How not to release

I recently worked for a client with J2EE applications who had issues with my suggestions on how release engineering should be handled. So I will leave this as a lesson for those of you that might read this little blog.

First, they would copy the software from one environment to the next instead of installing the software from distribution files. This led to a large number of conflicts within the base configurations (usually with the multicast addresses and ports which would be forgotten).

Next, they insisted on having tweaked startup programs that were never committed to a revision control system, replaced the ones that would have been in revision control and that the "installation" system needed to work around (i.e., not overwrite). Instead of the operations team working with development to have a set of startup programs that worked across the board and having those committed to revision control, there are multiple sets of install/start/stop programs that may or not be correctly maintained and most assuredly are not properly tracked and auditable.

Lastly, the operations team insists on configuring their "large number" of J2EE server systems by using GUI Jconsole-like applications using mbeans. This is laboreous, time consuming, error prone and unweildy. Most sites that I have worked at will generate configuration files and have them pushed out as text to the multiple servers, modified for each specific server and environment. These files can be recreated at any time and if properly managed through version control, can even be rolled back to any point in time. Managing a large number of servers through a GUI is an effort in futility.