Monday, 15 June 2009

Dog Food or Champagne?

There is a saying about eating your own dog food, or the more pleasant version, drinking your own champagne. The point is that if you really believe in your own product, then you would use it yourself, and therefore I prefer the dog food analogy since you would only eat your own dog food if it was really palatable, whereas you might be prepared to drink anything that is alcoholic!

Anyway, getting back to the main point, if you are a software developer and you can use your own products, then you have a big incentive to improve them for your own benefit. This is why I was really pleased when I heard that CA would be using Gen within their development team as part of the Mainframe 2.0 initiative.

Because we develop our products with Gen, we are also able to use our own tools as well, and this positive feedback loop has resulted in many improvements and enhancements to make the ‘dog food’ as palatable as possible. An example of this is in the area of version control.

One of the most useful tools in the armoury of a developer is the ability to see what has changed in the source code. The ability to see the what, why, when and who (what has changed, why was it changed, when was the change made and who made it) makes diagnosing a problem much easier. With Gen, a single model can only contain a single version of an object, so if the object is changed, you lose the ability to see what it looked like the moment before the change, unless you have saved the previous version somehow (via migration, model copy, etc.).

Since it is impractical to save the previous version every time a change is made, often the diagnosis of a problem is made unnecessarily hard because this useful information is not available. For example, a user reports a problem in the test system that they noticed a few days ago. In the meantime, the model has been changed and you are therefore unable to see what the changes were (only that the object was last changed on a specific date/time). If you cannot reproduce the problem, you cannot then tell if the problem has been fixed, or if your test case does not properly test for the issue.

We have found the ‘minor versions’ feature of GuardIEn especially useful. This allows you to track every change made to a Gen object and see the who changed it, when it was changed and what was changed (down to properties and individual action diagram statements). When linked to a GuardIEn Change Request, you can also see why it was changed and what other objects were also affected by the same change.

I know that we would say this anyway, but we have found this capability to be invaluable in the on-going maintenance of our products.

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