these habits often see huge improvements in the quality and quantity of work produced by their development teams.

Deploying Jazz Correctly – The Rules for Doing it Right

Recently I have seen a flood of requests from our customers looking for the best ways to deploy their Jazz solutions (RTC/RQM/RRC).  Everyone wants the “optimal” deployment architecture for their environment, and everyone is fighting with these four basic concerns:

  • Wanting to use the minimum amount of hardware, to save on costs and allocation of hardware resources.
  • Wanting to have a highly performing Jazz solution – a stable environment with minimal performance issues
  • Wanting to have an architecture that will easily scale to meet rising (or falling) demand
  • Wanting to have an ability to monitor system performance and predict future hardware and organizational needs

So looking at this list, you are immediately struck by the fact that some of these concerns are opposed to each other.  To have a highly stable and high performing solution, you could have an abundance of hardware resources.  This is directly opposed to the first goal which is the specification of the minimum amount of hardware.  People need to understand that the “optimal” conditions for their deployment depends highly on the relative weight that they assign these four basic concerns.  Most people realize this, but it is important to keep this in mind as we discuss how a successful Jazz deployment will impact these factors.

So in this blog, I want to share with you some of the basic rules that I tend to follow, and the reasoning behind them.  We’ll start with a couple of broad statements and highlight of some classic “broken” thinking, move on to a simple architectural model, and then highlight the things that people don’t consider, but MUST consider if they want a healthy and happy Jazz solution.

Statement #1 – Virtualization is great because it is flexible

A majority of my customers are looking to deploy the Jazz CLM solution into virtual environments.  This is not a bad approach, and I honestly really like this approach.  Some organizations do not understand the value that virtualization has for a Jazz deployment.  The values that virtualization will bring to a Jazz solution are:

  • The ability to have “predefined” Jazz application instances, ready for some final configuration prior to deployment.  This means easier and lower risk scalability as demand for the Jazz capabilities grow within an organization
  • The ability to modify the amount of resources used by existing Jazz application instances.  If you discover that you have over allocated or under allocated resources, you can easily modify this.

Myth #1 – Virtualization does not provide magic elves that allow your single CPU desktop host applications that would normally be done by 3 enterprise server machines.  Computing depends on basic physics at it’s core, and those electrons can’t move any faster…..

Many IT departments look at virtualization as a way to harvest more CPU cycles, and so they cram applications into a virtual appliance and end up having an “oversubscribed” virtual environment.  This works for applications that are used sporadically, and those applications that are not business critical.  This does NOT work for an application like the Jazz applications, which usually end up servicing a highly variable (but constant) workload throughout the day, and which are considered business critical.

So how does virtualization benefit someone deploying the Jazz solution?  It allows architects and administrators to quickly define and deploy application servers with a common footprint.  This allows a team to monitor their Jazz solution over time, and gain an understanding of how your specific organization utilizes the infrastructure.  By monitoring these “common” components, it is easy for administrators to quickly determine performance bottlenecks, and identify when additional Jazz application instances are needed.

Statement #2 – Your Workload is Different

Let’s begin with a myth.

Myth #2 – You Jazz guys have a number of users that can be supported by each of the Jazz applications, and you are just too lazy/scared/chicken/paranoid to tell anyone.

We understand how RTC works in general, and we understand REALLY well how RTC works in the IBM internal environments where it has been deployed.  The problem that we face is that everyone who uses the Jazz solutions uses them differently.

Myth #3 – We have an “average” organization, so you should know exactly how many licenses/servers/application instances we need to deploy.

Nobody is average.  Every organization uses slightly different usage models.  To add to this, each user population has a different culture, and they use the tools differently.  Some cultures are obsessed with collaboration, and communicate heavily in work item discussions.  Some cultures focus on continuous integration, and have a constant stream of builds and automated testing being done.  Some cultures manage requirements by User story, and don’t use the requirements management capabilities (RRC) of Jazz.

None of these cultures is wrong.  However, each one of these will put stress on different areas of the Jazz solution architecture.  Now we can add another layer of complexity in that usage models and cultures change over time.  Teams that never used planning tools in the past begin to use the tools, and then they begin using them in different ways as they discover the practices that work best for them.  Keep in mind that software engineers are like electricity, they will find the path of least resistance with ANY tool that they use.  So usage patterns, best practices, and usage models will change over time.  This will change your workload.

The point of this is that attempting to determine the exact workload and the capacity of a Jazz solution prior to it’s rollout and implementation is an exercise in futility.  However, the entire exercise does have merit.  We can rely on prior experience with deployments, and the law of large numbers, to provide an estimation of what the load on a Jazz solution should be, and what capacity (in terms of hardware, deployed resources, etc.) is needed.  Keep in mind that it is an estimation, and the variables in your environment will make the actual usage vary from your estimation.

So use the estimation to help you predict hardware needs, licensing, performance, and the costs associated with these, but do so with the understanding that this is an estimation.  There are far too many variables to be able to make accurate predictions in this area.

A Simple Architectural Model

Now that we have established some basic “rules”, and explored a couple of common myths, let’s get to something that you CAN use for your Jazz deployment.  Let’s explore a very simple architectural model that will allow you to easily scale and monitor the performance of your Jazz solution.

The Basic Building Block

The basic building block of my Jazz architecture is the application server.  This should be a 4 core system, with 8GB of memory, and at least 80GB of available disk space.  It is a pretty standard system (which is why I chose it).  This is a good set of parameters to use in either physical or virtual environments.  You also need at least a 100MB dedicated connection.  So if you are in a virtual environment and splitting the network with another 9 virtual machines, the physical box had better have a 1GB network connection.

I would also deploy on WebSphere (WAS) instead of Tomcat.  WebSphere supports more advanced application server features (like single sign on), and is supposed to be more reliable than Tomcat.  I have had some customers argue that they would prefer Tomcat, as it fits with their open source strategy.  I am OK with Tomcat, I would just prefer WAS.

The operating system is up for debate, and depends on what your organization has for a data center strategy.  I am a Linux bigot, so I would choose to deploy on Linux.  The IBM deployment of Jazz for the Jazz development team (which also hosts Jazz.net) is on AIX.  So if I had to be pragmatic, I guess I would choose AIX, since the team developing Jazz is self hosted on AIX, so I think they would have those bugs worked out pretty quickly.

So a brief recap of what I am thinking.  My basic Jazz architectural building block consists of a single server resource (physical or virtual), which hosts a single instance of WAS, which serves up a single Jazz application.  This is all running on top of AIX.  The WAS and AIX are negotiable, you can use other products and technologies if you want.  The hardware specs of my basic building block for a Jazz application server are:

  • 4 cores
  • 8GB memory
  • 80GB available disk space
  • 100MB dedicated network connection

There is one more point on this basic building block that needs to be understood.  In virtual environments, this building block may be variable.  More on that later, when I discuss scalability.

Putting It All Together

So what do I need to put into place to support my Jazz environment?  If I look at the Standard Topologies, I see that the one that fits this model the best, and that I have seen as being the most stable, is the E1 – Distributed Topology.  This diagram is taken directly from the Jazz.net article:

E1 – Distributed Enterprise Topology

How Many Users Will This Support?

This is the section that most people will read, take out of context, and end up in a very unhappy situation.  So please do not just read this section of the post, and use it out of context, because the context here is critical.

With the hardware that I discussed above, and the topology shown above, I would expect that this implementation would support roughly 350 concurrent RTC users, 300 concurrent RQM users, and 150 concurrent RRC users.  Note that if your organization is not using RTC for source control and builds are not being done from the RTC repository, that you can probably expect to support almost twice as many concurrent RTC users.  Keep in mind that this is a rough guesstimate.  This is not IBM policy, it is a simple rule of thumb, a spot to begin your planning from.  Remember the section above where I said that this was an estimation, and that you should monitor the performance of your solution to understand what the limitations and scaling are in YOUR environment.  Every environment is different, and identical topologies implemented by different organizations can have different performance and scalability based on the differences in their usage of the environment.

One other word of caution here.  I mention concurrent users.  My definition of a concurrent user is someone who is actively engaged with the system.  So a developer that brings up an Eclipse client and works on their code, checking in some changes, for an hour would count as a concurrent user.  If they leave their Eclipse client open, and go to lunch, then I would not consider them a concurrent, or active, user.  So when I state that this can support 350 concurrent RTC users, that means 350 users, with some development going on, and some builds executing.  It does not mean 350 people scanning individual work items, and it does not mean 350 concurrent checkins and builds.

You will see other data that suggest other numbers for a deployment like this.  I am just sharing a rough approximation of what I have seen deployed in our customer environments.  As subsequent releases of the Jazz tools come out, and some performance issues are addressed, I would expect that this could improve.

At this point I know that you are probably thinking, “Geez Tox, you put so many qualifications on these estimates.  It makes them almost worthless”.  I understand your pain, but what I have seen in numerous instances is that people are treating these installations as if we were supporting automated teller machines, or a stock trading application, where performance can be measured in transactions per second.  Unfortunately, the software development space is quite unbounded, and our transactions are not consistent.  Changing a work item provides a much different workload on the system than running a report, or executing a build.  We just cannot accurately forecast what the specific load characteristics of a developer population will be.

Scaleability

Now if we need to add additional Jazz applications, in order to scale our solution to support more concurrent users, then we would just add additional application instances, and additional corresponding logical database storage areas.  Scaling is easy because we have a basic architectural building block (defined above), and we just need to place another block into this diagram for the new Jazz application instance.

In virtualized environments, you may find that your particular implementation has a consistent bottleneck in one particular area.  For example, we might find that memory and JVM heap utilization is very high in all of our Jazz application instances.  If this was the case, then we could increase the memory in our basic building block from 8GB to 12GB, and update ALL of virtual machines hosting our Jazz applications.  In this way we remain consistent, and we leverage the flexibility of virtual technology to minimize changes to the logical architecture of our Jazz solution.

Summary

Deploying change to an organization is never easy.  It involves having people change their habits , and move from what they know (their current tools and processes), to something that they don’t know.  This is scary for many people, and many people fear the unknown.  The best way to combat this fear of the unknown is education.  Let your end-users know WHAT is going on.  Keep your stakeholders informed of what is happening, and WHY it is happening.  Most of what I have here deals with the PHYSICAL infrastructure of a Jazz deployment, but don’t forget to address the MENTAL infrastructure that needs to change.  More on that in my next blog post.

Everything Changes – Change is the Only Constant

I realize that it has been a long time since I made a blog entry.  It’s because I have been pouring most of my energy into changes that we are undertaking here at IBM/Rational.  The Jazz Jumpstart program has accomplished it’s mission of bringing the Jazz tools into the mainstream.  The recent work of the team has focused on getting more of our organization to share their lessons learned with the Jazz technologies, in places like Jazz.net, the Jazz.net forums, and the new Deployment Wiki. The team is still doing excellent work (see the blog posts of Jumpstart team members on Planet Jazz). It’s just that our original mission, helping in the deployment of Jazz solutions and the widespread dissemination of information on the Jazz technology, has been accomplished.  So it is with a sense of accomplishment that I presided over the disbanding of the Jazz Jumpstart team.  I am also sad to see the team break up, I respected and enjoyed ALL of the members of my team.

With the disbanding of the Jazz Jumpstart team, I was in need of a job, since I had just worked myself out of one.  Luckily, I found one.  I am now the manager of the Emerging Technology team here at IBM/Rational. This team will have the same type of mission, but will focus on some of the new technologies, solutions, and products that are coming out of the IBM/Rational labs.  The mission for my new team will be similar to the mission of my previous team. We will focus on doing three things:

  • Rapid deployment of these new technologies/solutions/products with our early adopting customers
  • Rapid education of IBM field resources, business partners, and our customers, for these technologies/solutions/products
  • Promotion of timely information, guidance, and best practices in these areas

So what does this all mean?  I will leave my old blog postings on Jazz here for all of you to refer to, but you probably won’t be seeing too much new content in those areas that I previously blogged about.  Much of this content has been captured in the Deployment Wiki, and much of it is being refined as we learn more about the best ways to utilize the existing Jazz based tools.  So while my blog may be interesting to read, in the future you might be better served by reading the up-to-date materials on the Deployment Wiki.  This blog will see some definite changes, as I begin blogging about the new things coming out of the Rational labs.

So in the future you will see interesting information, and some my own thoughts (which may or may not be interesting).  Most of it will be focused on the things that I see happening in the software development world, and on how this impacts the people and organizations that do software development.  I will blog about the power of DevOps in the transformation of software development teams and their processes. I will also talk about the transformative power that RTC has in the mainframe world, the power of Jazz when applied to system engineering, the strategic impact of service virtualization and integration testing in the world, and on how we are transforming the way that organizations think about requirements management.

I go to India this week, so I am keeping my ears open and I figure that what I learn on this trip should be worth a new blog or two. Hopefully I am able to pass along some insight and information that you will continue to find useful.