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Ask Slashdot: Should Developers Install Their Software Themselves? 288

Paul Carver writes "Should developers be responsible for installing the software they develop into production environments? What about System Test environments? I'm not a developer and I'm not all that familiar with Agile or DevOps, but it seems unhealthy to me to have software installs done by developers. I think that properly developed software should come complete with installation instructions that can be followed by someone other than the person who wrote the code. I'd like to hear opinions from developers. Do you prefer a workplace where you hand off packaged software to other teams to deploy or do you prefer to personally install your software into System Test and then personally install it into production once the System Testers have certified it? For context, I'm talking about enterprise grade, Internet facing web services sold to end users as well as large companies on either credit card billing or contractual basis with service level agreements and 24x7 Operations support. I'm not talking about little one (wo)man shops and free or Google style years long beta services."
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Ask Slashdot: Should Developers Install Their Software Themselves?

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  • Alternatively ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:22AM (#41437371) Journal

    Developers should concentrate on creating software.

    Totally agreed, environments getting screwed up has lead to a lot of sacrificed man hours.

    There are already tons of tools that help with the install and configuration state of software. Use InstallShield and the various Visual Studio install and config helpers. Visual Studio itself has many debugger functions available, and there are tons of extra helper plugins if required.

    I think that's a bit overkill. Where I work we concentrate on having a unified development environment across boxes. Note that I said environment and not integrated development environment. While the IDE is important, we instead concentrate on maintaining a shell script that points to where things are installed so that there is a commonality in environment variables across boxes. We also like to zip up things that can be just zipped and unzipped and avoid the whole InstallShield mess altogether. So if we're using an agreed upon JDK, we put it in some directory of the zip (like dev/tools/jdkx.x.x) and then in that zip's environment scripts we point at that for JAVA_HOME. Then in Eclipse or Visual Studio or whatever you can tell it to find the preferred java runtime by pointing it at that environment string. In this way, we've managed to keep our development environment diverse with a large toolbox as well as possible to run in Linux, Windows, Cygwin and sometimes OSX (okay, we don't have OSX machines here but theoretically it'd be possible).

    Nothing sucks more than sitting down at some coworkers box to help them and saying "What? Why doesn't this command work?" oh, "I guess I don't have that alias" or "I must have a different version of maven" or "I think I'm missing that Ruby gem" or "I don't know, I messed with Visual Studio a bunch and it hasn't worked since." Those are your nightmare scenarios and we try to make our dev box setup wiki page to avoid that at all costs. Two big things to focus on are a common environment and a diverse toolbox.

  • by trybywrench ( 584843 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:25AM (#41437423)
    What we do at my company is allow the developers to work with the project managers and deploy their applications out to a test environment for client facing review and acceptance as often as they like. This lets us do new test deployments quickly and easily with no red-tape. Once the project is a go for production then a formal request is made to move to the production server farm. The main guys in Ops, Dev, and the PM are brought into a meeting and make sure everything is taken care of ( SSL certs, DNS, monitoring, load balancing, number of nodes, etc ) then a go, no-go decision is made on the deployment. Once it's been decided that a production deployment is ready then the actual task of deploying the application is assigned to whoever wants it (usually the team lead) since the process of deploying to production is identical to deploying to test in our environments. Also, we use our continuous build server (Hudson) with a production maven profile for actually retrieving the war that is going to the server farm (i do Java web apps).

    My personal preference as a is to have other people do the deployments and verification as much as possible. It never ceases to amaze me how often over looked issues are found just because someone other than the person married to the code is doing things.

    My best advice is, regardless of the size of your organization, map out a process on paper and follow it all day every day. You will appreciate the consistency when you get in those situations where a lot of balls are in the air at once.
  • by ccguy ( 1116865 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:41AM (#41437707) Homepage

    If the Configuration Management team cannot do it themselves, then they need to send it back to the developer for better packaging or instructions.

    Sorry, no. I couldn't disagree more. I've worked in places like that, were developers were unable to get close to the production servers, things wouldn't work in production (but worked fine in dev) and we were unable to do anything except send builds with more and more debug info, working late nights to get things done, with a client more and more pissed each day.

    Then it turns out that contrary to what they said, dev and prod wasn't identical, in a number of important things such as library versions.

    If the install team is unable to install it by fuck's sake *get a developer see the installation process by himself* so he can come back just once with all the data he needs.

  • by satch89450 ( 186046 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:35PM (#41438671) Homepage

    I'm sorry, I have a real problem with the underlying assumptions your answer makes about the process. There should not be a high wall between groups. Developers should not install it, but that doesn't mean the developers are not there when QA or Configuration Managment or whoever installs it. As a long-time developer, I learned more from the struggling of other people with my software than all the scaffolding and test-bedding done in isolation. Back when I was doing embedded programming, I made it a point to spend time in System Test to see how my software was being used...and misused. Next to me were the Documentation people, watching out for mistakes or head-scratching -- between us, we would see the holes that needed to be plugged so that the downstream processes would go more smoothly. And I would go out into the field, to customer sites, from time to time, particularly if a customer was reporting problems. This was particularly true of first launches, because sometimes the devils aren't seen until the customer hits them.

    This was true for newspaper composition systems, newpaper press controls, bank check processing systems, key-entry systems, even a technical support group application.

    I relate this story about the fallacy of compartmentalization: the General Manager gathers all the employees one Friday. Everyone had just been paid, the weeklies and the monthies. GM: "I'm not happy with the 'us versus them' attitude that seems to permeate this company. It's affecting our ability to get product customers want into their hands, so we all can get paid. So, tell you what: everyone pull out their paychecks, and fold them so the signature at the bottom is visable. See? All are signed by the same person. That should tell you something: that we should be working for the same goals, so we all continue to get paid." The change in that company was dramatic: instead of silos, it was more like an open-plan office writ large, with people talking with one another. One side benefit: sales stopped selling what we didn't have, and PARTICIPATED in the creation of new products. That company went from one step from closing it doors to being a booming business. My stock went from $1 to $65 a share. In six months. And the company was in the mid-West, not Silicon Valley

    The softball team started doing a lot better, too.

  • by blippo ( 158203 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:50PM (#41439933)

    You Sir, are absolutely correct.

    Database changes are a tricky matter though. Despite testing our upgrades on a copy, we feel its safest to
    one or two developers on site during software upgrades, in the event that something goes pear shaped.

    I also think if developers can be involved in running and monitoring the actual system, you will get
    better stability, better diagnostics and simpler handling.

    (Banking systems, inhouse "enterprisey" applications on unix servers)

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