Welcome!

DevOps Journal Authors: Greg Schulz, Carmen Gonzalez, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: DevOps Journal, Java, Virtualization, Cloud Expo, Big Data Journal, SDN Journal

DevOps Journal: Article

The DevOps Database | Part 2

Applying Systems Thinking to Database Change Management

In my first post in this series, I discussed the underpinning principles of all DevOps patterns as eloquently stated by Gene Kim, author of "The Phoenix Project."  In this post I'd like to dig a little deeper into The First Way.  As a refresher:

The First Way: Systems Thinking - This Way stresses the performance of the entire system of value delivery.  Instead of becoming laser focused on the part of the process for which an individual or team is responsible, the individual or team works to understand the entire process from requirements generation to customer delivery.  The goal is to eliminate the delivery impediments that arise when a project transitions from one isolated silo to another.  Understanding the entire system allows business, development, and operations to work towards a common goal in a consistent manner.

When we started Datical, our first step was to perform extensive market validation.  We quickly learned that database schema management was going to be tough nut to crack. In the scores of conversations we had with people throughout the ALM spectrum, we learned that the process for managing and updating the database schema that supports an application was at best murky and at worst a black box.  So how do we elevate a process owned and understood by a few people in an organization to the level of visibility required to understand that process as part of a larger system?

What follows is a list of concepts pertaining to System Thinking that we've rallied around in providing our database change management solution Datical DB. Instead of the black box, database change management can become a transparent and flexible part of your value delivery system.

Start With Reality
When beginning a new project based on previous development, don't rely on a stack of SQL scripts on a file server or even in a source code control system. As you know, databases evolve over time and sometimes out of process changes happen.  When a database schema is modified to resolve an error condition or performance degradation, these alterations are usually handled in a support ticketing system.  You can never be certain that they were added to the stack of scripts used to build out a fresh environment.  In light of this, any database change management solution should start by generating a baseline from the working system: your production schema.  This ensures that design and development activity are taking into account not only those schema objects generated in Dev, but also those which originated in other stops in the system.

Don't Script! Model!
To keep this blog post short(er) I'll point you now to a blog post I wrote a few months ago on modelling vs. scripting.

Version Twice, Deploy Once
The first level of versioning any database change management tool should provide is versioning of the gold standard. Versioning the scripts or model that you use to build a fresh database instance for your application provides a ton of benefits.  You can track how your schema has evolved over time and across releases, you can tightly couple a schema definition to the version of the application it supports using the same branch/tag/merge workflow that you use for your application code, and you can quickly stand up a new database instance that you know is correct for any released version or experimental branch you are working in.  The second level of versioning takes place in each database instance.  Tracking the version of the schema deployed on a specific instance makes deployment and troubleshooting much easier.  Will this application build work with the schema on this instance?  What changes need to be applied to this database to catch it up to the latest version?  Were the right changes applied to this test database to validate a closed defect?  If you are tracking the individual changes applied in a database and the impetus for those changes, these questions can be answered quickly and easily.

Unify Your Modes of Delivery
We've found that a lot of uncertainty was generated when database updates were handled by several individuals using their own tools and methods to affect the required changes.  To remove this uncertainty, all database change must be executed using the same tools and processes across departments and individuals.   The tricky part: a continuous integration system has different requirements than a developer working iteratively or a DBA processing a batch of changes in a headless environment during a maintenance window.  In order to unify your database change process, the solution you use should be accessible to all of these individuals while maintaining the consistency of deployment activities.  That's why Datical DB provides a rich GUI experience for developers that helps them craft & deploy changes in dev environments; tight integrations with popular build and release automation frameworks that preserve the frameworks' workflows while providing Datical DB functionality; and a command line interface that allows users in headless environments to deploy changes in the exact same manner that the GUI or a 3rd-party integration would.  By unifying the modes of delivery you are constantly testing your release practices. By the time the production push rolls around, your system works.

More Stories By Pete Pickerill

Pete Pickerill is Vice President of Products and Co-founder of Datical. Pete is a software industry veteran who has built his career in Austin’s technology sector. Prior to co-founding Datical, he was employee number one at Phurnace Software and helped lead the company to a high profile acquisition by BMC Software, Inc. Pete has spent the majority of his career in successful startups and the companies that acquired them including Loop One (acquired by NeoPost Solutions), WholeSecurity (acquired by Symantec, Inc.) and Phurnace Software.

Latest Stories from DevOps Journal
The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential. The DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo--to be held November 4-6 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in the heart of Silicon Valley--will expand the DevOps community, enable a wide sharing of knowledge, and educate delegates and technology providers alike. Recent research has shown that DevOps dramatically reduces development time, the amount of enterprise IT professionals put out fires, and support time generally. Time spent on infrastructure development is significantly increased, and DevOps practitioners report more software releases and higher quality.
PagerDuty, the leader in operations performance management, announced the public release of its Advanced Analytics tools, which provide insights IT teams can use to improve team and system performance. Leveraging PagerDuty’s robust data on key operational metrics like incident frequency and time to respond and resolve, companies can now drive even faster incident resolution. The new capabilities further expand PagerDuty’s operations performance platform by giving managers the ability to analyze and improve key drivers of uptime.
Software is eating the world. Companies that were not previously in the technology space now find themselves competing with Google and Amazon on speed of innovation. As the innovation cycle accelerates, companies must embrace rapid and constant change to both applications and their infrastructure, and find a way to deliver speed and agility of development without sacrificing reliability or efficiency of operations. In her keynote DevOps Summit, Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell, will discuss how IT organizations can automate just-in-time assembly of application environments – each built for a specific purpose with the right infrastructure, components, service, data and tools – and deliver this automation to developers as a self-service. Victoria’s keynote will include remarks by Kira Makagon, EVP of Innovation at RingCentral, and Ratnakar Lavu, EVP of Digital Technology at Kohl’s.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Serena Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Serena Software supports DevOps and Continuous Delivery by providing application deployment automation and software release management solutions to replace slow and error-prone manual processes. 2,500 enterprises around the world trust Serena to help them develop and deploy better software.
Founded in 1997, ActiveState is a global leader providing software application development and management solutions. The Company's products include: Stackato, a commercially supported Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that harnesses open source technologies such as Cloud Foundry and Docker; dynamic language distributions ActivePerl, ActivePython and ActiveTcl; and developer tools such as the popular Komodo Edit and Komodo IDE. Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, ActiveState is trusted by customers and partners worldwide, across many industries including telecommunications, aerospace, software, financial services and CPG. ActiveState is proven for the enterprise: More than two million developers and 97% of Fortune 1000 companies use ActiveState's solutions to develop, distribute, and manage their software applications. Global customers like Bank of America, CA, Cisco, HP, Lockheed Martin and Siemens rely on ActiveState for faster development, ensuring IT governance and compliance, and accelerating time-to-market.
DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley announced today a limited time free "Expo Plus" registration option through September. On site registration price of $1,95 will be set to 'free' for delegates who register during special offer. To take advantage of this opportunity, attendees can use the coupon code, and secure their registration to attend all keynotes, DevOps Summit sessions at Cloud Expo, expo floor, and SYS-CON.tv power panels. Registration page is located at the DevOps Summit site. Your DevOps Summit registration will also allow access to @ThingsExpo sessions and exhibits. Register For DevOps Summit "FREE" (limited time) ▸ Here
Qubell, an innovator in application deployment and configuration management, empowers online companies to do what they have never been able to do before: put into consumers' hands innovative new features and services, almost as fast as they can conceive them, without sacrificing control, reliability or uptime. Qubell emerged from stealth in the summer of 2013 (see related press release) and announced that Kohl's completed its initial implementation (see press release). Founded by pioneers in enterprise cloud applications and services, Qubell has its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. For more information, visit qubell.com.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With “smart” appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user’s habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can’t be addressed without the kinds of agile software development and infrastructure approaches pioneered by the DevOps movement.
AppDynamics is the next-generation application performance management solution that simplifies the management of complex, business-critical apps. No one can stand slow applications - not IT operations and development teams, not the Chief Information Officer, and definitely not end users. With AppDynamics, no one has to tolerate slow performing apps ever again. AppDynamics customers include TiVo, AMICA Insurance, Expedia and StubHub.
BlueBox bridge the chasm between development and infrastructure. Hosting providers are taking standardization and automation too far. For many app developers it does nothing but spawn mayhem and more work. They have to figure out how their creations live on a pre-fab infrastructure solution full of constraints. Operations-as-a-Service is what BlueBox does. BlueBox utilizes development tools such as OpenStack, EMC Razor, Opscode’s Chef and BlueBox's proprietary tools give the power to do the unorthodox things which most hosting providers shun.