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Kit Plummer
Software Engineer :: Techitect :: Evangelist
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No QA and No Ops Needed - Yeh Right

This is a great example of NoOps & NoQA.

I can’t remember exactly how, but I was pointed to this (above) video of Dub FX that just totally blew me away. I’m a fan of anyone with exceptional talent…and after having watched it a couple of times I began to envision the parallel between what he’s doing on the street with what modern software devers are doing with webapps (the dev-to-deploy) process. For both the awesome sound and metaphor to “NoQA NoOps” I highly recommend taking the few minutes to watch him.

If you don’t get the same vision that I did, let me break it down real quick. He records a single track (read feature development), then immediately listens to it (read feature QA), then promtes the track loop into his operational environment (live). He (by himself, fulfilling the three cultures of dev, QA, and ops) does this a few times over, continuously deploying new tracks to the song - in realtime.

Cage Rattling

Mike Gualtieri has written a couple great “cage rattling” posts, that have generated an excellent dialog.


The first one, I Don’t Want DevOps. I Want NoOps., is a look at the desire/need for developers to be truly abstracted from their target platforms - to include the need for deep understanding of the hardware constraints.

Mike’s post also pushed on the aspect of deployment, suggesting that cloud-based providers will proved the “Ops” needed, to ops teams who can then pass through to developers. In saying this he’s obviously added a touch of irony. Ops is still needed. Yesterday at DevOpsDay (at SCALE9x) I heard Christophe Louvion say explicitly that he gives his developers a credit card and the “go ahead” to manage their own cloud resources. That’s great for “Dev”and is a critical “Yes” required in the DevOps culture to empower developers to gain performance efficiencies and a better understanding of Ops, as long as they work with Ops to utilize cloud resources in the best way that will optimize the deliver/deployment process in the greater release function.

I’m a huge fan of Heroku - especially how it enables me to quickly deploy, within my existing software engineering workflow by simply ’git push’ing to Heroku’s remote repo that represents my target environment. I’m already committing my to my local (in-work branches) repo, pushing to remote branches and trunk/mainline. It really is nothing to push my “prod” branch to Heroku - simplicity. I’m doing something very similar with this blog, using Github’s Pages (I use Jekyll - a cool static site generator).

NoOps for the “One-Liners”

Ok, here’s the reality. This flow makes great sense for my simple (in the sense of both functional and non-functional/operational requirements), single dever, self-QA’d, environment. This flow might make sense for “hot” app dev-to-production for large-scale infrastructures, where the app will have a short life expectancy and won’t change much. For anything more complex, or that is being produced and managed by a multi-person, multi-organizational environment, forget it. Sure, you could use SCM and a binary repo to manage the steps and promotions - but that will be a struggle where there is a “wares” hierarchy with transitive dependencies and version releases along the way. Note, I’m not trying to imply that the simple use case is any less professional, this is just the difference between manufacturing a skateboard and a car.


Mike continues in another post Want Better Quality? Fire Your QA Team., where here acknowledges a client’s of his identification that getting rid of their QA team actually resulted in higher quality software. Mike notes the reason that it worked was because “Dev” is required to take responsibility for the quality of the “deliverable” and not rely on QA as a crutch. Makes perfect sense, and I’ve seen the same things in many different types of organizations and products.

Testing is…Well, it is Hard!

There are problems with pushing the responsibility for testing forward. Testing is a skill. And the greater the complexity of the product/project, the more complex the testing environment gets. Most developers think testing is an impedance - not discounting it’s importance - just identifying that testing can break creative progress. Even though I have fully swallowed the value of *DD (specifically BDD - it is very easy to end up with a brittle test harness. This is even more of an issue where there are multiple customers - each injecting unique requirements.

Continuous integration isn’t enough anymore; functional testing isn’t enough; measuring and monitoring isn’t enough. Truth is always changing. Wether it is a changing customer requirement, or a version change on an internal service, or a turn-over in a key team role, the proof that is quality assurance is a moving target - a true byproduct of the need for agility.

We do need to make QA a shared responsibility across the DevOps culture, and grow the skills that will allow for realistic accountability. But, at the end of the day, we can’t short-change the complexity and importance of focusing on Quality Assurance tasks.

A Couple of Closing Thoughts

To Ops: give devers and QA testing environment that mirror upper-level staging and production environments.

To Devers: ask for help, but do yourself a favor and dig a little and be prepared to offer some help too. Never demand.

To QA: spread your knowledge of requirements, processes and tools to Dev and Ops, and make an effort to get a deeper understanding of the overall methodologies and practices.

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