News from the World of Software Development – March 2017

Welcome to this month’s software development and QA news digest. As 2017 enters its third month, the application engineering world continues to evolve at a rapid pace. If you are interested in February’s digest, simply click on this link.

Hopefully, you are able to leverage these insights to improve or inform your organization’s software engineering process.

Software Engineering Trends going Mainstream

Earlier this month, The Next Web published a story from the software intelligence company, Raygun, looking at three software development trends essentially becoming standard practice. We covered some of these same directional shifts in our 2017 industry trends article, and it is interesting to see them widely adopted.

The growth of ChatOps to enhance communication amongst a development team is one trend Raygun noted. ChatOps even allows software engineers and QA personnel to kick off builds and automated tests from a chatbot interface, while the entire team stays in the loop. The use of bots works well for companies already embracing DevOps and a continuous deployment model.

Speaking of continuous deployment, it is another one of the trends highlighted in the Raygun article. An increasingly competitive business world places the onus on companies to build and maintain applications faster than ever before. Following a continuous delivery model allows firms to deploy new code several times a day.

The increased use of software intelligence was the third trend discussed by Raygun, which isn’t a surprise, considering the company’s main line of business. Leveraging this form of automated intelligence hastens the discovery of problems or issues before the customer.

“Software intelligence gives you the ability to automatically detect when a user’s experience was poor and how you can improve it, with full diagnostic details being provided for every individual user error, crash or performance issue,” the article mentioned. This new era of application performance monitoring is one worth watching by anyone responsible for public-facing applications.

The Principles of Agile Software Development

Late March saw the appearance of a Forbes article in our news feed detailing the daily principles of Agile software development. While this is more of an evergreen topic than “news” per se, anyone new to Agile would benefit from studying these concepts. Scott Stiner, the CEO of UM Technologies, a software firm focusing on innovative user experience (UX) design, authored the article.

Stiner highlights the fact that traditional software engineering methodologies – most notably the Waterfall – lack the iteration compatible with the modern business world. The high cost of finding defects too late in the development process isn’t a risk many organizations want to take. This, combined with the faster speed of business noted earlier, is a major reason many software shops have embraced Agile over the last decade.

Early delivery of prototypes and strong customer interaction remain a major focus of Agile. Changes to requirements are welcome; not considered to be scope creep as with older methodologies. Analyze the rest of these Agile principles to see if a change in how you write applications makes sense for your organization.

Keep coming back to the Betica Blog for additional news and information regarding the wide world of software development. As always – thanks for reading!

Apache Cassandra – the Highly Scalable NoSQL Database

The NoSQL database movement happened because traditional relational databases simply don’t work as well in the highly distributed environments typical of today’s Web infrastructure. We recently covered the NoSQL graph database, Neo4j, here at the blog. It serves the needs of those looking to find relationships between records within huge Big Data stores.

This time out, we train our eye towards Apache Cassandra. Leveraging a key-value storage model, Cassandra offers high scalability and latency across widely distributed data centers. Read further to see if this NoSQL database makes sense for your organization’s data management needs.

The Genesis of Cassandra

Cassandra began as an internal project at Facebook. It actually powered the auto-complete functionality in the social network’s search box. Facebook released the project into the open source community in 2008. It became an Apache Software Foundation top level project in 2010 after two years in the incubator.

The latest release of Cassandra – 3.10 – became available in February of this year. As a fully open source database, it is downloadable for free. A free application with cross-platform support for most popular operating systems makes it worth checking out on a pilot project at your organization. Driver support exists for many current programming languages, like Java (using JDBC), Python, Node.js, Go, and C++.

Enterprises looking for a commercial NoSQL solution built upon Cassandra need to check out DataStax’s offerings. That company is known as the leading commercial provider of support for the database.

Cassandra’s Features and Functionality

Highly scalable distributed performance is Cassandra’s major calling card. DataStax provides a white paper comparing third-party benchmarks of a few of the most popular NoSQL databases (MongoDB, Couchbase, Hive), which revealed Cassandra as the top performer by a wide margin. Fault tolerance and replication are also seamlessly handled across a multitude of data centers – an important feature considering the modern global business landscape.

Impressive scalability also distinguishes Cassandra from similar NoSQL database products. Many enterprise users of the database boast massive production deployments, highlighted by Apple’s 10 petabytes of data spread over 75,000 nodes. Netflix also stores 420 terabytes of data across 2,500 nodes. Needless to say, Cassandra has rapidly become the database of choice for these enormous chunks of Big Data.

The database’s architecture provides no single points of failure; ensuring access to the data isn’t hampered by large amounts of network traffic. Since every node is identical, an entire data center can go offline without any loss of data. This kind of durability makes Cassandra very attractive to businesses with mission-critical applications – built-in support for multiple data centers is another plus.

Adding new servers to a deployment is also a breeze, according to DataStax’s lead Cassandra evangelist, Patrick McFadin. “You simply boot up a new machine and tell Cassandra where the other nodes are and it takes care of the rest,” said McFadin.

Superior horizontal scalability combined with ease of administration make Cassandra a worthy option for businesses looking to embrace NoSQL for their modern database needs. Its driver support for most popular languages lets developers come up to speed quickly. This is one open source database worth checking out.

Stay tuned to the Betica Blog for additional dispatches from the wide world of software development. As always – thanks for reading!

Improving the QA Process at an Agile Office

Companies of all sizes continue to embrace the Agile methodology with the hopes of making their software development process more efficient and subsequently more productive. Agile emphasizes collaboration and communication and it is able to react to changes better than older methodologies, like the Waterfall. It is a perfect match for today’s fast-paced, competitive business world.

A faster software engineering process, however, doesn’t mean companies should forego testing and quality assurance. Unfortunately, it seems businesses are struggling with software QA within an Agile framework, according to a recent survey of development shops. Let’s take a closer look at the study’s findings with the hopes of improving the QA role at Agile shops.

Testing Tool Provider, Zephyr, looks at QA in the Business World

Zephyr, a company making applications to support software testing, annually releases a study focused the QA role within the business community. Called “How the World Tests,” it is available as a free download from their website. Managers in the software development and QA role need to check out the full study with its findings and predictions for the coming year.

Hamesh Chawla, vice president of engineering at Zephyr, commented on the purpose of their study. “‘How the World Tests’ allows the entire testing community to examine our progress over the last year. IT teams want to speed up deployment of new software to meet demand. Companies should increase employee education investments in order to fine-tune the most efficient automated tests that work for any software they develop,” said Chawla.

Quality assurance remains a vital part of the SDLC no matter the choice of methodology. Even so, we are going to focus on one area within the survey — the difficulties Agile shops are experiencing with QA on software projects. SD Times also covered this topic in a recent article.

The Major Problems of Software Testing and Agile

The Zephyr study noted three major problems development teams were experiencing when it comes to testing with Agile. They are the lack of automation tools, constantly changing requirements, and not enough time for thorough testing. Companies understand automation is important in helping QA keep up with the rapid pace of an Agile project, but only 45 percent of the survey respondents felt their organization had the competency to employ automated testing.

Chawla feels companies need to invest in automation tools and the training to leverage them properly within the Agile process. Of course, he works at a testing tool company, but that fact doesn’t lessen the impact of his statement. Software development teams also use other recent innovations, like containers and virtualization, to make the overall process faster.

Businesses also need to invest more dollars in employee development to ensure a better understanding of Agile and everyone’s role within the framework. Involving QA personnel at every step of the SDLC is also important – a traditional complaint of software testers for decades. The reengineering of testing processes to better fit within the Agile structure is another key point of improvement from the survey.

Ultimately, organizations need to understand that Agile doesn’t just mean “faster.” A well-considered process that properly includes the QA role is a requirement to ensure successful product delivery.

When you need additional insights on the world of software development, you know where to turn: The Betica Blog. As always, thanks for reading!