The Future of Agile Configuration Management: 2006 and Beyond

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Summary:
We have been indulging in a mixture of wishful thinking and crystal ball gazing to consider what the future holds for Agile CM. To misquote Malvolio, "Some things are born great, some things achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Rather than try to make grand predictions for 5 or 10 years down the road, we're mostly limiting ourselves to the next 1-3 years (except where noted of course).

What follows is a mixture of these, where the greatness referred to in the quote is our feeling for the impact they will have on CM and in particular Agile CM! We would also like to encourage you to let us know which ones interest you and which we should address in future columns.

Crystallizing our "Crystal Ball" Gazing?
We think the biggest impacts upon Agile SCM practices and tools will be in the following areas:

    • Version Control
    • Build/Test Management
    • Distributed/Collaborative Development
    • Traceability/Tracking
    • Enterprise-wide CM Administration and Deployment
    • Model-Driven CM

We'll elaborate on each of these in the following sections along with our ideas of which we think are near-term versus longer-term impacts.

And a little "Buzzword Bingo"!
Be it a fast-fading fad, or legitimate leap forward, the buzzwords and the hype "du jour" make marketeers do their best to show how their products and processes are buzzword-compliant and upto-date with the latest "hot" and trendy terminology. Why not avoid the rush and start today! What kind of real or lasting impact will these have on CM? Hard to say, but we'll venture a guess while the reader "racks up" bingo chips hunting down the following buzzwords throughout this article:

    • Agile
    • Patterns
    • Object-Oriented
    • Component-Based
    • Model-Driven
    • Aspect-Oriented
    • Service-Oriented
    • Enterprise Architecture
    • Enterprise Integration
    • Rule-Based
    • Autonomic Computing
    • On-Demand Computing
    • Policy-Based Computing
    • Grid-Computing
    • RFID

Trends toward "Agile" Version Control Back when software design patterns first became trendy and popular, a common "truism" from those tired of all the patterns-hype was to define a design pattern as "something that was omitted from the programming language". In many respects, the same is true of SCM patterns; one could define an SCM pattern as:

    Something that was omitted from the SCM tool

Granted, many SCM patterns are already built-in to many of the better SCM tools. Yet many of them are absent in the most widespread lowest-common-denominator SCM tools. As patterns and their practices gain greater industry-wide recognition and acceptance, the tool-industry will respond by adding automated tool support and higher-level concepts that remove increasingly more of the drudgery and complexity from the hands of development teams

One significant factor here is the initial production release and growing popularity of Subversion - the de-facto successor to the most widely used and most-popular open-source version control tool, CVS (see http://subversion.tigris.org). Every conceptual improvement and pattern implemented in Subversion that was not in CVS has the potential to assist a massively large user-base in progressing from more primitive operations and their elements to higher-level CM concepts and abstractions

Streamed Lines section on project-oriented branching ). The ability to think and visualize release and delivery management in terms of such streams provides great visual power and simplicity for users in managing multi-project, multi-variant, and multi-sited development. Many tools have this already; more will follow.

Component-Based Versions ( Baselines) correspond to not merely a single revision of a single file, but to a complete, correct, and consistent configuration of an entire product or component. Previously one had to manually apply a tag or label to a specified set of file revisions. It will be increasingly more common to define a container or component as an (evolving) set of items, with automated support for component-wide versioning and baselining.

Composite Streaming & Baselining combines together both streams and baselines to "virtual baselines of baselines" that is simply a reference to other baselines, and also to create a kind of "virtual" codeline of codelines (or "stream of streams") where the latest configuration of a such composite virtual stream is really an aggregate of the latest configuration of each of its constituent streams.

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About the author

Steve Berczuk's picture Steve Berczuk

Steve Berczuk is a Principal Engineer and Scrum Master at Fitbit. The author of Software Configuration Management Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration, he is a recognized expert in software configuration management and agile software development. Steve is passionate about helping teams work effectively to produce quality software. He has an M.S. in operations research from Stanford University and an S.B. in Electrical Engineering from MIT, and is a certified, practicing ScrumMaster. Contact Steve at steve@berczuk.com or visit berczuk.com and follow his blog at blog.berczuk.com.

About the author

Brad Appleton's picture Brad Appleton

Brad Appleton is a software CM/ALM solution architect and lean/agile development champion at a large telecommunications company. Currently he helps projects and teams adopt and apply lean/agile development and CM/ALM practices and tools. He is coauthor of the book Software Configuration Management Patterns, a columnist for the CMCrossroads and AgileConnection communities at Techwell.com,  and a former section editor for The C++ Report. You can read Brad's blog at blog.bradapp.net.

About the author

Robert Cowham's picture Robert Cowham

Robert Cowham has long been interested in software configuration management while retaining the attitude of a generalist with experience and skills in many aspects of software development. A regular presenter at conferences, he authored the Agile SCM column within the CM Journal together with Brad Appleton and Steve Berczuk. His day job is as Services Director for Square Mile Systems whose main focus is on skills and techniques for infrastructure configuration management and DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) - applying configuration management principles to hardware documentation and implementation as well as mapping ITIL services to the underlying layers.

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