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Software reviews – does high-quality software justify its cost?

Reviews take place throughout our entire software development process, starting with the analysis of requirements and the appropriate software architecture and ending with code and testing analyses. However, we also conduct audits of our customers software so that they receive an assessment for the further development and operation of their software.

What are the benefits of software reviews?

Software reviews lead to significantly fewer errors. According to a study of 12 thousand projects by Capers Jones [1], these are reduced by

  • in requirements reviews by 20–50%
  • in top-level design reviews by 30–60%
  • in detailed functional design reviews by 30–65%.
  • for detailed logical design reviews by 35–75%.

The study concludes:

Poor code quality is cheaper until the end of the code phase; after that, high quality is cheaper.
Costs across the development phases of requirement, design, coding, testing and operation

The study still assumes a classic waterfall model from requirements to software architecture, first to code, then to tests and operation. In agile software development, however, this process is repeated in many cycles, so that we spend most of our time developing software by changing or adding to the existing code base. Therefore, we need to understand not only the change requirements but also the existing code. Better code quality makes it easier for us to understand what our application does and how the changes make sense. If code is well divided into separate modules, I can get an overview much faster than with a large monolithic code base. Further, if the code is clearly named, I can more quickly understand what different parts of the code do without having to go into detail. The faster I understand the code and can implement the desired change, the less time I need to implement it. To make matters worse, the likelihood that I will make a mistake increases. More time is lost in finding and fixing such errors. This additional time is usually accounted for as technical debt.

Conversely, I may be able to find a quick way to provide a desired function, but one that goes beyond the existing module boundaries. Such a quick and dirty implementation, however, makes further development difficult in the weeks and months to come. Even in agile software development without adequate code quality, progress can only be fast at the beginning, the longer there is no review, the tougher the further development will be. In many discussions with experienced colleagues, the assessment was that regular reviews and refactorings lead to higher productivity after just a few weeks.

Which types of review solve which problems?

There are different ways to conduct a review. These depend on the time and the goals of the review.

The IEEE 1028 standard [2] defines the following five types of review:

Walkthroughs
With this static analysis technique we develop scenarios and do test runs, e.g. to find anomalies in the requirements and alternative implementation options. They help us to better understand the problem, but do not necessarily lead to a decision.
Technical reviews
We carry out these technical reviews, e.g. to evaluate alternative software architectures in discussions, to find errors or to solve technical problems and come to a (consensus) decision.
Inspections
We use this formal review technique, for example, to quickly find contradictions in the requirements, incorrect module assignments, similar functions, etc. and to be able to eliminate these as early as possible. We often carry out such inspections during pair programming, which also provides less experienced developers with quick and practical training.
Audits
Often, before a customer’s software is put into operation, we conduct an evaluation of their software product with regard to criteria such as walk-through reports, software architecture, code and security analysis as well as test procedures.
Management reviews
We use this systematic evaluation of development or procurement processes to obtain an overview of the project’s progress and to compare it with any schedules.

Customer testimonials

Thank you very much for the good work. We are very happy with the result!

– Niklas Kohlgraf, Projektmanagement, pooliestudios GmbH

Get advice on software reviews from Cusy today:

Veit Schiele

Veit Schiele
Phone: +49 30 22430082

We will also be happy to call you!

Request now


[1]Capers Jones: Software Quality in 2002: A Survey of the State of the Art
[2]IEEE Standard for Software Reviews and Audits 1028–2008

Atlassian discontinues the server product range

Atlassian announced in mid-October 2020 that it would completely discontinue its server product line for the products Jira, Confluence, Bitbucket and Bamboo on 2 February 2021. Existing server licences will still be able to be used until 2 February 2024, although it is doubtful that Atlassian will actually continue to provide extensive support until 2 February 2024.

The product series will be phased out in stages:

  • 2 February 2021: New server licences will no longer be sold and price increases will come into effect.
  • 2 February 2022: Upgrades and downgrades will no longer be possible
  • 2 February 2023: App purchases for existing server licences will no longer be possible
  • 2 February 2024: End of support

While Atlassian recommends migrating to the cloud, many of our customers refuse to do so due to business requirements or data protection reasons. We work with our customers to analyse the requirements of their existing Jira, Confluence, Bitbucket and Bamboo servers and then develop suitable migration plans, e.g. to GitLab.

Let me advise you

Even if you are not yet a customer of ours, I will be happy to advise you and create a customised offer for the migration of your Atlassian servers.

Veit Schiele

Veit Schiele
Phone: +49 30 22430082

I will also be happy to call you!

Request now

Migration from Jenkins to GitLab CI/CD

Our experience is that migrations are often postponed for a very long time because they do not promise any immediate advantage. However, when the tools used are getting on in years and no longer really fit the new requirements, technical debts accumulate that also jeopardise further development.

Advantages

The advantages of GitLab CI/CD over Jenkins are:

Seamless integration
GitLab provides a complete DevOps workflow that seamlessly integrates with the GitLab ecosystem.
Better visibility
Better integration also leads to greater visibility across pipelines and projects, allowing teams to stay focused.
Lower cost of ownership
Jenkins requires significant effort in maintenance and configuration. GitLab, on the other hand, provides code review and CI/CD in a single application.

Getting started

Migrating from Jenkins to GitLab doesn’t have to be scary though. Many projects have already been switched from Jenkins to GitLab CI/CD, and there are quite a few tools available to ease the transition, such as:

  • Run Jenkins files in GitLab CI/CD.

    A short-term solution that teams can use when migrating from Jenkins to GitLab CI/CD is to use Docker to run a Jenkins file in GitLab CI/CD while gradually updating the syntax. While this does not fix the external dependencies, it already provides better integration with the GitLab project.

  • Use Auto DevOps

    It may be possible to use Auto DevOps to build, test and deploy your applications without requiring any special configuration. One of the more involved tasks of Jenkins migration can be converting pipelines from Groovy to YAML; however, Auto DevOps provides predefined CI/CD configurations that create a suitable default pipeline in many cases. Auto DevOps offers other features such as security, performance and code quality testing. Finally, you can easily change the templates if you need further customisation.

Best Practices

  • Start small!

    The Getting Started steps above allow you to make incremental changes. This way you can make continuous progress in your migration project.

  • Use the tools effectively!

    Docker and Auto DevOps provide you with tools that simplify the transition.

  • Communicate transparently and clearly!

    Keep the team informed about the migration process and share the progress of the project. Also aim for clear job names and design your configuration in such a way that it gives the best possible overview. If necessary, write comments for variables and code that is difficult to understand.

Let me advise you

I will be happy to advise you and create a customised offer for the migration of your Jenkins pipeline to GitLab CI/CD.

Veit Schiele

Veit Schiele
Phone: +49 30 22430082

I will also be happy to call you!

Request now

Microsoft alternatives – migration to open source technologies

We are developing a migration strategy from Microsoft 365 to open source technologies for a large German research company. On the one hand, it’s a question of regaining cyber souvereignty and, on the other hand, of meeting increased security requirements. This is to be achieved by using free and open source software (FLOSS). Overall, the project is similar to the Microsoft Alternatives Project (MAlt) at CERN and the Project Phoenix of Dataport.

The principles of the project are:

  • The same service should be offered to all employees
  • Vendor lock-ins should be avoided in order to reduce the risk of dependency
  • Most of the data should be owned by the research company

Plans for 2020

For 2020 it is planned to evaluate alternative solutions for many services and to publish prototypes and pilot projects.

Product group Service Product to evaluate Status
Identity and access management LDAP OpenLDAP Production
Personal Information Management eMail Zimbra Evaluation
Calendar Zimbra Evaluation
Contacts Zimbra Evaluation
Collaboration File sharing NextCloud Production
Office integration NextCloud Evaluation
Direct mails/chat Mattermost Production
Video conferences Jitsi Meet Production
Search Search engine Elasticsearch Evaluation
Frontend/ Visualisation Kibana Evaluation
Authentication/ Access control Open Distro Security Evaluation
k-nearest neighbors Open Distro KNN Evaluation
Project management Issues/Milestones GitLab Evaluation
Time tracking gitlabtime Evaluation
Documentation GitLab Wiki Evaluation
Research software [1], [2] Package manager Spack Produktion
IDE JupyterHub Produktion
Development environments Jupyter Kernels Production
Software versioning Git Production
Data versioning DVC Production
Gathering and storing data Intake Pilot
Spreadsheet ipysheet Production
Geospatial data PostGIS Production
Map creation OpenStreetMap Production
DevOps GitLab CI/CD Pipeline Pilot
Documentation Sphinx Production

Hosting strategy

There are essentially three different hosting variants within the research company:

Society-wide infrastructure
Infrastructure, which is used by most of the research projects and administrations across the institutes, is to be provided by the research company’s central IT.
Institute-wide infrastructure
Infrastructure that is required for the special research areas of one institute or that needs IT support on site should be provided by the IT of the respective institute.
Operational and geo-redundancy
These are mainly produced through institute cooperation or through cooperation between individual institutes and the IT of the research society. In terms of technology, floating IPs and the Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol (VRRP) are used for this, with decisions being made on the basis of BGP announcements.

Update 14.01.2021

On 14 January 2021, Elastic announced that they are changing the license of Elasticsearch and Kibana from the Apache v2 open source license to the Server Side Public License (SSPL). Basically, this is a proprietary licence dressed up as open source. Users of SSPL software may be forced to release any supporting software under the SSPL as well. Even if the FAQ says otherwise, the wording of the licence remains binding. For the further use of Elasticsearch and Kibana, the risk of a legal violation has therefore increased significantly.

See also:


[1]

There is extensive German documentation for the infrastructure on which the research software is developed, which is published under the BSD 3 Clause license:

[2]The planned uniform API represents a significant simplification here; see also Announcing the Consortium for Python Data API Standards.

Data protection in times of Covid-19

Companies and organizations have data that they do not want to make available to others. They also have a special responsibility for their customers, partners and employees. Not being sovereign of this data means not only a loss of trust, but usually also commercial losses.

Show your customers, partners and employees that data protection is important to you and that you take responsibility to protect their privacy. Show that you have implemented the rules of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from May 2018.

Therefore, do without Google services and use alternatives. Google makes money from the data you provide Google:

With your permission you give us more information about you, about your friends, and we can improve the quality of our searches. We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about. [1]

This statement by the Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, is more relevant than ever. It can get scary when you think that a company knows more or less what you think about. The group only reveals part of this information if you still have a Google account – saved graphs and other evaluations will remain hidden from you.

In the following we would like to introduce you to some privacy-friendly alternatives to Google services:

… for your office work

  • Jitsi instead of Google Hangout, Zoom or Microsoft Teams
  • Mattermost instead of Slack
  • Nextcloud and OnlyOffice instead of Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Calendar and Google Drive

… for your website

… for your apps

For further reading

Telearbeit und Mobiles Arbeiten
Information from the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of information (BfDI), January 2019
Top Tips for Cybersecurity when Working Remotely
Article by the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA), March 2020
Home-Office? – Aber sicher!
Information from the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), March 2020

[1]Google’s CEO: ‹The Laws Are Written by Lobbyists›, 2010.

Cheat sheets for our Python seminars

For our Python seminars we have created cheat sheets that allow the course participants to quickly reuse what they have learned:

Python Cheat Sheet

Python Cheat Sheet Python Cheat Sheet 2

python-for-beginners-cheat-sheet.pdf, PDF, 70.4 KB

Pandas Cheat Sheet

Pandas Cheat Sheet Pandas Cheat Sheet 2

pandas-cheat-sheet.pdf, PDF, 52 KB

Git Cheat Sheet

Git Cheat Sheet Git Cheat Sheet 2

git-cheatsheet-web.pdf, PDF, 437 KB

And if you have any further questions about our training courses, please give us a call on +49 30 22430082 or send us an email to training@cusy.io.

Beuth University: Prototype for a medication app

Beuth University: Prototype for a medication app

Beuth University of Applied Sciences

For the Beuth University, we develop a prototype for a medication app.

The app is intended to improve the safety of the medication and in particular in the monitoring of ingestion rhythm and the knowledge of side effects and influences.

Not only the patients themselves should be able to use this app, but also relatives and caregivers.

In fact, there are already many apps that promise to meet the requirements. However, with more detailed research, they have significant shortcomings.

Professional quality

The professional quality of other apps is rarely discernible and, if the few reviews are taken as a basis, is usually very low. This is all the more problematic when apps promise to point out interactions and double prescriptions for medications with similar effects. For customers who rely on the fact that their app will warn them of dangers, for example with their self-medication requests, are likely to be at serious risk.

User groups

The apps also very rarely provide information about their user groups, neither about

  • Suitability for specific diseases/conditions
  • Suitability for gender, special age groups (or areas) etc.
  • Suitability for certain health professions and settings: clinical, outpatient, at home, …
  • Suitability for physiological and physical impairments, also not the support for TalkBack for Android and VoiceOver for iPhone.
  • Support for country-specific drugs and pack sizes

Privacy

The handling of user data is usually poor. The data protection declarations usually leave customers unclear as to what happens to their information. This is all the more problematic since over 80% of the apps transfer data to infrastructure providers such as Google, Facebook etc. Not even the encrypted transmission of user data was always guaranteed, especially not when data was transmitted by email. The few independent test procedures are unlikely to contribute to clarification, since they mostly rely on self-assessment.

elena international: Web-based planning tool for microgrids

For elena international we realise a web-based planning tool for microgrids where we use Jupyter notebooks and Voilà vuetify to develop presentation logic and user interactions fast, simple and robust.

elena international is a startup company that provides customised solutions for various stages of power system planning.

First we realise a walking skeleton of a web-based planning tool for microgrids.

The chosen software architecture allows elena the further development of its Julia libraries. In the Web tool the adoption of new features takes place in IPython notebooks with PyJulia. These notebooks can also be used to define the voila-vuetify widgets for interacting with users. Finally, with Voilà, these notebooks are converted into an interactive dashboard:

Voilà Dashboard

To harden the notebooks for production, on the one hand we write tests for each method, which run regularly with GitLab CI/CD, and on the other hand we activate logging for fault diagnosis and monitoring.

So we are not only answering the question Are Jupyter notebooks ready for production?, we also extend the possibilities of notebooks: they serve an editor system, in which not only texts can be written and media added, but also the presentation logic of scientific calculations and interactive widgets can be defined.

Are Jupyter notebooks ready for production?

Are Jupyter notebooks ready for production?

Jupyter Notebook

In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the use of Jupyter notebooks, s.a. Octoverse: Growth of Jupyter notebooks, 2016-2019. This is a Mathematica- inspired application that combines text, visualisation, and code in one document. Jupyter notebooks are widely used by our customers for prototyping, research analysis and machine learning. However, we have also seen that the growing popularity has also helped Jupyter notebooks be used in other areas of data analysis, and additional tools have been used to run extensive calculations with them.

However, Jupyter notebooks tend to be inappropriate for creating scalable, maintainable, and long-lasting production code. Although notebooks can be meaningfully versioned with a few tricks, automated tests can also run, but in complex projects, mixing code, comments and tests becomes an obstacle: Jupyter notebooks can not be sufficiently modularized. Although notebooks can be imported as modules, these options are extremely limited: the notebooks must first be fully loaded into memory and a new module must be created before each cell can run in it.

As a result, it came to the first notebook war, which was essentially a conflict between data scientists and software engineers.

How To Bridge The Gap?

Notebooks are rapidly gaining popularity among data scientists and becoming the de facto standard for rapid prototyping and exploratory analysis. Above all, however, Netflix has created an extensive ecosystem of additional tools and services, such as Genie and Metacat. These tools simplify complexity and support a broader audience of analysts, scientists and especially computer scientists. In general, each of these roles depends on different tools and languages. Superficially, the workflows seem different, if not complementary. However, at a more abstract level, these workflows have several overlapping tasks:

data exploration occurs early in a project

This may include displaying sample data, statistical profiling, and data visualization

Data preparation

iterative task

may include cleanup, standardising, transforming, denormalising, and aggregating data

Data validation

recurring task

may include displaying sample data, performing statistical profiling and aggregated analysis queries, and visualising data

Product creation

occurs late in a project

This may include providing code for production, training models, and scheduling workflows

A JupyterHub can already do a good job here to make these tasks as simple and manageable as possible. It is scalable and significantly reduces the number of tools.

To understand why Jupyter notebooks are so compelling for us, we highlight their core functionalities:

  • A messaging protocol for checking and executing language-independent code
  • An editable file format for writing and capturing code, code output, and markdown notes
  • A web-based user interface for interactive writing and code execution and data visualisation

Use Cases

Of our many applications, notebooks are today most commonly used for data access, parameterization, and workflow planning.

Data access

First we introduced notebooks to support data science workflows. As acceptance grew, we saw an opportunity to leverage the versatility and architecture of Jupyter notebooks for general data access. Mid-2018, we started to expand our notebooks from a niche product to a universal data platform.

From the user’s point of view, notebooks provide a convenient interface for iteratively executing code, searching and visualizing data – all on a single development platform. Because of this combination of versatility, performance, and ease of use, we have seen rapid adoption across many user groups of the platform.

Parameterization

Along with increasing acceptance, we have introduced additional features for other use cases. From this work notebooks became simply paramatable. This provided our users with a simple mechanism to define notebooks as reusable templates.

Workflow planning

As a further area of notebook ​​applications, we have discovered the planning of workflows. They have the following advantages, among others:

  • On the one hand, notebooks allow interactive work and rapid prototyping and on the other hand they can be put into production almost without any problems. For this the notebooks are modularized and marked as trustworthy.
  • Another advantage of notebooks are the different kernels, so that users can choose the right execution environment.
  • In addition, errors in notebooks are easier to understand because they are assigned to specific cells and the outputs can be stored.

Logging

In order to be able to use notebooks not only for rapid prototyping but also for long-term productivity, certain process events must be logged so that, for example, errors can be diagnosed more easily and the entire process can be monitored. IPython Notebboks can use the logging module of the standard Python library or loguru, see also Jupyter-Tutorial: Logging.

Testing

There have been a number of approaches to automate the testing of notebooks, such as nbval, but with ipytest writing notebook tests became much easier, see also Jupyter Tutorial: ipytest.

Summary

Over the last few years, we have been promoting close collaboration between Software Engineers and data scientists to achieve scalable, maintainable and production-ready code. Together, we have found solutions that can provide production-ready models for machine learning projects as well.