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Development and Operations: Partners in Success (or Failure)
Throw it over the wall and forget it? Not any more. Dev teams and IT operations have to work together over the application lifecycle—and it's not easy, so there's often tension between the two groups. Fortunately, a combination of Rational and Tivoli products can make it a lot easier to deploy and then monitor performance automatically. 

How many early software developers had even heard of IT operations? (Aren't they the guys responsible for running the mainframe and a bunch of arcane business applications?)

Well, times have now changed.

The new mission-critical nature of Web applications has brought operations out of the data center and into the development lab. This changed environment also requires that developers work as part of a larger cross-functional technology team to deploy and run the latest software.

This collaboration is not always a smooth process, as the interaction between these teams may be hindered by complex technologies and poor tools.

Who is responsible when a complex multi-tier application fails to deploy correctly? What happens when an application runs correctly, but intermittently exhibits poor performance? These vexing questions, and others like them, can slow technical progress to a crawl.

Today, despite the obvious need to work together, there is often tension between the development and operations teams. What if technology could be used to bridge the chasm between these two crucially important teams?

IBM has finally built a bridge. With the company's latest Rational and Tivoli tools, complex distributed applications can now be deployed reliably, and production issues can be diagnosed with ease.

Deployment Automation Is Your Friend
Building and deploying a complex multi-tier Web application by hand is not a task for the faint of heart. When the build/deploy process is not automated, executable code destined for various targets must be manually copied from a build environment to a deployment area and then manually distributed. Server provisioning and configurations must also be checked manually, and logs must kept for which releases went to which servers.

Certain problems can arise during a manual build/deploy process, including:

  • Difficulty in reproducing and fixing defects, which can delay application delivery and decrease application quality.
  • Difficulty in rolling an application back to a previous version, which can waste both time and development resources.
  • Redeployment failures, which can waste time and resources and negatively affect customer satisfaction.
  • Undocumented deployment procedures, which can decrease individual productivity.
Frankly, manual deployment is a recipe for disaster. There is just too much room for error. The corresponding finger pointing that arises from less-than-successful deployments practically guarantees a strained relationship between development and operations.

Even when an automated solution for managing software deployments is in place, many problems still remain, particularly those pertaining to defect repair and rollback. These issues persist because no automated linkage exists between management of the deployed applications and the management of the software configurations used to build them.

The key to a smooth software build/deploy cycle is a reliable, automated process that allows problems to be reproduced, diagnosed, and repaired against the precise version of the application that failed on the platform involved. This solution makes other automated capabilities that are critical to success possible, such as:

  • The ability to roll back smoothly to a previous application version when issues occur, without the need for manual intervention.
  • An audit trail that specifies what executables were deployed and where.
  • The ability to maximize time and resources by building and deploying only the components necessary to "patch" a defect or implement an enhancement, as opposed to rebuilding and redeploying the entire application.
Organizations will find that IBM Rational ClearCase and IBM Tivoli Configuration Manager are perfectly suited to manage their software build/deploy cycles. Rational ClearCase provides an extensive range of SCM capabilities, including version control, flexible workspace management, access control, and advanced build management. It also includes comprehensive build auditing, so you will know exactly what went into a release.

Tivoli Configuration Manager provides comprehensive, multiplatform control over enterprise-wide software distribution and inventory management processes, including rollback, traceability, dependency checking, reporting, and access control. It allows users to schedule, submit, monitor, and control distribution activities to simplify and streamline software distribution.

When used together, Rational ClearCase and Tivoli Configuration Manager provide a proven solution that enables organizations to build and deploy applications across even the most complex global environments. A ClearCase baseline (which contains the assets needed for distribution) is easily packaged into a Tivoli distribution package. The Tivoli Configuration Manager then automatically delivers the software packages to the target destinations (even those operating outside corporate firewalls).

Dogged by Poor Performance?
What about applications that deploy correctly, but exhibit sub-par performance? Any developer who has worked on production performance problems knows the challenges—intermittent delays that are hard to reproduce, a paucity of useful diagnostic data, and an unforgiving environment that cannot be changed without serious consequences.

Production performance problems can be the source of endless frustration. Without real insight into application behavior, you'll never know exactly what is going on. Moreover, if there is any meaningful diagnostic data, it's often tedious to retrieve it from the production environment and extremely challenging to correlate the data with the application itself.

Working in concert with IBM Tivoli Monitoring for Transaction Performance, the IBM Problem Resolution Toolkit rapidly brings an end to fruitless searches. The Problem Resolution Toolkit improves time-to-problem resolution by providing a detailed view of Tivoli-collected production profiling data within IBM Rational Application Developer.

Problematic transactions can be viewed as a UML2 sequence diagram to clearly show the interactions between classes and where the most time is being spent. Upon locating the offending class, you can quickly jump into the source code for further analysis. The Problem Resolution Toolkit also lets you view profiling data in more traditional ways, such as via annotated call graphs and by drilling down into a method to understand the behavior of the method and its descendants fully.

Success Is the Only Option
Organizations that use IBM Rational/Tivoli tools to address their deployment and production needs will find themselves well positioned to succeed. Not only do these tools overcome a number of challenging technical issues; they also can improve cooperation between the development and operations teams by eliminating long-standing points of friction.

Concerns about the effective collaboration of developers and members of the IT operations team is characteristic of the broader struggle organizations face in their effort to better align IT with the needs of the business. IBM is dedicating a lot of cycles to defining, analyzing and addressing these broader IT lifecycle management (ITLM) concerns, and the capabilities listed in this article are a result of that effort.

For a broader discussion of IT lifecycle management and IBM's plans for addressing it, visit the ITLM homepage.

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Allan McNaughton, a veteran developer and long-time writer, is the principal at Technical Insight LLC, a firm specializing in the composition of high-technology white papers.