Who doesn’t like a good meeting
As we gathered into the conference room to discuss transitioning of applications to the Development team I knew we were about to uncover some nasty secrets hidden in the OPS team….. Manager presents an application called CENTRON, it is basically an analyst task and incident tracking tool with scheduling capabilities. I was familiar with this app, 2 years ago during the initial discussions of the app i had recommended the code, requirements, and issue tracking be done using the Development teams dev studio. We got as far as importing the v1 code base into the repo and then never heard anything else from the application author/developer/team…. Now, with turnover and organization ‘realignment’ they were coming to the development team for help (and to take over ownership of the tool). I was about to say: “I told you so….” but when looking around the room there was NO ONE from the prior organization that i had worked with or worked on the tool. Acquisitions can have a huge impact on people and vision. So I focused my energy on cleanup and getting this application under a supportable maintenance cycle.
Laying the Foundation
First step, onboard the project into the Development Studio:
- Create needed Confluence space to store documents, notes, requirements, etc.
- Create needed Jira Project for issue management, resource planning, and prioritization
- Create needed Bitbucket repo(s) for storing code and configuration items.
- Create needed Bamboo plans for CI/CD
Our Development Studio has all the necessary components to on board any type of project and work it from the requirements/gathering phases all the way to the automated deployment of said tool. The studio doesn’t just have integrated tools that make for quick execution but the documentation and processes to keep the studio running. If folks are hired or the path of the team changes there should be an overall layout of how things run. In this day and age of all things Agile, sometimes we lose the fact that documentation needs to be written, ‘lived’, and reviewed to keep it up to date and relevant to the current day operation.
Collect ALL CODE!
- Need to get ALL code and configurations under version control. A majority of the work done to the app was on the production server so it was a phased approach:
- Get all code into the repo
- Verify the files ‘match’ what is available in production
- Cleanup unneeded files
- With many projects that do not have a repeatable release process you will find there are backup files and directories include. (ie: CENTRON.php_backup or CENTRON.php_old)
- Removing the unnecessary files will allow the new maintainers to focus on the important files/parts of the tool. Any time saved is well spent. Think about the code review of the application by the ‘new’ development team. If they are reviewing copies of the originals it is still time they have used for ‘wasted work’ and ineffective cycles. Removing the files will guarantee that this time will be saved in the future over and over again.
- Collect all related/relevant documentation and notes about the application. Storing them all in a Confluence Space for the Application.
- Create a System Integration Diagram to visualize the other systems the application integrates/communicates with. Without some type of diagram or map you can refer to, it becomes very difficult to understand the other pieces of the puzzle.
- ANY documentation about the system/application will help you in the long run!
- Review current application in production
- Noting directories, configuration items, notes, security concerns, etc
- Adding all notes to a central page in confluence
- Maintaining an application in a production environment is more than just the CODE BASE! You need to understand the overall architecture of the application, how it integrates and communicates with other tools and services, operating system level configurations, asset details, user/account information, Outage and recovery procedures/documents are all important and cannot be overlooked.
- Do a complete backup of the system before ANYTHING is done on the server.
- In our case it is a VM Snapshot which makes life soooo much easier then yesteryear
- Along with the backup procedure there should be recovery steps documented somewhere for the greater good and to reduce SPF (Single Point of Failure) within the teams.
- It’s hard to train without some documentation.
- How do you know procedure is followed if it isn’t documented?
A New Day
Start a new:
- Deploy a new server(vm) to replace the old production server. After years of a system living in production you can no longer fully understand who was on the box, what they did on the box, what changes were made on the box, and who has root access on the box. You are better off starting from a clean slate.
- Determine how the code and components can be more easily managed. Does it make sense to switch to containers and have different parts/components updatable by piece or all at once.
- Determine how testing will be done to the application. This project had no unit or integration tests. Any change of the code needs to be manually verified with the knowledge that other areas of the tool could break. We implemented a basic testing framework and focused on adding tests as we fixed bugs and/or implemented new features.
- Determine how deployments will be done. The old application was updated by hand on the server. We moved it to a bamboo deployment plan which pulled docker images down from our private repo and started them with a docker-compose file. Now when deployments are done it is automated and done by the machine which greatly reduces the errors made by someone making the changes.
- Determine when and how the "lift and shift" will happen from the old production server to the new pristine server. Keep in mind that with any active application communication is key. Users need to be aware when maintenance windows will happen and understand "how" to handle this time in their day to day jobs. Very much like a disaster incident, folks will need to know how to do work without this system for the short period of time. Have a shadow period with both systems up and running. This way you can always hit the o sh88 handle if things are found missing (or wrong) on the new system.
- Determine where issues, complaints, and feedback will go during the cut over AND moving into the future. We have a designated email distro list setup just for this. Next step for us is to automate the case creation off of email submissions (ie: outage email submitted, case created and put in IT team queue for resolution)
- Document and make known where your documentation is for the application, system, and environment. If your IT team has to respond to outages they better know where to go and what to do.
- Make an effort to understand WHY and WHAT areas of the tool/application are used for operations. Times change, new technology/tools come along, don’t repeat the same steps when new and improved actions can happen. Management input will be a huge portion of this discussion, they will need to drive the change and what will happen with legacy applications in your workplace!