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Beware Abe Lincoln-looking code pros trying to sell you on LOBDOPs

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Time spent at the QCon software developer conference and exhibition in London this week comes with certain guarantees.

There will always be free T-shirts on every stand, gummy bears or jellybeans if you’re lucky, and a high footfall put down by the serious coding cognoscenti.

And mixing among the Abe Lincoln “beard but no moustache”-styled code pros here are the obligatory tech-company evangelists, salesmen without a commission. What was their beef this year? Was it more sound bites like “data is the new currency” and such like?

Talk this year in several circles centered on DevOps, something called “social coding” and collaboration, the tried-and-tested idea of peer review and continuous delivery, on smart file depository usage and, of course, big data analytics.

The difference is that there is an open willingness to discuss how much of these processes, methodologies and approaches we will see executed at a deeper level.

Vendors and their evangelists are always trying to convince us their tools will “reduce complexity” (yawn) and help make "coding and application builds possible for everyone".

"Everyone?" Isn’t that like putting the power of a Ferrari in the hands of a learner driver? Won’t this see business types crash the app dev project?

If we accept that Facebook updates 25 times a day (or whatever it is) and that web and mobile front ends are subject to rapid change, do these rapid workflow models translate well enough to handle work carried out behind the firewall, deep in the datacentre and across the mainframe?

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European director for Perforce Mark Warren says that peer code review is extending its scope beyond its traditional developer domain and now also welcoming in business, legal, compliance and risk specialists.

“The effect of this is that although it had previously been assumed continuous delivery would not be as prevalent behind the firewall or at the mainframe level (where you might expect updates only annually or monthly), we are seeing more rapid cycles starting to impact the way back end enterprise assets are constructed,” said Warren.

Elasticsearch is singing a similar tune. The open-source search and analytics engine company reckons it can help "empower DevOps" (but doesn’t everyone right now?) with its "logstash" central repository for all log data.

So logstash gathers log data in the form of tweets, syslogs, Apache web log files etc (basically anything with a time stamp) and Elasticsearch is capable of running a fine grain query across that data. The analytics resulting from this comparatively low-level data can then be fed into visualisation tools such as graphs and Excel sheets, or to the command line.

Surely that’s like giving airplane passengers a full list of avionics checkpoints and an ongoing data feed from air traffic control on every New York to London return?

None of the vendors were as open about discussing the implications and ramifications opening up access this deeper system information.

“GitHub has used Elasticsearch’s analytics to track and analyse code exceptions generated by the various software components that power GitHub itself,” said Elasticsearch community manager Leslie Hawthorn. “It’s all basically about analytics insight that goes on behind the firewall.”

Only Azul Systems chief technology officer Gil Tene warns we shouldn’t get carried away with ourselves. The speed at which continuous delivery updates and rapid analytics of this kind work is predominantly found within enterprise applications – ones you can interact with through a web-facing front-end, he says.

“We ship a Java Virtual Machine. We can’t just press a button and switch versions when we want to give our customers something new,” said Tene. “Plus, anyway, customers don’t want 75 releases a year: they want four.”

Is there a key trend and, ahem, "takeaway" here? Will access to this system information mean that we see DevOps rebranded as System DevOps or something ghastly? It is more likely to become some more bastardised Line Of Business DevOps version of itself - and that will be LOBDOPS.

The message? Get ready for vendors trying to sell you on LOBDOPs. ®

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