Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Peter Silva, PagerDuty Blog, JP Morgenthal, William Schmarzo

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, @DevOpsSummit

@CloudExpo: Article

ESBs Are Made for This. Aren’t They? | @CloudExpo #ESB #Cloud #DevOps

The following fictional case study is a composite of actual horror stories I’ve heard over the years

The following fictional case study is a composite of actual horror stories I've heard over the years. Unfortunately, this scenario often occurs when in-house integration teams take on the complexities of DevOps and ALM integration with an enterprise service bus (ESB) or custom integration. It is written from the perspective of an enterprise architect tasked with leading an organization's effort to adopt Agile to become more competitive. The company has turned to Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) as a way of scaling Agile, since initial attempts at Agile were not successful despite many scrum master training sessions.

I'm told that our SAFe implementation depends on the flow of information between people from different parts of the organization. Because these groups all use different tools, we need to focus on integrating them.

As senior director of Integrated Things for VeryLarge Corp., I have the expertise and know that my team can pull it off. Some of these tools are familiar to my team; we've already connected a couple of them to satisfy one use case, so I feel confident. ESBs are mature and the team is solid. Knowing that we've already deployed ESBawesome successfully makes me feel like this project is in the bag.

So how could I possibly fail? (Spoiler: Here's how):

ESBs Are Made for This
Choosing an ESB for this is easy. I want ESBawesome, since it's got good backing, super adoption and a great community. It has all the "ilities," including high availability, reliability and scalability. Plus it offers fault tolerance, security, tracking and monitoring.

With the tick boxes checked, I can see that ESBawesome already has a connector for some of the systems that we use: Atlassian JIRA and ServiceNow. And because of its API flexibility, ESBawesome can integrate anything. It even offers an easy way to generate connectors!

ESBawesome also fits in well with VeryLarge Corp.'s integration strategy; we've already got it deployed and we have a team built around it.

Team Capacity
The integration team's backlog isn't looking too bad. They're due to come off the current integration project, integrating the inventory-checking module with POS, and should be ready to begin in about six weeks.

Of course, there are a few hiccups. We're having problems with an upgrade of Atlassian's OnDemand JIRA service - where some of JIRAs changes regarding date handling in its REST APIs have caused hundreds of errors in our JIRA - ServiceNow integration. That, and we have to investigate why we've occasionally started seeing "Not authorized to perform action: Invalid key" errors from Rally. Oh, and we're currently blocking an upgrade of IBM RTC from 4.0.1 to 5.0.2 due to some changes and its client libraries from the old version not being compatible with the new version.

On top of that, I'm having multiple problems with the integrations that we've recently created. Not only were the integrations tricky, maintenance is much harder than we thought. These are taking my team more time than anticipated and, as a result, it's looking like a potential multi-month delay before I can even get started on this new integration effort.

Getting Started
It is three months later and we're finally getting started on our first SAFe integration use-case: quality group defect sharing with development. We've got our ESBawesome ESB application building in our CI environment, and we're deploying it continuously to a staging environment. We're operating at 40 percent capacity because the team is still dealing with the RTC upgrade, but we've got a great start in large part because of our previous ESBawesome experience.

To make the integration fault tolerant we've got to be sure to implement the ESBawesome "reliability patterns" correctly. We're using Oracle as a back-end relational database to help with that, but currently we're waiting on IT to set us up with an account with sufficient permissions to create the tables and sequences that we need.

The ESBawesome reliability patterns also call for a proper JMS queue, and we've finally got one going. It's not the same one that we'll use in production, but it's good enough for development. Hopefully things will just work when we switch over.

Connecting the Systems
It turns out that the JIRA connector for ESBawesome isn't all it's cooked up to be. It's definitely not designed for the kinds of use cases that we have in mind. The problem is that the low-level APIs of JIRA (and the connector) don't deal with JIRA issues as a whole - things such as watchers, links and comments are separate API calls.

Our first integration is all about connecting defects from the QA team with the development team. To do that we need the whole JIRA issue to reflect the state of defects filed in HPE ALM. Propagating only some of the state just won't do, so we have to deal with complexity such as a failure to update an issue with links after successfully creating it in JIRA. We're still trying to wrap our heads around how to manage such partially successful state replication.

On the HPE ALM side the ESBawesome connector is coming together slowly. We've had trouble getting the ESBawesome annotation-based REST connector to work for some of HPE ALM's API calls since we've discovered that some of the assumptions about REST APIs aren't holding true for HPE ALM.

Success
It's now four months since we kicked off this project, and the team has caught its first whiff of success. We've got issue creation in JIRA working! We had to hard code some values for some of the required fields in JIRA, but it works!

The next step is to make it easier to add new projects. Our teams in JIRA have all customized their projects with different statuses, fields and severities. I'm surprised at the lack of commonality among our 3,000 JIRA projects.

At the moment, each time we add a new project we have to hard code more values and field-specific logic into our ESBawesome application. The team knows this won't scale, so it has started creating an XML file to configure these settings. With three projects integrated, the XML file is over 4,000 lines. It's going to be tricky editing this file each time we add new projects, but we'd prefer to do that rather than have it hard coded in the application.

"ilities"
The team thinks that it has the fault tolerance and reliability aspects of the integration solved with the Oracle database and JMS.

We want to use ESBawesome's clustering capabilities for scalability and high availability, but we have to adapt some of our application logic to make that work. We chose the wrong level of abstraction for an integration unit of work, and have found that partial failures can result in issues with missing comments and others with duplicated comments, which causes a communication breakdown. Thankfully we haven't deployed into production yet, and it's not affecting any teams directly.

Our initial tests have shown that we don't really need clustering to scale to the levels we'll need with our 20,000+ developers. I'm cringing at the effort that we're spending on this.

We've had to pull in IT again since we'll need a load balancer in front of our ESBawesome cluster to handle transparent fail-over. It looks like they'll be meeting with us sometime next week to talk about environments, hardware allocation and timelines.

Domain Expertise
We've spent so much time trying to get the integration to work, sorting out the details with the technical bits (connectors, environments, databases and everything else) that we haven't had much time to test things with our users. Today we set up a mock trial with the quality group and it turns out that we completely missed something that's essential for this to work.

When an engineer resolves a defect, the quality team doesn't want it to show up as resolved in HPE ALM since they need to design and run tests to verify that it's indeed closed, and create the appropriate regression tests if needed. This only happens for defects in the ‘Ready for Verification' state - but we can't just move defects to that state without a quality engineer verifying that the change made it into a build that's been deployed to the QA environment. We proposed adding a new status, but that didn't fly because it would mess up their reports, so we're working on a way to have the "development status" show up in a new custom field in HPE ALM.

Deployed!
It's eight months since project kick-off and we now have a few "early adopter" teams trying out the new integration.

Initial feedback has been pretty good, but we now have a backlog of over 150 defects and feature requests. Most of them are minor, but a couple of them worry me. I'm not sure how we're going to deal with the loss of HTML formatting in descriptions for example, and HPE ALM's notion of comments as a single large text field is really problematic.

We had to put a few of our other integration projects on hold for awhile to get this one out the door, so we're switching gears right now to get those back on track. The team should be able to get back to this one in a couple of months, at which point we'll look at incorporating feedback from our users. If everything looks good, we'll be bringing on more teams into the trial and hopefully get the green light to deploy department-wide soon.

I'm feeling optimistic, but one of my engineers has given me a heads-up that Atlassian is about to delivery its next version of JIRA. I learned this happens about every six months. How in the world are we going to keep up?

Retrospective
Overall we failed the business. Looking back at what we accomplished, I'm really proud of my team. They overcame a lot of technical issues and really delivered. Unfortunately it wasn't enough.

It took eight months and a big chunk of my integration team's delivery capacity to deliver the first integration. The delay caused us to miss our SAFe implementation goals, and we only delivered a small piece of the integration puzzle. In the meantime, my team was unable to deliver on other projects, which is costing us in lost opportunities.

Here are some of the things we learned along the way:

  • Integrating teams is more complicated than we thought - the technology is only a part of integration. Understanding the reasons why and supporting specific integration use cases of multiple stakeholders is key.
  • This very quickly turned into a large development effort. Thankfully I have a top-notch team, but even they had to overcome some big problems. And there was constant pressure to deliver. VeryLarge Corp. really needed this up and running before we even started, and we simply couldn't deliver fast enough.
  • ESBawesome is a fabulous ESB. It really pulled through for us as a technology platform. The issue for us, though, was that ESB focused on the technical problem. As a result we were in the weeds a lot of the time. For DevOps and ALM/SDLC integration there was a great deal of customization and it was not straightforward. Using an ESB as the basis for our integration meant that we followed an industry-standard integration approach, but it also meant that a lot of software engineering was required. ESBs solve some of the problems, but come with their own complexity, requiring a high degree of expertise.
  • Connectors are a big part of the equation. ESBawesome only came with one of the connectors that we needed, so we ended up building the others ourselves. It's pretty quick to see some initial headway, but it is difficult to get these right. Building a connector means dealing with all of the idiosyncrasies and bugs of a third-party product API, which can vary from one version to the next.
  • The integrations that we built previously take a lot of effort to maintain. Through no fault of our own, APIs are changing and breaking in unexpected ways. This puts a heavy maintenance burden on my team. I'm going to have to plan for even more of this as we proceed with our integration strategy. I'll need to either cut the team's expected delivery of new features, or expand the team to account for maintenance.

It should be obvious that this enterprise architect went into the Agile scaling project unaware of the many technical and business challenges ahead, thereby spending an inordinate amount of time (and money) going down this route. Not till too far down the road did he understand that it can be very costly trying to accomplish this mission using only tools that his company already used. By then, his group had already failed.

More Stories By David Green

David Green is Vice President, Architecture at Tasktop. He was a founding member of MAKE Technologies, where he held the positions of CTO, vice president of technology and principal tools architect. At MAKE, he pioneered a model-driven approach to legacy modernization on the Eclipse platform, integrating business requirements, semantic code generation and data transformation.

David is an Eclipse committer and creator of Mylyn WikiText, a framework and tools for integrating wiki formatting into the Eclipse platform. He is well known for his widely read blog, Green's Opinion, apps for iPhone and Android, and speaking engagements at conferences such as JavaOne and EclipseCon.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
Historically, some banking activities such as trading have been relying heavily on analytics and cutting edge algorithmic tools. The coming of age of powerful data analytics solutions combined with the development of intelligent algorithms have created new opportunities for financial institutions. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sebastien Meunier, Head of Digital for North America at Chappuis Halder & Co., will discuss how these tools can be leveraged to develop a lasting competitive advanta...
TechTarget storage websites are the best online information resource for news, tips and expert advice for the storage, backup and disaster recovery markets. By creating abundant, high-quality editorial content across more than 140 highly targeted technology-specific websites, TechTarget attracts and nurtures communities of technology buyers researching their companies' information technology needs. By understanding these buyers' content consumption behaviors, TechTarget creates the purchase inte...
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
Your homes and cars can be automated and self-serviced. Why can't your storage? From simply asking questions to analyze and troubleshoot your infrastructure, to provisioning storage with snapshots, recovery and replication, your wildest sci-fi dream has come true. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, will provide a ChatOps demo where you can talk to your storage and manage it from anywhere, through Slack and similar services ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ocean9will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ocean9 provides cloud services for Backup, Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) and instant Innovation, and redefines enterprise infrastructure with its cloud native subscription offerings for mission critical SAP workloads.
Have you ever noticed how some IT people seem to lead successful, rewarding, and satisfying lives and careers, while others struggle? IT author and speaker Don Crawley uncovered the five principles that successful IT people use to build satisfying lives and careers and he shares them in this fast-paced, thought-provoking webinar. You'll learn the importance of striking a balance with technical skills and people skills, challenge your pre-existing ideas about IT customer service, and gain new in...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), an industry leader in automated, scalable and secure networks, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Juniper Networks challenges the status quo with products, solutions and services that transform the economics of networking. The company co-innovates with customers and partners to deliver automated, scalable and secure network...
Interoute has announced the integration of its Global Cloud Infrastructure platform with Rancher Labs’ container management platform, Rancher. This approach enables enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation and infrastructure investments. Matthew Finnie, Interoute CTO commented “Enterprises developing and building apps in the cloud and those on a path to Digital Transformation need Digital ICT Infrastructure that allows them to build, test and deploy faster than ever before. The int...
VeriStor Systems has announced that CRN has named VeriStor to its 2017 Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 list in the Elite 150 category. This annual list recognizes North American solution providers with cutting-edge approaches to delivering managed services. Their offerings help companies navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of IT, improve operational efficiencies, and maximize their return on IT investments. In today’s fast-paced business environments, MSPs play an important role...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
What if you could build a web application that could support true web-scale traffic without having to ever provision or manage a single server? Sounds magical, and it is! In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Munns, Senior Developer Advocate for Serverless Applications at Amazon Web Services, will show how to build a serverless website that scales automatically using services like AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, and Amazon S3. We will review several frameworks that can help you build serverle...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
FinTech is the sum of financial and technology, and it’s one of the fastest growing tech industries. Total global investments in FinTech almost reached $50 billion last year, but there is still a great deal of confusion over what it is and what it means – especially as it applies to retirement. Building financial startups is not simple, but with the right team, technology and an innovative approach it can be an extremely interesting domain to disrupt. FinTech heralds a financial revolution that...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...