Agile@School – Anno quinto, ep. 2

Eccoci arrivati alla seconda lezione, cominciamo finalmente a fare sul serio!

La volta scorsa avevamo chiesto ai ragazzi di provare a inserire le user story sulle board dei loro progetti. Ora, le board erano lande desolate… Forse la causa è da attribuire al concetto di user story, che può essere in qualche modo complesso e non facile da “digerire”. Oppure il motivo è da ricercare in una gita in Spagna di mezzo?

Nessun problema, è comprensibile che le user story non siano di immediata comprensione, soprattutto per questi ragazzi che sono chiamati ad essere clienti, PO e sviluppatori nello stesso tempo. Soprattutto un portale con così tante feature, non è semplice da navigare, per cui, armati di pazienza, Pier-Paolo ha ripreso i concetti daccapo e li ha approfonditi con esempi concreti.

Questa volta, invertendo di fatto il modus operandi della lezione precedente, ha provato a dare molta più importanza alla pratica, quindi, insieme ai docenti ha seguito i ragazzi nel data entry sulle board.

I gruppi avevano già compilato a inizio corso un elenco di attività da eseguire per sviluppare i loro software: chi salvato su un foglio Excel condiviso sul cloud, ben formattato (soprattutto i gruppi con ragazze, sempre precise), chi invece su un file di testo, copiato per ogni studente, aggiornato via email (questo invece sarà un buon punto di partenza per una delle prossime lezioni, ndr). I ragazzi sono comunque stati veloci ad apprendere e, dopo un primo approccio, hanno iniziato anche ad appassionarsi. Si è vista la crescente curiosità rivola a come si gestiscono gli item e a come dovrebbero essere compilati. Sta crescendo la loro parte proattiva, nulla di più bello da vedere in una classe.

Per terminare rilassandosi un po’, Pier-Paolo ha insegnato poi il poker!

Non quello vero, naturalmente, anche se uno dei progetti è un Casinò virtuale, ma il planning poker. E qui proprio il gruppo che sviluppa il Casinò (sarà un caso?) ha immediatamente trovato un sito per poterlo fare online collaborativamente, che è stato subito utilizzato anche dagli altri. Prima abbiamo visto la proattività dei ragazzi, ora siamo addirittura arrivati alla crescita di team. Si bruciano le tappe quando si capisce il valore di alcune nostre azioni!

La lezione è passata piuttosto in fretta, del resto quando ci si diverte accade spesso. Chiudiamo qui con un compito “facile facile” per la prossima volta, cioè inserire i task nei PBI. Chissà se saranno così bravi da buttare giù anche le stime? Vista la crescita, siamo ottimisti 😊

Stay tuned, la prossima volta tocca a Git!

Display Reporting Services usage statistics with Grafana

Introduction

In this post, we will describe an efficient way of showing the usage statistics of our SQL Server Reporting Services hosted reports. Most of the queries below have been addressed in another article published by Steve Stedman. Even though they are really useful, the article shows their results through SQL Server Management Studio.

The problem

One of the problems that often occur in our organization as well as some of our customers, is to get immediate feedback about usage statistics of reports. Usually, the request of creating reports is out of control and some of them are executed only “that time” and not anymore. In the worst-case scenario, many of them aren’t executed at all and some of them could become even overlapped or duplicated.

Therefore, it is important to know the usage statistics, user by user and report by report, to make the reader aware of them, let him interpreting the values of the same query in multiple ways and graphical layouts. While this is not possible with a tabular format (unless you export the values using any external tools such as Excel) it is simpler when it comes to a dashboard.

Our solution: Grafana

We considered two factors: simplicity and efficiency, in order to make this first-sight dashboard. Grafana enables us to get both of them, as well as being very powerful and immediate. Even though this is not the right definition for it, we can say that “it is a portal to create dashboards using connectors, which support the most famous tools that return data”. We can find them in its marketplace. For instance, tools such as PRTG and Prometheus (monitoring), NewRelic (APM), also SQL and NoSQL data sources are supported:

Obviously, we can find SQL Server. Also, we can contribute to create others, as well as to modify Grafana itself, since it is completely an Open Source project. Examples of possible graphical representations are listed below:

Creating a dashboard is really simple. Just add each panel with a button.

Then, write the query and modify settings to get the desired type of representation.

As mentioned before, the connectors are many. Once selected you can to configure them with parameters:

If you would like to install and configure Grafana you can read the official documentation which also includes a short guide that illustrates how to take your first steps.

That’s it!

Conclusions

With half a day of work (including the setup of the server), we have solved one of the most important problems of our customers, derived from the lack of awareness of reports deployed in production environments. We did it with very little effort and the result, as you can see, is pleasant and effective. Everything is now ready to be published every time we update the dashboards also through a delivery software (Octopus Deploy, Jenkins or Azure DevOps) so all these things fall into the second and third way of DevOps (according to The Phoenix Project): Immediate Feedback and Continuous Improvement.

Stay Tuned!

Reducing the gap between operations and development using Azure DevOps

Intro

As we all know, DevOps is culture. In a company that is going to adopt its practices and principles, everyone should be “on the same side”. Continuous improvement cannot be part of our work in IT if we wouldn’t reduce the gap between development and operations. People like me, that worked in the 90s, know that dev and ops were always isolated in silos and this was “the only” way that everyone followed as a suggestion taken from the market leaders. Ticketing systems and extreme bureaucracy acted as a man-in-the-middle between those silos, transforming each organization in two people-unaware endpoints.

Speaking from a DevOps perspective, in such circumstances, a developer couldn’t know anything about how to deploy, where and how is an environment configured. On the other hand, an operation guy couldn’t get anything from a package in terms of what the application has been made for. Due to this gap we often see performance issues, underestimated hardware stuff and delayed releases. Last but not least, what about the lack of commitment and accountability of the employees working on the solution? In short, reducing such a gap is possible using a combination of DevOps culture and the right tools. We will see hereafter how my organization tries to do so using Azure DevOps.

Scenario

Let’s get started with our team (DevTeam hereafter), which is working with agile methodologies, composed of ten developers and a PO. A quick note, we are using a process decision framework called Disciplined Agile (https://www.disciplinedagileconsortium.org/). Then, we have three operation professionals (OpsTeam hereafter). Build and deploy pipelines already exist. Builds are hosted by Azure DevOps and deploys are managed by Octopus Deploy. Getting this has been a difficult mission.

Everything is related to infrastructure in terms of servers, operative systems, virtual hosts, DNS, firewalls, security and so on, is the responsibility of our OpsTeam. As a result, they do many tasks for managing the environments. Here comes the problem. DevTeams used to create tasks in a dedicated backlog, but OpsTeam didn’t. It’s not just a matter of end-of-pipeline tasks, but also tasks for their daily basis work.

Our solution

Modify the tool, adapting its shape in order to fit in with that real scenario. A piece of cake, when you’re DevOps “inside”. How did we change Azure DevOps? Let’s describe what we did in three parts:

Team on Azure DevOps

To create a team in Azure DevOps is really a piece of cake (according to the latest releases). Just navigate to the options and select Teams:

We can add many teams clicking on New team:

We can set the team’s administrators, the permission set and an area under which every work item will be created. This area will be one of our best friends, especially when we will make our queries for gathering and analyzing the team’s related data. Additionally, also the other teams’ members could create items with this area in order to make the OpsTeam aware of them.

Team’s backlog

Now let’s navigate to Backlogs:

Good! The new backlog has been created. Going on it, we will see the team’s drop-down as well as the one for iterations. Great features!

Once created, we will see the teams’ drop-down:

Work items

Now, let’s create a new work item type. We call it Ops item. Navigate to Process customization page:

Before adding the new work item, we must ensure that the process is already a custom process, otherwise, all the edits will be blocked as shown in the following picture:

We’ve already created a SimplifiedScrum process. let’s add our item now:

Now we are going to modify the fields of the new type. Each team should be able to understand all the item’s properties. We will leave the item as is in this example. Then, we have to map the type to the backlog item list, since only the default work item types are shown initially. To do this, navigate to the Process customization page, Backlog Levels tab:

As we can see, we can also set the default item for our requirements backlog. Moreover, every Sprint backlog, based on iterations, will enable us to add the new Ops item:

Wrapping up

So, we’ve got a backlog for the IT Operations team’s members. Then, we’ve related it to their Azure DevOps team. Additionally, we’ve got a particular work item type (not mandatory, but really useful for querying it or adding it into dashboards) target of IT Operations’ job and a dedicated Area Path. We can make many relationships between items of both our backlogs. Here is an example of how an activity can be managed and organized (extension: Work Item Visualize):

As you can see, the Ops items are Successor of the “development” Product backlog items. Indeed, the Ops Items will be finished after the PBI, typically. Think about creating s DNS or a network path to let the production app work in production.

Conclusions

With this solution, we’re decoupling backlogs. Moreover, we’re isolating the management maintaining the relationships between work items that reside on different boards. At the same time, we’re making a strong synergy between Development and Operations.Then, in a couple of clicks, we can switch teams and backlogs, using Azure DevOps Boards. We can track changes in both the departments, also for audit requirements. In my opinion, this helps the enterprise awareness and facilitates the continuous improvement of all the teams and any member’s skill.

Microsoft Localization Community, perché le traduzioni sono importanti

Scrivo questo post in italiano perché farlo in inglese potrebbe creare confusione… a parte gli scherzi, credo che sia una delle lingue più belle di tutto il pianeta, e non perché è quella con cui sono nato e che ho studiato, bensì perché è vasta, variabile, melodica e tanto altro.

Non è un caso che una delle mie attività preferite (e anche più frequenti) sia quella di supportare la localizzazione dei prodotti software che ognuno di noi, nel mondo della Information Technology, usa tutti i giorni. Seppure il post sia sulla community di Microsoft, sono attivo un po’ dappertutto, da software di altri fornitori, a quelli interni che sviluppiamo in azienda, fino ad arrivare alle app mobile, che spesso distruggono l’italiano come nessun altro. Ma parlo di Microsoft Localization Community perché ogni giorno, prima di iniziare la mia giornata e poco prima di terminarla, uso l’applicazione apposita per migliorare le traduzioni di quello che utilizzo tutti i giorni. Si tratta per di più di Visual Studio Code e Azure Data Studio, ma non trascuro nemmeno SQL su Linux e altre voci legate agli strumenti da sviluppatore.

Seguendo il link di cui sopra, troverete una wiki che vi mostra tutte le possibilità di collaborazione. Nonostante le persone che lavorano a tali attività non siano poche, non sarebbe male avere più contributi, anche per avere conseguentemente più qualità. Solo su Visual Studio Code abbiamo tutti questi volontari:

Ognuno di noi viene menzionato nella pagina delle note di rilascio di VSCode. Quindi, un incentivo in più per dare una mano!

Ma non è tutto qui, vi sono altre dashboard che consentono di vedere un po’ tutta l’attività di traduzione attorno ad un software. Qui di seguito vi mostro quelle per gli strumenti da sviluppatore (Developer Tools), Azure Data Studio, SQL su Linux e ancora VSCode:

Si tratta di non pochi sforzi della community. Tanto lavoro per ottenere strumenti e software sempre più comprensibili e facilmente utilizzabili, anche nella nostra lingua madre, che non ha mai avuto troppo successo nel mondo dell’IT. Vi consiglio di dare un’occhiata a questi contenuti, partendo proprio dal repository github della Microsoft Localization Community.

Vi aspettiamo!

SQL Server Latest Updates (Nov. Dec. 2018)

Directly from the SQL Server Release Service blog, here the latest updates for SQL Server 2016 SP1, SP2, 2017 RTM and 2014 SP2, SP3:

Cumulative Update #1 for SQL Server 2014 SP3

Cumulative Update #15 for SQL Server 2014 SP2

Cumulative Update #12 for SQL Server 2016 SP1

Cumulative Update #4 for SQL Server 2016 SP2

Cumulative Update #13 for SQL Server 2017 RTM

and

Public Preview for SSRS 2017+ Management Pack with Power BI Reporting Server Support

…Stay Tuned, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 🙂

DevOpsHeroes 2018 – Another brick in the wall

Event details

DevOpsHeroes has been a great event, again! We didn’t expect so many people and we could not imagine that the feedback would be so good. Quick facts:

  • Subscription: 244 (150 the past year)
  • Attendees: 122 (94 the past year)
  • drop: 50% (38% the past year)

Attendee’s satisfaction

The following radar chart is about the event date, location, quality of the sessions, quality of the speakers, food, hospitality, event design, and kits:

As we can see, the overall satisfaction is really high (4/5)! The blue line is related to the audience which already has attended our event (40%) and the orange one represents the first-timers (60%).

Indeed, we’ve got a good feedback also for the following questions:

  • will you attend again?
    • Sure, 45%
    • Most likely, 33%
    • Likely, 22%
  • will you suggest the event to other people?
    • Sure, 76%
    • Most likely, 21%
    • Likely, 3%

Conclusions

We’re really proud of the third edition of DevOpsHeroes. Engage IT Services and Xebir did a great job together, and, hopefully, both companies will cooperate in the future in order to provide new formats and events like this one. A special thanks goes to Scott Ambler, and also to Italian Agile Moviment for sponsoring and supporting the organisation.

Download sessions here.

Last but not least, thanks to GetLatestVersion.it and also WindowServer.it which allowed us to get DevOpsHeroes in the best shape possible.

See you next year!