Application Specific Data? It’s So 2013

Looking back at the past 10 years of software the word ‘boring’ comes to mind.  The buzzwords were things like ‘web services’, ‘SOA’.  CIO’s Tape drives 70sloved the promise of these things but they could not deliver.  The idea of build once and reuse everywhere really was the ‘nirvana’.

Well it now seems like we can do all of that stuff.

As I’ve said before Big Data is not a great name because it implies that all we are talking about a big database with tons of data.  Actually that’s only part of the story. Hadoop is the new enterprise applications platform.  The key word there is platform.  If you could have a single general-purpose data store that could service ‘n’ applications then the whole of notion of database design is over.  Think about the new breed of apps on a cell phone, the social media platforms and web search engines.  Most of these do this today.  Storing data in a general purpose, non-specific data store and then used by a wide variety of applications.  The new phrase for this data store is a ‘data lake’ implying a large quantum of every growing and changing data stored without any specific structure

Talking to a variety of CIOs recently they are very excited by the prospect of both amalgamating data so it can be used and also bringing into play data that previously could not be used.  Unstructured data in a wide variety of formats like word documents and PDF files.  This also means the barriers to entry are low.  Many people believe that adopting Hadoop requires a massive re-skilling of the workforce.  It does but not in the way most people think.  Actually getting the data into Hadoop is the easy bit (‘data ingestion‘ is the new buzz-word).  It’s not like the old relational database days where you first had to model the data using data normalization techniques and then use ETL to make the data in usable format.  With a data lake you simply set up a server cluster and load the data. Creating a data model and using ETL is simply not required.

The real transformation and re-skilling is in application development.  Applications are moving to data – today in a client-server world it’s the other way around.  We have seen this type of reskilling before like moving from Cobol to object oriented programming.

In the same way that client-server technology disrupted  mainframe computer systems, big data will disrupt client-server.  We’re already seeing this in the market today.  It’s no surprise that the most successful companies in the world today (Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) are all actually big data companies.  This isn’t a ‘might be’ it’s already happened.

A View From Strata NY: Big Data is Getting Bigger

In general a trade show is a dangerous place to gauge sentiment.  Full of marketing & sales, backslapping & handshakes and marketecture rather than architecture the world is indeed viewed through rose-tinted-spectacles. Strata, the Hadoop Big Data conference in New York last week was very interesting albeit through my rose-tinted-spectacles.

Firstly, the sheer volume of people, over 3,500 is telling.  This show used to be a few hundred, primarily techies inventing the future.  The show is now bigger, much bigger.  A cursory glance at the exhibit hall revealed a mix of the biggest tech companies and hot start-ups.  The keynotes, to the disappointment of those original techies, were primarily press-driven product releases lacking real technical substance.  This is not such a bad thing though. It’s a sign that Hadoop is coming of age. It’s what happens when technology moves into the main stream.

Second, the agenda has changed quite dramatically.  Companies looking to deploy Hadoop are no longer trying to figure out how it might fit into their data centers. They are trying to figure out how to deploy it.  2014 will indeed be the end of trials and the beginning of full-scale enterprise roll-out.  The use-cases are all over the place.  Analysts yearn for clues and clusters to explain this “Are you seeing mainly telco’s or financial services?”  Analysts of course must try to enumerate in order to explain but the wave and shift is seismic and the only explanation is a fundamental shift in the very nature of enterprise applications.

My third theme is the discussion around why Hadoop is driving this move to rewrite enterprise applications.  As someone at the show told me, “the average age of enterprise application is 19 years”.  Hence,this is part of a classic business cycle.  Hadoop is a major technological shift that takes advantage of dramatic changes in the capabilities and economics of hardware.  Expensive spinning hard-disk, processing speeds, bandwidth, networks, etc. were limitations and hence assumptions that the last generation of enterprise applications had to deal with.  Commodity hardware and massive in-memory processing are the new assumptions that Hadoop takes advantage of.  In a few years we will not be talking about ‘Big Data’ we will simply use the term ‘Data’ because it will no longer be unusual for it to be so large in relative terms.

My fourth observation was that Hadoop 2 has changed the agenda for the type of use case.  In very rough terms Hadoop 1 was primarily about wall ststorage and batch processing.  Hadoop 2 is about yarn and run-time applications. In other words processing can now take place on top of Hadoop rather than storing in Hadoop but processing somewhere else.  This change is highly disruptive because it means that software vendors cannot rely on customers to use their products in conjunction with Hadoop.  Rather, they are talking about building on top of Hadoop.  To them Hadoop is a new type of operating system.  This disruption is very good news for the new brand of companies that are building pure applications built from the ground up and really bad news for those who believe that they can mildly integrate or even store data in 2 places. That’s not going to happen. Some of the traditional companies had a token presence at Strata that suggests they are still unsure of exactly what they are going to do – they are neither fully embracing or ignoring this new trend.

My final observation is about confusion.  There’s a lot of money at stake here so naturally everyone wants a piece of the action.  There’s a lot of flashing lights and noise from vendors, lavish claims and a lack of substance.  Forking core open source is nearly always a disaster. As open-source guru Karl Fogel says ‘forks happen due to irreconcilable disagreements, technical disagreements or interpersonal conflicts and is something developers should be afraid of and try to avoid it in any way’.  It creates natural barriers to use tertiary products and with an open source project moving as quickly as this, one has to stay super-close to the de facto open source project.

A forked version of core Hadoop is not Hadoop, it’s something else.  If customers go down a forked path it’s difficult to get back and they will lose competitive edge because they will be unable to use the community of products being built as part of the wider community.  Customers should think of Hadoop like an operating system or database.  If it’s merely embedded and heavily modified then this is not Hadoop.

So 2014 it is then.  As the Wall St Journal put it the Elephant in the Room to Weigh on Growth for Oracle, Teradata

Here’s a great video demo of the new @WANdisco continuous availability technology running on Hortonworks Hadoop 2.2 Distro

 

[New eBook] Moneycode: Identify Inefficiencies in Software Development & Change the Game

Wouldn’t it be great to stay ahead of the competition by making a winning team out of your software development department? Well, winners — whether in business or baseball — challenge conventional wisdom. They question existing practices and find superior ways to perform.

Grab our latest ebook, Moneycode: Identify Inefficiencies in Software Development and Change the Game to learn counter-intuitive, yet valuable methods that you can employ to change the game of your software development team and help your business soar.

Download the New eBook here.

The 14-page eBook covers:

  • How you can remove technical and development inefficiencies that get in the way of doing what makes sense for your business
  • Proven methods that top manufacturing brands use to achieve economies of scale and reduce costs
  • Tips on how to produce higher quality code in lower cost regions using Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration approaches
  • The emergence of new tools that enable near-real time replication of source code on servers globally and facilitate global collaboration between developers
  • New ways to evaluate and acquire talent and improve your bottom line

I hope you enjoy the read.

Want to learn how to change the game of your software development department? Fill out the brief form to speak to a Global Software Development Specialist about a free MultiSite Evaluation.

We Just Acquired Big Data / Hadoop Company AltoStor.

I believe that the combination of AltoStor’s expertise and WANdisco’s patented active-active replication technology is the proverbial ‘marriage-made-in-heaven’.  The AltoStor acquisition will enable us to launch products into the highly lucrative Big Data / Hadoop market early next year.

So how lucrative is this market?  Well, I recently read an interesting article in Wikibon “Big Data: Hadoop, Business Analytics and Beyond” that Big data / hadoop market sizereiterated what we already knew.  Big Data isn’t a might happen next year thing.  No, it’s here today, to steal a quote from the excellent article: “Make no mistake: Big Data is the new definitive source of competitive advantage across all industries. Enterprises and technology vendors that dismiss Big Data as a passing fad do so at their peril and, in our opinion, will soon find themselves struggling to keep up with more forward-thinking rivals…. For those organizations that understand and embrace the new reality of Big Data, the possibilities for new innovation, improved agility, and increased profitability are nearly endless.”

So why did we acquire AltoStor?

First off, the founders (Dr. Konstantin Shvachko and Jagane Sundar) are really good guys.  This was an ‘old-school’ acquisition.  An initial deal was struck very quickly with a handshake.  Both sides could see very clear value – so doing the deal was incredibly simple.  I love the fact that they wanted stock as consideration – that’s real proof that they see significant long term-value creation rather than short-term gain.

For WANdisco Big Data is a Big Market.  We can see clear synergy between our unique / patented active-active replication technology and the hadoop logocreation of Hadoop high availability (HA) solutions.  This is one of the reasons why AltoStor was so attractive to us.  They have unique knowledge in the space:

•            The AltoStor founders have been working on Hadoop since its inception in 2006 at Yahoo.  Konstantin was part of Doug Cuttings team that created and implemented Hadoop.  His focus was massive scale, performance and availability of Hadoop – developing the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS).  He then went on to eBay where he implemented Hadoop.

•            The Founders are intimately aware of the problem WANdisco is planning to solve around Hadoop HA and hence understand the value of the solution in large scale Big Data replication over a Wide Area Network.

•            Finally, AltoStor are developing a product that is slated for release in Q1 2013, that will significantly simplify deployment of Hadoop / Big Data for enterprises.

Following the acquisition we now expect to have products available in the first quarter of 2013.  That’s very good news.

There’s going to be a lot of noise in this space over the coming months and years.  Many will jump on the ‘bandwagon’, making all sorts of lavish claims to be ‘the big data this’ and ‘the big data that’.  It always happens in hype-cycles like this.  In reality most are just companies repurposing existing legacy products and slapping a new label on it.  This is NOT one of those.  We are building from the ground-up with unique knowledge and information that only a few in the world have (the amount of brain-power in the room during some of the early design meeting was frightening!)

In 2005 when we founded WANdisco my peers would tell me that active-active replication over a Wide Area Network was impossible.  Well we’ve got hundreds-of-thousands of users using the technology for core development every day.  Applying this technology to Hadoop is groundbreaking and I think it will change the way the industry views network storage.  We like making the impossible possible at WANdisco.

1 night, 2 awards ceremonies, 2 awards

In a strange twist of fate we were nominated for two separate awards and two separate awards ceremonies and won them both!

The first award was at the techMark 2012 awards dinner in London in the Emerging Star category.  Panmure Gordon’s tech analyst George O’Conner picked up the award on behalf of us.  Thank you George, Panmure, LSE and event sponsors PWC.

The second award was at the Shares Awards 2012 also in London in the Best IPO category.  Thanks to Steve Frazer and the Shares Magazine team.

Awards are always nice for the ego, but as a company we are more focused on execution.  We didn’t attend these awards, not because we didn’t want to, we are simply too busy at the moment.

The only “W” quote I like is his comments on honors and awards…“To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.”

Why Master-Slave Can’t Save Software Driven Companies from Disaster


There was a time when the name “Sandy” probably brought to mind Olivia Newton John’s character in Grease.  Before that, it might have made you think of Sandy Duncan, the spritely actress who was famous for playing Peter Pan on stage. It’s a name that conjures images of a beach vacation somewhere.

So it’s clear the World Meteorological Organization could have applied a more fitting name to the cataclysmic superstorm that hit America’s East Coast this past week.

And that’s just how it is with disasters. The volume and strength of the alarm rarely matches the magnitude of the strike. The warning goes unheeded or it’s underestimated.  Most often, there is no alarm. The threat creeps in unannounced and takes down the unprepared and unprotected.

The news this past week offers a grim reminder of just how vulnerable even a modern nation can be: images of blacked out cities, flooded neighborhoods and burning buildings are paired with stories of numerous fatalities and countless, displaced citizens.

Of course, businesses pay a price during disasters too. In fact, this one should raise concerns among software driven companies who are vulnerable to downtime, disruption and data loss should they get hit. According to Discovery News, the storm caused “power cuts and heavy flooding in a zone where some 150 data centers are situated, in the states of Virginia, New Jersey and New York.”

Consider the potential consequences of such an event: of companies experiencing catastrophic data loss, 43 percent never reopen, and 51 percent go out of business within two years, according to research from the University of Texas.

Executive leaders need to be confident about their data backups and disaster recovery plans. Their companies could be devastated by prolonged disruptions or major data loss. Software-driven companies take this risk when they fail to ensure access to their source code.

And it’s not just the risk of storms, floods or fires that should get your attention. There are numerous  reasons to make business continuity and disaster recovery a key priority:

  • IT systems fail. Servers and storage systems may be more durable and dependable than they were in the past, but they are not foolproof.  Servers go down all the time. Hard disks crash. Power outages occur. Internet connections are lost.
  • Human error leads to system failures.  Humans make mistakes that lead to data loss or system crashes. While processes may be in place to discourage missteps, it’s inevitable that some personnel will accidentally veer from the process.
  • Hackers and attackers will undermine you. Given the growing number of online security breaches that have made the news and undermined corporate reputations, it’s a fact that threats can also come from individuals who willfully harm your business. Companies such as Sony, TJ Maxx and Citigroup have suffered some of the most visible, and extensive security breaches when customer data assets were compromised.

These are just a few of the many factors that lead to downtime and disruption. And if you haven’t proactively planned for them, your business may be unable to operate. It’s much like having an insurance policy on your house in case of fire.

However, research suggests that economic uncertainty has pushed BC/DR efforts down the priority list for many firms. “Even in the best of economic times, it’s difficult to build the business case for an initiative like BC/DR that’s primarily about cost avoidance rather than return on investment. In tough economic times, it’s almost impossible,” according to Forrester Research.

Of course, cost avoidance should be enough incentive when the potential cost of failure is colossal. Just consider the cost of extended downtime if your business simply can’t operate. That’s what happened to major websites like Netflix, Pinterest and Instragram when Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud in North Virginia went down due to severe thunderstorms. As a result, Netflix was sending out apology emails in the midst of Friday night movie night.

The point is that the productivity and performance of software-driven companies revolve around being able to constantly produce code and some of them have software development operations that follow the sun. And it’s not just conventional technology companies that are vulnerable to disruption. Chase Bank, for example, has more than a 100,000 software engineers generating code. It, and many other companies, are software-driven enterprises, too.

When software-driven firms don’t prepare for disruptions and disastrous events, they put their businesses in jeopardy.  They have much to lose in terms of costs and missed production windows if their developers are sitting idle for long stretches of time. So the question for software-driven companies to consider is this: How secure and available is your source code in the case of a disrupting event?

At WANdisco, we’ve seen how effectively companies can respond in a moment of crisis.

One client, EMS Satcom, experienced record flooding near its software development site in the UK. And yet, the company experienced zero downtime or data loss despite the fact that widespread flooding killed a number of people, affected thousands of other businesses, and destroyed tens of thousands of homes.

This was possible because EMS Satcom had a network architecture that does not rely on any centralized servers, so there was no single point of failure. If a server went down because of flooding, developers could automatically fail over to other servers on the network, which may even be on another continent.

Another client, O2Micro, a maker of power management and security systems for multiple markets, has a globally distributed software department. O2 Micro has been able to enhance network performance, accelerate development cycles and protect itself from disastrous events while enhancing network performance by investing in software configuration management (SCM) solutions.

When an earthquake hit China a few years back, the built-in hot backup and automated recovery features in O2 Micro’s SCM solution eliminated extended downtime and data loss after network and server failures, even after the earthquake cut communication between the US and China. In fact, O2Micro now operates 24-by-7 because its backup and recovery capabilities avoid over two hours of downtime each day for maintenance — demonstrating that protective measures also can boost daily performance.

For both EMS Satcom and O2Micro, WANdisco’s patented active-active replication technology was critical in ensuring disruptions were avoided and key source code assets remained accessible.  WANdisco’s Distributed Coordination Engine (DConE) technology, embedded in our Enterprise Multisite product, allows multiple instances of the same application or source code to operate on independent hardware without sharing any resources. All of the application servers are kept in synchronization by DConE regardless of whether the servers are on the same LAN or globally separated and accessible only over a WAN. This is achieved by replicating changes made against one server to the others in real-time.

So what are the takeaways?

  • First, to ensure your software development operations are secure, you need to know that your data and source code are backed up somewhere other than in the same metro region. As the East Coast superstorm demonstrated, it’s not enough to merely have a backup of your data assets. The backup has to be out of harm’s way.
  • Second, disaster recovery isn’t just about backing up your assets. It’s also about how much time it takes you to recover. Every minute that goes by with operations at a halt, your company is burning money. You can quantify this loss by multiplying your number of developers by their compensation and the time it takes to get them back online with accessible source code — though other costs may be exacted regarding your reputation and/or time to market.
  • Finally, you need a proactive disaster recovery and business continuity strategy. You don’t want to be uncertain about where you stand when disaster hits one of the regions in which your developers operate. In fact, you’ll want to consider how to rigorously manage your software development liabilities in association with your larger DR/BC plans.

As more companies become software-driven, more companies become vulnerable to the issues raised by this past week’s devastating storm — issues concerning disaster recovery in general and source code protection and availability in particular. Heed the storm’s warning and take action. Don’t let your business float away in an unanticipated flood of disastrous news.

Learn how WANdisco’s patented replication technology can keep your software development teams up and running in the face of the worst disasters.

Or reach out to our knowledgeable solutions team at sales@wandisco.com.

Three Unconventional Ways to Manage IT Costs

David Richards, CEO WANdiscoYou have to run leaner and meaner and so you’re intent on driving IT costs down. But where will those much sought-after cost reductions come from? One area that may not have received the scrutiny it deserves is software development.

The evidence is mounting. When Forrester Research examined the total economic impact of new software development infrastructure, it discovered considerable savings associated with the near real-time replication of source code on servers globally.

In the case of one Fortune 500 electronics company it studied, $776,509 in specific benefits was identified over a three-year period — leading to a risk-adjusted ROI of 150%. By enabling developers in Asia to perform builds locally, the new approach eliminated up to two man-days of idle time each day and increased the number of builds 100%.

Phoenix Technologies, a leader in core systems software products, discovered it could significantly reduce costs associated with production delays and lost man-hours by adopting a similar solution. By enabling continuous builds at six different locations across East Asia and North America, it reduced overall build cycle times by more than 60% and increased productivity by 30%. Previously, over two hours of development time had been lost each day due to poor network performance and outages.

So why have the costs of software development become excessive?

One clear factor is developer inefficiency. This is often a concern when developers are spread out geographically, particularly when many of them are located in regions (such as India and Greater China) with limited network capabilities. You experience clear and irretrievable costs when developers can’t promptly check in their source code to a central repository. Cycle times lengthen and projects are delayed. If time is money, then this is money that’s burning.

Another issue is network performance. After all, network failures happen all the time.. What’s the cost of developer downtime or the inability to access your source code at all? Network performance and downtime issues represent an ongoing tax on software development — imposed in endless delays and lost man-hours.

Yet another factor is the absence of Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD). Companies that implement this best practice test their software builds perpetually to identify bugs, errors and other signs of corrupted code. Through this approach to quality control, they streamline software development.

But companies that don’t engage in this practice run the risk of discovering software problems late in a project, which can lead to considerable rework and long delays. Worst case: they release corrupted code into production. As I’ve written elsewhere, such mistakes can have a devastating impact on corporate finances and reputations. Knight Capital Group saw its stock price collapse and the company took a pre-tax loss of $440m as a result of bad code.

Finally, there is the opportunity cost associated with geographic barriers and boundaries. Many companies bear added and unnecessary software development costs because they cannot source the right talent in the right place at the right price. Because of network limitations, an inability to synchronize development efforts and other factors that hinder productivity, they are simply unable to get the full benefits of offshore development.

Which leads us to the question of how to confront your costs.

How can you intelligently reduce software development costs and, thus, drive down overall IT costs? Here are three proven steps you can take:

  1. Embrace Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery. It’s been written elsewhere that “quality is free.” Ultimately, it costs nothing to implement practices enabling you to continuously test and enhance the quality of source code. You prevent defects on the front-end to ensure they don’t emerge later in the development or, worse, production process. It will save you considerable costs associated with rework and delayed projects.
  2. Commit to Highly Available Source Code. In order to enhance collaboration, avoid developer inefficiencies, and make CI/CD possible, you need high availability. Developers need the ability to rapidly check in their source code to central repositories. Companies need the ability to rapidly replicate changes to source code between servers on a global basis. And you need the confidence of knowing that network performance and downtime issues will not undermine this availability.
  3. Aspire to Software Development without Geographic Constraints. Today’s technologies increasingly make possible what British economist Frances Cairncross called “the death of distance” just over a decade ago. You can now seek the right talent in the right place for the right price. You can realize economies of scale and skill that previously would not have been available to you.

Software development may not have been the first place you considered when seeking ways to drive down costs. But, as a growing number of companies have discovered, it’s often loaded with excessive costs — both direct costs and opportunity costs.

As the evidence suggests, software development represents an important, if under-appreciated, area for achieving new efficiencies. By rethinking software development infrastructure, you can both reduce costs and accelerate your time to market.

And as software is increasingly suffused throughout the overall economy and demands escalate for new releases, you’ll find that that today’s investments in cost reduction and superior infrastructure set the stage for tomorrow’s gains in revenue growth.

 

Cheers,

David

P.S. If you haven’t signed up yourself or your team members, I highly recommend registering for Subversion Live  2012 this October. Use code DAVID45 for 45% off registration. Visit www.wandisco.com/svn-live-2012 to get more information.

Another Bank Playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with Software

In my Blog the other week (“Software is Everywhere – Let’s Make Sure it Works“) I discussed the dangers that delivering bad software can bring.  Unbelievably another Bank is at it.  This time it’s Knight Frank, the US-based global financial services firm.  With its high-frequency trading algorithms Knight was the largest trader in U.S. equities on NYSE and NASDAQ.

So you’d think they would take a lot of care and attention to deliver software correctly. Apparantly not.

On August 1, 2012 Knight Capital put into production some “bad code”.  This caused a major disruption in the prices of 148 companies listed at the New York Stock Exchange, for example, shares of Wizzard Software Corporation went from $3.50 to $14.76. Knight Capital’s stock price to collapse and the company took a pre-tax loss of $440m sending shares lower by over 70% from before the announcement.

4 Days later the company managed  to raise around $400 million from half a dozen investors just to stay in business.

The cause? Well according to Bloomberg it “stemmed from old computer software that was inadvertently reactivated when a new program was installed”   Essentially they rushed through code and it was buggy.  Modern (agile) development practices does not mean cutting corners – that’s like playing Russian Roulette with your company.  Just ask the Board at Knight Frank – they lost 2 years of revenue in less than an hour…

 

Software is Everywhere – Let’s Make Sure it Works

I’ve just returned from a pretty interesting week in London mainly catching up with financial analysts, fund managers and the press (I’ve embedded the interview I did with BloombergTV a couple of hours after getting off the flight from SFO-LON).

At this stage (only a couple of months into our IPO on the London Stock Exchange) I find that I have to spend a lot of my time explaining what we do.  I suppose that shouldn’t be a big surprise.  Outside of ‘techie’ circles WANdisco is still a relative unknown, but I’m pleased to say that’s changing.

Most of the context for the “what we do” is explaining how software is developed in organizations and just how important it is.  In the techie bubble that we sometimes live we all take for granted.  Marc Andresson famously wrote about “software eating the world where he argues that “we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy.”

Of course I think he’s right.  There are plenty of examples where software has replaced the incumbent.  My favorite example is the automobile industry where diagnostics used to be a guy under the hood and is now plugging the car into a computer and looking for trouble codes (there are 10 million lines of source code in a Chevy Volt).  Or, under the covers, how banks a really software companies employing thousands of software engineers.

It’s even easier to explain how important software is when it goes wrong.  The most recent example was at RBS / Nat West.

A software update was applied on 19 June 2012 to the software that controls the payment processing system. It then turned out that the update was corrupted.  Customer wages, payments and other transactions could not happen.  Millions of customers were unable to withdraw cash using ATMs or see bank account details. Others faced fines for late payment of bills because the system could not process direct debits. It wasn’t until mid July that the problem was finally rectified.

As one customer put it:

“I was due to have my wages paid in today – but they haven’t appeared in my account. This means I simply can’t afford to pay my weekly bills.

 “I also had to pay the deposit for my daughter’s headstone today – she was stillborn seven weeks ago. No wages therefore no headstone.

 “I am so angry about the technical glitch, as they call it, because this now means I’ve got to wait another week before having a day off work so I can go and pay for the headstone.”

The cost to RBS is unknown – but it could be billions.

At the heart of the problem was version control and release management of software.

According to current and former employees controls were not in place and it was difficult to know exactly what software was even running in the production system.  Release Management is supposed to be the ‘gatekeeper’ between the test & QA system and the production environment and clearly this was missing here.  In mission critical environments such as this there should be very strict controls in place.

Bugs exist in software, of course they do, human beings create software.  Companies employ systems such as software version control, source code reviews, QA, release management, staging, and integration testing to avoid this happening.  Modern software in today’s market should employ continuous integration testing.  This should ensure that every new line of software is changed it is tested across thousands and thousands of different test cases to see if anything is broken.  This reduces time to fix and also reduces even the chance an error will make it to QA.

Software is everywhere – it’s in your car, refrigerator and phone.  It’s not a nice to have – it’s a must have. Banks and other finance companies have been transformed by software over the last 30 years. Virtually all financial transactions, from someone buying a sandwich to a multi-billion pounds trading, is done in software.  That’s great but it presents risks – mission critical applications such as this can’t have bugs – full stop and process and modern tooling is not an option it’s a must.  Missile defense systems can’t have bugs; neither can medical devices such as heart pacemakers.  So you see it is possible to deliver software without bugs you just need good tools and processes.

 

Commitment to the Cause

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”

I think it’s a wonderful quote, primarily because it’s true.  There really are only two options regarding commitment, you’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing in life as inbetween.  WANdisco is very much “in” when it comes to Apache Subversion.

Today we made a couple of very important announcements.

  1. We upped our sponsor level of the ASF from Bronze to Silver.
  2. We increased the number of full-time subversion committers by hiring two of the most experienced Subversion engineers in Branko Čibej and Stefan Fuhrmann.

The ASF is a non-profit, volunteer-run foundation and this will help aid organizational, legal and financial support for a broad range of Apache licensed projects including Subversion. We continue to be extremely grateful to the ASF.  This is a ‘safe home’ for Subversion.  Apache have led the way in community open source development since 1999 and they are no stranger to mature, pervasive open source technology like Subversion.

Branko and Stefan are two wonderful software engineers with lot’s of experience in the SVN community.  Branko has been involved in the project since 2000 and he has always worked on some of the most difficult and complex problems.  Karl Fogel told me a long time ago that he could really help deliver the branching and merging improvements we hope to make.

Stefan has worked on the Subversion client TortoiseSVN since 2003 and now spans both client and server.

I think this is great news for the community as a whole.

This announcement coincides with the second year of our Subversion Live Conferences.

The first year we ran the events they were a huge success.  It presented a unique opportunity for Subversion users from a wide spectrum of organizations to interact with each other and the core Subversion developers.  Registration is now open here:  http://www.wandisco.com/svn-live-2012

We did it!

WANdisco IPO Market Open LSE

A week ago today (June 1st 2012) I was given the great honor of opening-up the London Stock Exchange on the same day that WANdisco officially listed on the exchange. It was the proudest day of my business life. It was pretty difficult not to get emotional at the moment that we ‘rang the bell’. The IPO was a highly significant event in what so far has been an incredible story.

WANdisco is no ordinary Silicon Valley start-up. This isn’t a ‘fat and lazy’ venture-backed-to-the-hilt business where the greatest personal risk one takes is whether to wear brown or grey slacks!

Our story starts with some world-beating technology invented in the garage of Dr. Yeturu Aahlad but that is the beginning and end of any similar Silicon Valley story you may have heard because the rest is pure blood, sweat and tears. The company started in late 2005 in Naeem’s apartment in Fremont, California. Three months later we closed our first big deal and that enabled us to move to proper offices just up the road in Pleasanton. It would have been very easy for us to take venture capital at that point.

Venture Capital is great for some people. It means you get a regular pay-check. You can go home and not worry about kids school fees, going out for dinner, buying a new car, the list goes on and on. We said “no”. And we said “no” because we believed that this company could be rather special. The interesting mix of our growing blue-chip customer list and unique technology gave us the confidence to go-it-alone.

It’s easy to sit here now and say “yeah, we were right”. But, back then it was a great risk for each and every one of us personally. That start-up team of Jim Campigli, Yeturu Aahlad, Naeem Akhtar and yes yours truly are heroes. We had to sail the ship through some pretty treacherous waters of down economies and slow IT spending. But we flourished and amazingly grew.

By 2008 we were looking for a way to scale the business and hire more engineers & support staff to enable us to grow. The conundrum we had, as a self-funded start-up, was growing inline with our sales bookings. That’s not easy in Silicon Valley with all of the high salary and high expectations that people have. So we looked further afield to India and China. The problems for a small company like us in those geographies were both the cultural differences and time-zone constraints. They are not easy to overcome for a small start-up.

In the end we settled on my hometown of Sheffield in the UK. I have written before of all of the virtues of Sheffield as a development center. Even now I get raised eyebrows when I discuss that we have software engineers in the town. I even heard the other day that one of our competitors criticized us for setting up in a ‘old rundown steel town’.

This serves as a great motivator for the team though. The whole ethos that the United States is built on is supposed to be about economic prosperity and upward social mobility achieved via hard work – last time I checked Feudalism died away in the 15th century – there is no god-given right to success!

Hard work and dedication is precisely what we have plenty of. As part of the IPO diligence process I listened into a call with a multinational chipmaker who described the support he was getting (from our Sheffield office) as “world class”, “the best of any of our vendors” and more importantly to me “they really care”. I was so proud last year when we won the coveted “Made in Sheffield” mark on our products.

Onto the IPO itself. Well, I think we did OK!

• It was almost 4x over subscribed.
• The list of institutional investors is to die for (Fidelity, BlackRock, M&G, Octopus, Legal & General, Cazonove, Artemis, Hargreave Hale and Standard Life.
• The business is still largely employee owned. Every employee with tenure has stock.

For those that don’t know the London Stock Exchange (LSE) it’s the most international of all the world’s stock exchanges, with around 3,000 companies from over 70 countries. The LSE is also the world’s fourth largest exchange boasting some of the worlds largest companies such as Shell, HSBC, Vodafone and BP.

So, yes June 1, 2012 was a proud and historic moment in the history of WANdisco. But this is the beginning of a new chapter. Our goal now is growth. Yes we had a great party last Friday but Monday was very much business as usual.

Finally I must say thank you to a bunch of people. Firstly, to the whole company and to my management team of Jim, Peter, Rob, Ian and Nick and my assistant Jerilyn. Panmure Gordon (George, Adam, Charlie, Fred, Giles, Grishma, Ben and Tim.) DLA (Jon, Rob, Rachel), KPMG (Chris, Euan, Dion, John, Julie, Maria, Richard, Philip) , Gunderson Dettmer (Ward, Cindy, Lisa, Ashlee, Jackie) , Seven Hills (Nick, Michael, Alex, Rosie, Stuart), FTI (Matt, Jon, Sophie) and Travers Smith (Aahron, Lisa, James)

Let’s Create Our Own Unique Silicon Britain

Article published in my column for the Huffington Post

Recently, the Chancellor George Osborne vowed that the UK would become the “technology centre of Europe” at the opening of the new Google Campus in the Silicon Roundabout area in London.

The Chancellor suggested that the new Google Campus, which offers desk space and mentoring for technology companies, will help to the “create the next generation of British technologies”. In doing so he rekindled the debate about the UK’s ability to create a global tech start-up hub to rival Silicon Valley.

Any move to foster a greater number of tech start-ups in the UK should be applauded. What we should be discouraging, however, is our continuing obsession with recreating Silicon Valley in London.

It’s my belief that the comparison between their Valley and our Roundabout is unproductive. The Valley’s unique combination of world-class universities, highly sophisticated investment infrastructure, established technology giants and start-up ecosystem is exactly that: unique.

Instead of creating a pale imitation, Britain should instead build on its own strengths – of which there are many.

The UK has a proven track record in creating brilliant technology businesses. ARM is powering the smartphone revolution and forcing Intel to play catch up, and Autonomy, that was recently sold to HP for £7bn, is another world leader to emerge from the Cambridge region.

And let’s not forget that it was a Brit who invented the World Wide Web in the early 1990s – the London-born Tim Berners-Lee.

So while we may not have produced consumer facing internet firms on the scale of Google and Facebook, we excel in building hi-tech firms that are the driving force behind many of the technologies that billions use every day.

Instead of gazing wistfully towards California, we should instead build on our distinctive assets.

I believe that we have a very hard-working and talented workforce, evidenced by the fact that the majority of my staff are based here. But we can train yet more local talent in the technical skills that are in demand by today’s technology companies, and provide them with a stimulating working environment that will reduce brain drain and migration to elsewhere in the world.

We should also start thinking bigger – I believe that the whole of the UK is small enough to transform into one huge technology cluster. As an example, WANdisco, the software firm that I co-founded, runs from dual headquarters in Silicon Valley and Sheffield. However, we are expanding out our development work from the ‘steel city’ to Belfast, and in US terms, the distance between these two cities is tiny.

With the announcement in this year’s budget of improved broadband infrastructure, connectivity in Britain will be better than ever.

There are lessons we can learn from Silicon Valley without trying to become a carbon copy of it, and still succeed in boosting innovation in this country.

This approach means we can produce more of the technology firms that rival those from all over the world, and lead the way with our own Silicon Britain.

Unlimited Paid Vacation? Yeah Right!

This week we announced that rather than offering employees a set number of paid vacation days we would offer an unlimited number of paid vacation days. To many this sounds counter-intuitive.

“Doesn’t that mean nobody will come to work?”

“Yes but you don’t really mean unlimited…”

Just some of the common questions / comments I got when I ruminated the idea among friends. But I really believe we are on to something.

OK so here’s the logic. If we really trust and value our employees then this shouldn’t be a problem. We are not running some sort of Dickensian sweatshop where everyone clocks in at nine and is playing solitaire to bide time until the clock strikes five. I was walking back to our UK office late into the evening last week. It was dark but I could see the building in the distance. I was immensely proud to see that of the 3 or 4 floors, only 1 floor was still illuminated. Yes it was ours. Just about everyone was still there. Not because we were paying them to be there, not because anyone was forcing them to be there. They were there out of choice. They are a team that works together to get the job done.

It’s also a wonderful self-regulating mechanism. I was talking with someone from our excellent PR agency the other day about hiring. They ask the question are they “P-L-U’s?” an acronym for “People Like Us”. Now, more than ever, hiring managers at WANdisco will ask this question because for this to work everyone must be a P-L-U.

This is not some sort of fad or publicity stunt. It’s real. Actions speak louder than words: we value actual productivity more than biding time at the office, we trust each other to do the right thing, we recognize that work is not actually at the center of everyone’s universe, we have unlimited paid vacation days!

That Was the Year that Was – uberSVN & All That…

I suspect that I will always remember 2011 as the year when the curtain came down on one of the true greats – Steve Jobs. Great, not just in my world of Silicon Valley techies, but great for just about everyone else on the planet. Even though most of us never knew him we feel like we must have. We seem to use his stuff just about every day.

Apple’s success has had and will continue to have a massive impact on the design of computer systems and products. When we were thinking about uberSVN the very first thought we had was about the relationship between the product and the user. Ten years ago I don’t think that would have been the case. I guess you could call it ‘the pre-iPod days’ (the first iPod was released in October 2001 and was cast as “1,000 songs in your pocket”) before that, according to Jobs, music players were either “big and clunky or small and useless”.

Our customers told us that ‘old fashioned’ ALM was big-and-clunky; and they’re probably right! In many cases they were moving away from these ‘dinosaurs’ to a best-of-breed approach. Like Subversion for source control, JIRA, Redmine or Trac for defects & wiki, Review Board for peer code reviews, and so on.

When we launched uberSVN in April I talked about empowering users by giving them choice. Freedom to choose any combination of ALM tools that best fit the business requirements be it price or functionality, open source or closed source. How’s it doing? In short – amazingly well! To our delight it’s being used everywhere from Fortune 100 companies to the US Senate. I even got my 11 and 12 year-old children to install it on their MAC books – it took them only 5 minutes! Not sure how much use they get out of Subversion – but they did get double pocket money for their efforts! That really is the point of uberSVN. We have made an extremely powerful but complex product extremely easy to use and install by anyone and I think we succeeded in that regard.

We quickly followed-up with uberApps. Another ‘first of a kind’ product with an enterprise AppStore for software development tools. Now, with just a single click, it is possible to install a build & test product like Jenkins or even buy external QA resources from crowd-sourcing vendor uTest. This is another step in making ALM both usable and useful. Anyone, and I mean anyone can deploy these apps without special knowledge, experience or skills.

These products were developed in my hometown, Sheffield. It was our Christmas party there the other week and it really was astonishing to see how quickly we have grown. From a small office where we would “see what happens” we have grown to almost 40. There was a lot of laughing behind hands from my ‘friends’ from the south and lot’s of “ooop north” jibes. Well, in between wearing flat caps and racing whippets, the Sheffield team delivered an award-winning piece of software. uberSVN won 2 awards in the first year of its launch and we have seen almost 50,000 downloads.

Apache Subversion also continues to grow. Subversion is still the ‘King’ of source code management. More traditional Enterprises are turning away from old-fashioned / big-and-clunky ALM for Subversion. And SVN 1.7 (also released this year) has delivered a much-needed performance boost. Throughout the year I have been embroiled in various spats with the Giterons (Git fundamentalists who believe in the inerrancy of Linus) but only this month I have spoken to 3 or 4 companies that tried Git but had to pull it out due to various-and-sundry issues. Much more on that early in the new year, when we might just have a solution for those looking to use Git as more of a client to a central SVN server of record…

There was also some politics earlier in the year when one of our competitors used some pretty underhanded tactics to besmirch our good name. Unfortunately for them it worked quite well in our favor. We are, and always have been a big supporter of the ASF (we are even the only Subversion contributor to also be a sponsor). In fact, at the time of writing, we are in the process of proposing a new project for the ASF incubator. Again, lot’s more on that in the new year.

We also took some steps earlier in the year to solidify the Subversion community by acquiring SVNforum.org. I think we have done a pretty good job of updating the site software, Subversion Liveeradicating spam and generally making the site a useful, free resource for every SVN user. As part of our efforts for the SVN community we also hosted the first Subversion user conferences. Audiences in San Francisco, Boston and London attended “Subversion Live”. We are hosting Subversion Live again later in the year with a extended program.

So 2011 was a great year here at WANdisco but 2012 should be even better. We have several major product launches planned including a new (free) open source defect tracker / wiki, uberSVN Team, uberSVN Enterprise and a solution to the Git/SVN conundrum. In the words of ‘Potato Claus’ (the lead character in my kids’ favorite book from a few years ago) may I take this opportunity to wish everyone Happy Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Winter Solstice, and also local and regional winter holidays and celebrations.

Here’s a rather nice pictorial representation of 2011 from a WANdisco perspective (click to enlarge):

Our Free Online Training Continues

Our ever popular Subversion training webinars continue today with a course on branching & merging. The training covers everything from “what is a branch?” through to “resolving merge conflicts”.  This is just one in a long list of of our complete free SVN training webinars which established favorites and exciting new sessions for uberSVN that we have just announced. To see details of all eleven webinars in this new series go to http://www.wandisco.com/training/webinars

Here’s the current schedule:

bullet September 1 Branching and Merging
bullet September 22 uberSVN: Team Collaboration & Social Coding
bullet September 29 Subversion Difference
bullet October 13 Branching Options for Development
bullet October 27 uberSVN: Access Control Management
bullet November 10 Managing Subversion Projects
bullet December 1 Subversion Locking
bullet December 15 uberSVN Extensibility

We have also teamed up with CloudBees to show you how to deploy Jenkins with uberSVN. The webinar will be hosted by popular writer Tim Anderson of The Register. Learn how to watch for code changes in Subversion repositories, automatically perform builds, initiate tests, notify users of results, roll changes backward or forward, configure Jenkins to schedule, monitor, and manage external jobs, and perform operations on remote servers. There will also be an opportunity to hear from customers who have deployed uberSVN in production and webinar participants are advised to download Jenkins for uberSVN free of charge through uberApps. This special webinar will take place on Wednesday, September 14 – register now as places are limited: Register Now

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants-WANdisco / uberSVN Achieves the ‘Made in Sheffield’ Mark.

In the 1740s Benjamin Huntsman developed a new technique for producing steel called crucible steel in his workshop in Sheffield, England.  Prior to this, Sheffield produced about 200 tonnes of steel per year.  Move on a hundred years, and, using Huntsman’s technique the amount had risen to over 80,000 tonnes per year – almost half of Europe’s total production.  Sheffield evolved from a small town into one of Europe’s leading industrial cities and England’s 4th largest city.

Sheffield was at the heart of the industrial revolution that started in Great Britain and spread to the rest of the world.

We are truly honored today because we have been given the right to use the “Made in Sheffield” mark in conjunction with our uberSVN product.  Dating back as early as 1297 the Made in Sheffield mark is awarded for high quality products made in the city.

Of course the initial intent of the mark was primarily to recognize the superior quality of the steel products made in the city.  But I’m delighted that the committee recognized that we have a new industrial revolution based on tech.  The first iteration was a ‘faux-revolution‘ – most of the dot-coms really weren’t doing anything sustainable or revolutionary.  But the one’s that survived and prospered really are.  Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer by a country mile, while Google and eBay dominate.  Not so sure about the likes of Boo.com [spent $188m in 6 months and then went pop], pets.com or webvan though.

Machine-based manufacturing in the late 18th century enabled the second, more explosive part of the industrial revolution with the development of steam-powered ships, railways, and later the internal combustion engine and electrical power generation.

A similar pattern is emerging in the tech revolution.  The creation of the world wide web as a pervasive network is revolutionizing almost every aspect of commerce.  This revolution started in Silicon Valley and spread quickly to every corner of the globe.

One of the side effects is that smart companies realize that location alone no longer provides significant competitive advantage.  Code developed in India and China is as good as code developed in Silicon Valley.  We took what some perceived to be a unusual step of moving our software development center to Sheffield a couple of years ago.  I think it’s very strange that so many US companies automatically locate their UK HQ in London or even Bracknell for goodness sake.   The UK in general loves to sterotype and apparently people in Sheffield live like the guys in “The Full Monty”, wear flat caps and breed whippets.  Do people in London spend all of their time rioting and looting shops I wonder?

The move for us paid immediate and tangible dividends.  Our award-winning uberSVN product is “Made in Sheffield”.  It’s terrifically successful with tens-of-thousands of downloads taking the software development tools space by storm.

Being born in Sheffield and coming from a long line of steel people this award probably means more to me than most.  I am very proud to be Made in Sheffield.

Enterprise Software is Dead! Long Live Enterprise Software!

Just imagine if someone approached you with a ‘brand new idea’ for CRM software.  It would cost millions-of-dollars, install in 3-6 months and takes a team of consultants to do most of the work.  Of course you would laugh and rightly so after all it’s such a 2001 idea… How times change.

The idea sounds preposterous now because our expectations have changed.  I can get SalesForce.com up and running and the only real skill I need is to know how to enter a credit card number. Everyone is talking about the cloud and trying to cram the word “cloud” into their new company names as we all did with “.com” back in the heady days of 1998 when the dot com typhoon first hit us.  I think it’s very easy to get carried away, just as we did at the millennium, and throw rational business thinking out of the window.  Back then we forgot that you still actually needed to sell and fulfill orders just like any other business – that doesn’t change.  What does change is the relationship the consumer has with the retailer.  I can’t remember the last time that I purchased an airline ticket inside a travel agent’s office for example.

Let’s look at the reasons why enterprises are moving some software to the cloud. A recent IDC study found the top reason was easy-fast deployment.  The other reasons (see picture below) are associated with cost (less in house IT, pay for use, low monthly subscription) or getting latest functionality.  The converse of this is that traditional enterprise software is difficult and slow to deploy, expensive and complex to update.

I really don’t believe that cloud computing is as revolutionary as the industry would have us believe but what it is doing is changing our expectations in the way in which we consume applications.  Applications do not necessarily need to be in the cloud but they must:

  • Be easy to Install (in less than 15 minutes)
  • Have no special skills to get up and running
  • Be cost effective
  • Just work every time

When we designed uberSVN, we did so with these principles in mind.  That’s why we got tens-of-thousands of successful installs of the product in the first couple of months. So what’s next for uberSVN?  Well we believe that enterprise will take a leaf out of the consumer book.  Almost 3 years ago today Apple updated iTunes and in that update was an app store.  That changed the mobile device into a platform where, with just 1 click you can deploy sophisticated applications for just about everything you need and some things you probably don’t.  Again it’s successful because it’s incredibly easy, fast and cost effective.

Just imagine enterprise IT departments could do this with enterprise applications… enter uberApps.

uberSVN was launched in response to demand from enterprises to be empowered to choose ALM tools to meet their business goals be it price or functionality, open source or closed source.

The concept of an app store means that not only can users get incredibly easy automatic updates and simple (single click) installation but also incredibly fast and efficient discovery of applications.  In a software tools context imagine if you wanted a build engine, a wiki and defect tracker.  There is a plethora of open source, closed source, expensive and free products out there to go and research.   Who even knows if they are all going to work together?

uberApps solves that problem.  The applications are certified to work with the uberSVN platform – that means complete integration and testing by our QA team.  How do you know if it’s any good?  First off you can read reviews from other users and then you can try it out.  Installation is only a mouse click away and if you don’t like it or don’t need it then you can simply uninstall just like you do on an iPhone.

There is one critical difference with iPhone apps though.  There is clearly a balance between fast discovery of applications by users and empowerment to deploy them. uberApps models the process that enterprises use today where departments can request products from IT and then go through a standard approval process.  It’s pretty cool because it means that this is centralized rather than having to get a separate arrangement with dozens of different vendors.

uberApps may be groundbreaking but it’s simply modeling the new way that enterprises expect to consume software today. Which one would you choose -  An app store or a stereotypical software sales guy with his Porsche, golf clubs and Armani suit (all of which you’re eventually going to pay for)?

Hot news coming at OSCON 2011 & a bit of politics on the Subversion Dev list

At WANdisco we have been looking forward to OSCON 2011 for quite some time. Anyone who knows our company will know that we invest heavily in open source projects, in particular Apache Subversion, which is central to many of the enterprise services that we provide. Subversion (SVN) is used by a vast array of users for source code management, from individual innovators to multinational blue chip companies. But SVN is just one of countless potentially world-changing open source applications.

So it’s always invigorating to catch up with a broad spectrum of open source luminaries to share experiences, explore new ideas, draw inspiration and share mutual aspiration. This highlight of the open source calendar is being held from July 25-29 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.

This year we are even more excited about OSCON because we have some big announcements of our own. We believe that these announcements in the coming days will dramatically change the landscape of how developer tools are purchased, deployed and used.

In late April we released our own freely available open ALM platform – uberSVN – which has transformed Subversion into an extensible platform, empowering software developers by enabling them to use a wider choice of toolsets, which can be combined to best fit specific business requirements.  The reviews, across the board, have been fantastic; I keep telling people that I have never been involved in such a successful launch.

Also incorporating social coding into Subversion for the first time, uberSVN has clocked up tens of thousands of installations in less than three months and rave reviews keep coming, usually highlighting the ease of installation and excellent usability that the platform provides.

Those attending OSCON 2011 have a great opportunity to win $2,500 by downloading uberSVN from a USB stick being handed out at the conference. We are pretty certain that you will be impressed with the platform whether you win the cash or not! Failing that you can grab one of our cool t-shirts or stickers.

uberSVN was a factor in WANdisco being included in the Red Herring Top 100 North America list and we have been working hard to ensure that the platform keeps up with the expectation of the massive SVN user community and, working on feedback from Subversion users we are now able to reveal some major new enhancements.

Software developers have been keen to find quicker and easier ways to deploy the tools they need and considerably reduce costs at the same time. And WANdisco has a solution…

Interested? We’ll be revealing full details very soon so keep your eyes peeled!

In addition to this major development we have a major partnership announcement looming large on the horizon too! As you would expect from WANdisco we will be hooking up with an organization regarded as the best at what they do. We pride ourselves on the quality, functionality and reliability of the services and products that we supply and we partner with companies who are held in the same regard by users of SVN. The announcement we have later in the week will also herald another significant leap forward for the capabilities of uberSVN!

We look forward to interacting with conference goers at OSCON and open source users around the world that are increasingly discovering the power that uberSVN delivers. Make sure you keep up with our upcoming announcements on this groundbreaking platform and its associated products including training, consulting services and support.

Finally, a bit of politics from the Subversion open source project.  As you may be aware we committed to improving branching & merging several months ago.  With Subversion 1.7 close to release we have been working for several weeks with Andy Singleton and his team at Assembla.  Andy has some interesting ideas that we have been exploring to “fix Subversion merge”.  Frankly the reaction of some and I mean some on the Subversion Dev list is, to put it mildly, disappointing.  If someone new appears with fresh ideas why should the first reaction be a passive-aggressive “no you can’t do that”.  It’s strange how the naysayers all derive from the same place as Harold Evans once famously said of journalism “it is simpler to sound off than it is to find out. It is more elegant to pontificate than it is to sweat.”  Well we are going to sweat!  We will not be derailed or distracted and our core Subversion guys like the idea so we are planning to build a prototype.  This is something we see as vital for Subversion users. Watch this space!

Q&A With BCW Magazine

Here’s an interview I gave with Business Computing World (http://www.businesscomputingworld.co.uk/qa-david-richard-wandisco/)

Can you position SCM and SCCM technologies as you see them in relation to ALM in the wider sense?

WANdisco’s heritage is in distributed computing—our technology enables active-active replication over a wide area network. The first application we implemented this with was Apache Subversion to create Subversion MultiSite (a distributed, highly available and scalable Subversion implementation).

Over the past couple of years we have become a very active participant on the Apache Subversion open source project and we are keen to ensure that Apache Subversion maintains its position as what we consider to be the world’s leading SCM tool.

Recently we announced uberSVN an open ALM platform for Subversion. The uberSVN platform is a very easy to use, easy to implement and easy to extend inside a distribution of Subversion. We see SCM as a core component of ALM—it’s where the source code files are stored. So transforming Subversion into a platform that enables you to choose best-of-breed ALM components is a very natural and evolutionary step for us. We don’t believe that any single vendor can provide a complete, best-of-breed ALM solution.

Why would a firm choose Subversion over traditional SCM solutions such as Perforce, Serena or even products from HP?

I guess a better question would be “Why do firms choose or replace traditional SCM solutions with Subversion?” I guess this is because Subversion is open source and hence free, but it performs and scales in some of the most aggressive SCM environments on the planet where some of the traditional SCM products could not. Subversion now has over five millions implementations—how many do the traditional SCM’s have? Not even a fraction of that and that means Subversion must perform and scale in a huge amount of environments.

It sounds like WANdisco’s core technology could be applied across multiple applications. Are you looking at other areas?

Indeed our replication technology is generic and can be applied to other areas. Relational databases is one area we are investigating in our labs right now. Maybe next year we will be in a position to announce something more concrete around database replication/shared-nothing database clustering.

Is WANdisco actively supporting the development of Subversion?

WANdisco is a huge supporter of the Apache Subversion open source project in a number of tangible ways. We have dedicated committers on staff that we pay to only develop Subversion, we are a sponsor of the Apache software foundation and we produce Subversion binary downloads and make them freely available on our website. There was some controversy last year but that was ‘rabble-rousing’ by one of our competitors. The end result is that Subversion development on the open source project is very active again. There is a lot of energy on the project right now and that is good for the wider community.

Are there any clear trends in the SCM space?

Subversion is continuing to gain adoption in the enterprise and government organisations. That’s probably not entirely surprising given that, in product lifecycle parlance, Subversion is in maturity. As I said earlier it continues to replace traditional SCM solutions. I would also say that Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server (TFS) is also gaining traction and is probably in the number two position. We don’t see enterprises moving their source code to the cloud yet. That may change but we have see some of the tooling move there—just not the source code.

What’s the uptake been like for uberSVN?

I’d say things are looking healthy, we have thousands of installs in just over a month and the feedback has been very good. I have never seen so many product installs and that is a good sign that the product is very easy to install. We worked very hard to get a product that could be installed in less than five minutes and we will never trade that off for anything.

Are there any big announcements scheduled for uberSVN?

In July we are planning a major new product feature that will enable customers to very easily install third party applications. It’s a really cool feature that will change the way ALM software is delivered behind the firewall. We also have some partner announcements around software build and quality tools.

Is GIT a threat to Subversion?

Funny, I was talking about this only today with an industry analyst and he has the same conclusion that we have. Git has its uses but probably not in the enterprise. OK please listen, I know that statement will upset a bunch of senior developers who think that GIT solves everything but it really doesn’t.

If you think about it GIT actually promotes anti-social software development; development in small, disconnected silos is not how software is developed in the real world. Most software is developed by teams whose members have a variety of skills who need to see what each other is doing and that’s the fundamental reason why GIT is not a threat to Subversion in the enterprise. It’s fine for the development of the Linux kernel but that model doesn’t work for most companies.

uberSVN: The Best is Yet to Come!

Since the launch a couple of weeks ago the growth of uberSVN has been nothing short of spectacular.  We’ve had thousands of downloads and successful installs.  Probably the only thing to raise our eyebrows a little is the amount of support tickets or to be more precise the lack of them!  I must admit (touch wood) that this is / was by far the best new product launch that I have ever been part of! The feedback (and unsolicited too) has been terrific.  Another well done to the uberSVN team!

It is very important that we don’t rest on our laurels and push forward with new features (such as LDAP integration) and enhancements (which is the posh way of saying bug fixes) and acting on user-feedback.  To that end, we met last week in Napa to sanity check the feature pipeline of uberSVN and our other products.  I think it’s safe to say that the best is yet to come!

We have some pretty big plans for the product.  Indeed the goal from the start was for uberSVN to be a living, expanding product guided by a large community of users.  One of the fundamental early features of uberSVN is the easy to use auto-update mechanism that allows us to offer these new features and functions to users very quickly.

Next week we’ve got a minor release coming out. Here’s what is planned:

  • LDAP Authentication – this has been requested by many users
  • Bug fixes including native language support, loading repos from large dump files.

The next major release will be in late June / early July and we will be announcing some pretty big news at OSCON.  Here’s a sneak-peak:

  • Integration with Subversion MultiSite
  • Scheduling back-up / import
  • Bundling some cool third party tools, pre-integrated with uberSVN.
  • Tool for adding / extending uberSVN.
  • A fully documented API for third party integration.
  • ???? You’ll just have to wait but we have a pretty big surprise up our sleeves!

Partnerships will have a big part to play in the uberSVN ecosystem. We have been working with several leading tools vendors for several months to include them in this new ecosystem and it’s something we are pretty excited about.  We will be opening this up to other vendors after July so if you’re interested in joining the uberSVN ecosystem, drop me a line.

I should also probably address some of the spam comments from our competition friends.  This is not an open source product. Why? Simple, it doesn’t need to be!  We are part of the Apache Subversion project and we believe that Subversion, as a stand-alone product, should continue to be the best SCM product on the planet.  We are going to ensure that uberSVN always uses the latest Subversion Binaries in an unmodified form (our uberSVN users will be able to automatically install the new release of Subversion, 1.6.17, due out next week). In fact we will always offer the open source subversion binaries on our website.  It’s important to us that we always offer users a choice.

It’s a Beta product.  Gmail was in Beta for 5 years. I was one of the early users and used it for banking, my kids’ school stuff and a whole bunch of things that I couldn’t really do without.  It didn’t mean that it didn’t work.  In fact Google only removed the Beta tag when they believed that “the beta tag just doesn’t fit for large enterprises that aren’t keen to run their business on software that sounds like it’s still in the trial phase.”  In this case we are looking to reach a ‘complete’ set of features – as I said earlier this product is going to get much bigger – in the words of old blue eyes “the best is yet to come!

Welcome uberSVN

Today is a very special day here at WANdisco.  We are launching a new product: uberSVN.  This is significant from a couple of perspectives.  First, this is a very important product in the software development marketplace and second this product was completely delivered by our team of engineers in Sheffield, England. uberSVN transforms Apache Subversion into an easy to use, install and extend Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platform.  We don’t believe that any one vendor has the best product in every class. Why should one be forced to buy only from one vendor?  Shouldn’t you be able to use say Subversion for SCM, Hudson / Jenkins for build, Trac for defect tracking and Wiki? Then decide that you prefer JIRA and simply be able to use it without having to completely throw away everything else.

The message here is that we are empowering users by giving them choiceFreedom to choose any combination of ALM tools that best fit the business requirements be it price or functionality, open source or closed source.  uberSVN therefore creates a heterogeneous application development environment.

Why can we do this?  Well we are very active in the Apache Subversion open source project and we already support some of the world’s largest Subversion implementations.  Collectively that means that we see the world from two very different perspectives. From the perspective of the open source project we realized that there were certain things that could be improved for the majority of users such as pre-configured apache. From the perspective of our customers, this is something that they are already doing in an ad hoc way.  We just don’t see companies paying huge fees for a soup-to-nuts solution from a single ALM vendor any more.  They want to select from a menu of open source and closed source products choosing what they perceive to be the best in class.  We saw that trend and that was a major driver for us to create uberSVN.  This is currently not released under an open source license but it’s free (that may change in the future).

A few years ago when we decided to open up a development center in Sheffield there were more than a few raised eyebrows.  There’s a kind of intellectual snobbery in the UK about anything north of London and if you mention it then you’ve got a chip on your shoulder (that would be me then!)  uberSVN is a testament to that strategy.  We have a wonderful team that has produced something that is quite brilliant. Well done to everyone on the uberSVN team. You deserve all of the credit!

uberSVN team: Ian Wild, Owain Lewis, Wayne Mellors, Mark Poole, Simon Mann, Warren Harper, Liam Jolly, John Chambers, Mat Booth, Steve Bell, Katherine Sheehan, Gavin Moorcroft, Mark Lucas, Gary Beardshaw, Clare Jones, Andrew Smethurst, Ross Bray

Experian Sees the Light

Experian Moves to WAndisco for "Serious Subversion Support"

I’m really delighted with the announcement today.

Experian moved their open source subversion support to WANdisco. Of course I think they made the right choice and I must admit that they were at the forefront of my mind when I was writing the prior blog post [How to Choose an Open Source (Subversion) Support Provider].

It’s good to hear that we were able to step in and help here:

We get immediate responses from WANdisco. All we have to do is pick up the phone and our questions get answered

With our last Subversion support vendor it was difficult to reach a live person. Everything had to be done through their portal. Response times were slow and most of our tickets were never really resolved.”

At WANdisco we do try and do the right thing. Sometimes that might lead to controversy like our commitment to fix branching and merging.  I’m still not sure why certain people / organizations take such great umbrage to that.  Maybe they feel threatened or even want to distract attention from the real agenda.

Either way I am proud that we are able to provide real, serious support for the Apache Subversion open source project.

On a different and very sad topic the situation in Japan is just terrible.  The number of confirmed dead and missing now stands at nearly 13,000 while some 450,000 people have been staying in temporary shelters amid sub-zero night-time temperatures. We have an office in Tokyo and our friends Tanigowa-san and Yamamot-san and their families are thankfully safe. There’s very little we can do from thousands of miles away but we have donated to the Red Cross – Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Appeal and we have also placed a link in the header of our website.

How to Choose an Open Source (Subversion) Support Provider.

Open source support can be a lucrative business for software vendors.  It’s kind of necessary for large organizations that cannot implement any software without support.  But not all support is the same.  Some companies offer support that they have difficulty really fulfilling.  I have tried to come up with a checklist to help you decide which vendor you should choose.

1. Do they have full committers on the project?

In his book “Producing Open Source Software”, Karl Fogel discusses the critical role of committers on an open source project: “The project cannot rely on people’s own judgment; it must impose standards and grant commit access only to those who meet them.”  Take the inverse; suppose your support provider does not have committers.  Do they really understand the code?  Can they recognize a bug?  Can they even propose a code change to the community?

2. Do they have global scale?

Let’s say you have developers in N. America, Europe, India and China.  You will more than likely need 24×7 global, follow-the-sun support.  Easier said than done.  Some people solve this with low-cost support centers. But how much do they know about your open source product and do you know that your confidential data is safe?

3. What support systems do they have?

Can you dial a number and get someone on the line in your time-zone?  Can you have multiple internal people see and manage support tickets? Is there a knowledge base?   I even heard one story where a Subversion support organization wanted to use Skype to transfer a customers confidential Subversion files for analysis – now that’s a big red flag!

4. Do they care? Are they passionate about this stuff?

It goes without saying; but to provide great service then you really have to care.  Part of the goal of open source support is to provide direct feedback to make the open source product better.  Support providers that care are more than just an insurance policy they are doing it because they care about the future of the open source product they are supporting.

5. Don’t buy just an insurance policy.

Open source support providers love selling insurance only.  Why?  It’s easy.  You’re paying for something that you might use once in a blue moon and the margins on that are huge.  Really ask yourself if the provider could fix a corrupted repository or provide impartial advice on tuning your Subversion implementation for maximum performance?

6. Don’t be fooled into using their modified version of the OSS.

One of the big reasons to use open source software is to avoid vendor lock-in.  You should be careful to read what it says on the tin.  Subversion, for example, is licensed under the Apache License, which pretty much allows free use of the software for any purpose (distribute, modify, etc).  Other, modified versions of Subversion may be licensed under more stringent license terms as either a proprietary license or even GPLv3 which Steve Ballmer referred to as “”a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches”.

7. Does their business model conflict?

Why is the provider offering open source support?  To make money?  To create demand for other products or services?  Because the market needs them to?  Whatever the reason it should be a good one.  I hope it’s not just to make money J

8. Check out references?

In our space, Subversion Support, there are so many horror stories.  Support tickets unanswered for months (and even years),  inadequate support systems,  lack of knowledgeable staff,  using partners to fulfill contracts who have not received adequate training, lack of integration with open source committers.  Just like any enterprise purchase check out a couple of references.

9. Ask a few questions upfront, test them!

Some of our support customers have done this and I think it’s pretty clever.  They say, “Well if you’re better than company X then you should be able to answer this, because they couldn’t”.  And they provide a list of say 3,4 or 5 questions.  Maybe they could even be items that your current provider failed to answer adequately.  However you do it.  I would do it upfront.

10: Pick WANdisco for Subversion support :)

Look finding ten very different things is tough OK :) and let’s face it I am biased. But the advice above is good. Before we had full time core developers on the Subversion project we could not offer Subversion support. If you just paid $100K for a new Ferrari would you get it serviced by a one-man-and-his-dog outfit operating out of their home? Would you trust a company that only used the cheapest of the cheapest resources thousands of miles away with inadequate systems and untrained staff? Would you trust a company that couldn’t answer a few softball questions you threw at them?

We are now a sponsor of Apache!

Apache Subversion WANdiscoI am pleased to announce that today we have become an Apache Software Foundation (ASF) sponsor.

I firmly believe that actions speak louder than words. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to open source and also our belief that the ASF is the right place for Subversion.  Any claims that we are at odds with the ASF should now be put to rest.

The ASF is a non-profit, volunteer-run foundation and this will help aid organizational, legal and financial support for a broad range of Apache licensed projects including Subversion. Other Apache Software Foundation sponsors include Google, Yahoo!, and Facebook, we are proud to join them. We are extremely grateful to the ASF.  This is a ‘safe home’ – Apache have led the way in community open source development since 1999 and they are no stranger to mature, pervasive open source technology like Subversion.

This announcement coincides with the inaugural Subversion Live Conferences.  Apache Subversion has certainly come a long way since its inception in 2000. With over 5 million users it is recognized as the leader in Standalone Software Configuration Management. Indeed, a recent Eclipse Foundation survey found that over 58% of Eclipse users use Subversion, making it the dominant source code management product by a huge margin.

Subversion is no longer a young upstart and we believe it has become critical to talk to Subversion users.  We must uncover the needs of enterprises both large and small.  Subversion may be mature but that does not mean that innovation stops.  The last 11 years (has it really been that long?) have been amazing.  To become the dominant technology in this space is the software equivalent of scaling Mount Everest.

Together, as a community we can do a lot more. May Subversion continue to lead the way for another 11 years and beyond!

Come and be Part of the Inaugural Subversion Live 2011

So the inaugural Subversion Live Conferences are just around the corner and it’s not too late to register.  If you use this code: WANDMRX250SVNLIVE you can get 20% off on your registration.  Online registration is still open here: http://goo.gl/7y8F4 I also happen to know that both the Boston and the San Francisco / Silicon Valley venues are almost completely sold out!
I have also included a sneak-peek of the free T-Shirts exclusively for attendees.
Subversion is no longer a young upstart and we believe it has become critical to talk to Subversion users.  We must uncover the needs of enterprises both large and small.  Subversion may be mature but that does not mean that innovation stops.  The last 11 years (has it really been that long?) have been amazing.  To become the dominant technology in this space is the software equivalent of scaling Mount Everest.
Together, as a community we can do a lot more. May Subversion continue to lead the way for another 11 years and beyond.
Come and join the debate!

Apache – We Love you to the Moon and Back

‘I love you right up to the moon.’ said Little Nutbrown Hair and he closed his eyes. ‘Oh that’s far, that’s very, very far.’ said Big Nutbrown Hair as he settled Little Nutbrown Hair into his bed of leaves. He leaned over and kissed him good night. Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile, ‘I love you to the moon–and back.’

Over the past week or so there have been several attempts to position WANdisco as somehow being at odds with the Apache Software Foundation (ASF).  Just to be absolutely clear we would like to say that we love Apache. In fact, in the words of Little Nutbrown – we love them “to the moon and back.”

There we said it. Actions do speak much, much louder than words though and yesterday we reiterated our intent to improve branching and merging in Subversion.  We are also going to be completely transparent about this whole thing.  Our Product Manager, Rob Budas (or just “Budas” as he seems to be known around here) is going to blog regularly, probably weekly, about what’s going on with these efforts.

Feedback, as Rob said, is more than welcome (we are doing this as part of the Subversion community) not just from the excellent, hard working committers, but from the silent majority of Subversion users who rely on Subversion every day of their working lives.  If I get hit over the head from behind with a banjo for supporting them – so be it, I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.

We have some exciting news next week including an acquisition, launching our new website and a Subversion cloud hosting platform vendor that’s starting to use WANdisco to differentiate their offerings.

Recent Interview with JAXenter “CEO Speaks About Recent Subversion Controversy”

CEO Speaks About Recent Subversion Controversy

Interview WANdisco on Subversion

WANdisco have been at the centre of some controversy recently, after the company posted a string of blogs regarding Subversion, which elicited a reply from the Apache Software Foundation. In this interview, JAXenter.com speaks to David Richards on where WANdisco stand on the situation…..

JAXenter: WANdisco have recently been at the centre of some controversy surrounding blog posts on Subversion. What is your stance on the reaction to your blogs? Do you feel your comments have been taken out of context?

David Richards: Absolutely! The Blog Post “Shaking-up Subversion by Listening to the User Community and then Committing to do the Work.” was not about WANdisco making claims that we own the project. It was about WANdisco increasing participation in the project, hiring more people to work on Subversion, listening to the user community and then actually doing the work (i.e. writing source code). I didn’t even claim that anything we are planning to do [improve / fix branching and merging] are new requirements. Far from it.

In some cases these requirements have been publicly posted for over 5 years and that is *the* point – they are requirements that the user community really need and nobody has done. I do not believe it’s because the committers are bad stewards or lazy or anything like that. It’s more because a number of high profile developers like Ben Collins-Sussman and Karl Fogel moved on (which is very common in open source) and were not replaced. We are simply saying that we aim to fill that gap, fix these underlying problems and get Subversion moving again. With all due respect, what’s wrong with that?

JAXenter: For those unfamiliar with your company, how is WANdisco involved in Subversion?

David Richards: We have full time committers on staff including Hyrum Wright (Subversion release manager and President of the Subversion Corporation), Phillip Martin and Julian Foad (also long time full committers on the project.) In addition WANdisco (Wide-Area-Network-DIStributed-COmputing) has a series of Enterprise Subversion project such as Subversion MultiSite that scales Subversion to thousands of users and repositories and millions of transactions per day. Hence we have a business that is built around the success of Subversion.

JAXenter: What factors do you feel are currently slowing down the development of Subversion?

David Richards: As I mentioned earlier some of the high-profile originators of Subversion like Karl, Brian, Ben and others have simply moved on. That is *not* a criticism of today’s committers – they continue to do an unbelievable job. We just need more.

JAXenter: What new functionality do you intend to commit to Subversion, within the fields of branching and merging?

David Richards: We actually did produce a spec, that most of the critics conveniently failed to mention.

The approach we are taking is to solve specific issues being reported by the Subversion user community. For example, better support for merging across renamed objects. This will result in much faster, easier and intuitive merging without the need for manual error-prone intervention. We are tackling several use cases like this and are working with Subversion users who face these challenges every day. In addition our product manager, Rob Budas, will blog weekly progress. Now there’s true transparency and community!

Transcript of an interview with @JAXenter http://goo.gl/N4WeN

Subversion Politics

My last blog post [Shaking-up Subversion by Listening to the User Community and then Committing to do the Work] unfortunately polarized the Subversion community.

On one side we had:

@phillipmarsay This is incredibly exciting news for avid Subversion users… (like us!)

definitely like the passion you guys have, the big plans, and the intention to “take the bull by the horns” :-). I hope you can get the ball rolling, with an actively participating community, and make Subversion better…

I also think this is good news and look forward to seeing the WANDisco contributions to the project. And if I had any more knowledge of the svn internals I might be applying for one of those positions.

On the other side we had:

“I was, and am, deeply offended by Dave Richards and WANDisco in general. Their business model seems to be to issue press releases rather than actually doing stuff… As it stands, just as you did a year ago with the Obliterate feature, you are just setting your people up for failure. You have declared that you are going to implement new features that the Subversion committers that work for you already know cannot be solved in the near term.” [Mark Phippard, Collabnet]

“It’s clear that the WANdisco CEO — David Richards — is frustrated at the slow pace at which Subversion is improving. But the two posts are simply making outrageous claims, either directly or via insinuation… Unfortunately, in attempting to woo customers, he’s had the side-effect of making his company appear both clueless and antagonistic to the project…” [Ben Collins Sussman, Former Subversion Committer]

“Apache Subversion to WANdisco: +1 on the code contributions, -1 on the attitude. We welcome WANdisco’s involvement in Subversion, and failure on WANdisco’s part to address the above concerns will have no effect on the acceptance of technical work funded by WANdisco. We simply felt it necessary to clarify WANdisco’s role in Apache Subversion, for the benefit of our users and potential contributors.” [ASF]

Interestingly most of the approval for our announcements is from Subversion end-users…

I knew that this would open us up to criticism, as I said in my blog “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”

I actually regret the comment that  “certain unscrupulous committers decide to commit trivial changes in large files to simply get their stats up.” For me to substantiate this would require washing dirty laundry in public and that would help nothing – there are better ways to deal with matters such as this within the project itself.

Responses / Clarification:

  1. In my Blog post “Why we got so heavily involved in the Subversion project…” I used the phrase “The initial goal of our project was, basically, to create a better mouse-trap than CVS.” Just to be 100% clear the term ‘our’ [belonging to or connected with you and the group that you are a part of, when you are the person speaking or writing] is being used in the ‘connected with’ context like “Our Soccer Team Won Today” as I make VERY clear throughout the article [“We didn’t get involved to take the credit for creating Subversion. That credit goes to the guys I mentioned earlier.”].
  2. The Comment “I am sure we will face cynicism from some factions of the Subversion project,” is NOT referring to any individual or group of committers.
  3. I never claimed that any of the proposed enhancements were anything new. On the contrary, and again I quote “The requirements that we are committing to build, namely merging and branching, are not new.  Many of these have been in the mainstream and documented since 2007.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and I don’t take any offense to any of the comments. Most of what we said was relaying what we are hearing from Subversion users. Could these things have been said with a little less venom? Yes, probably. But the bottom line is that WE CARE because we have a deep vested interest in this Subversion stuff.

Edit:

I should also point out that we do a hell of a lot for the community. Like Free Training (“Hidden Subversion” has almost 1,000 registered attendees for next weeks class) and Free Binaries for Windows, RedHat, CentOS, Ubuntu, SuSE, Debian, Solaris).

You might also be interested in attending one of our “Subversion Live” events in San Francisco (Silicon Valley), Boston (MA) or London (UK).

Shaking-up Subversion by Listening to the User Community and then Committing to do the Work.

Today we announced the radical step to overhaul the Subversion project by actually fixing and improving several areas that Subversion users have been crying out for.

I know that this will generate criticism from fans of distributed version control (GIT) because some of the issues we are going to tackle are the stick with which they beat Subversion. I am sure we will face cynicism from some factions of the Subversion project, but in some cases this is because of commercial interests that are dependent on the perception that they are the ones developing Subversion.

As the saying goes: you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

We are not doing this for direct commercial reasons. We are doing this to protect the future of Subversion. We are doing this because we care. We are doing this because we need to. We are doing this because it is the right thing to do.

I’m sure there are lots of questions. Here is a selection of those I have tried to answer:

What Does This Mean?  Are You Forking Subversion?

At this point, NO. We don’t believe that it is necessary. What we are doing is committing our resources to develop several features that both WANdisco and our user community believe are critical to both the long and short-term welfare of the Subversion project.

Hang on a Minute! Didn’t the Community Just Announce A Road Map?

Yes they did, but that’s pretty much all that happened (and that really pisses us off.) The commit logs (code committed by developers to the project) tell the real story. We are not happy with the volume, speed or participation on the project right now. Blogging, or answering questions on user lists are important, but so is writing source code. We also believe it’s unhelpful when certain unscrupulous committers decide to commit trivial changes in large files to simply get their stats up. That behavior has no place in any open source project; it’s a bad form and wastes everyone’s valuable time.

The requirements that we are committing to build, namely merging and branching, are not new.  Many of these have been in the mainstream and documented since 2007. I find it more than a little annoying that, given their importance to many Subversion users; these areas have not been tackled.

Yes, they are difficult. Yes, they will take time.  That is why a corporation needs to step up to the plate and commit to deliver.

What Does WANdisco Get From This?

We have a thriving business.  Almost all of our customers are Subversion users and, frankly, we’re biased. A bit like Henry Ford’s choice of car color, that’s how we see SCM: You can have any SCM so long as it’s Subversion. Do the math.  It is really simple: The more [happy] Subversion users – the more potential customers for WANdisco and, yes, then we make money.

Who Attended This Summit at the WANdisco Offices?

We invited in the region of 10 companies, representing the largest implementations in the world, some with up to 40,000 users. We selected the organizations based on a very significant vested interest and, due to their complexity; any problems or issues would be magnified exponentially. Of course, everyone had their own special requests that were very specific to their situation but there was also a common theme: branching and merging must improve.

I can’t name all those that attended but they are companies of similar standing to Intel and Juniper Networks.

I Would Like to Help, Can I?

Absolutely!

Hyrum Wright is managing this process he can be contacted at Hyrum.Wright(at)  WANdisco [dot] com. We will work with ANYONE.   In fact, we would prefer that this be a community effort. Time is of the essence. Let’s not waste time in endless debate.  Let’s act together.

Subversion is a Community. How is this Working with a Community?

Ultimately, the community will decide if this work will be accepted. When Google decided that httpv2 (awful name and description by the way) was a good idea they developed it and presented it to the community. It was not a fait accompli .  It made sense, so it was accepted. In this case, the requirements have been out there for several years. Subversion users have been tweeting, blogging and complaining about branching and merging. We held a summit to discuss what needed to be done with the Subversion users.  This was their number 1 requirement! We are doing this for the wider Subversion community.

Are You Guys Trying to Take Over The Subversion Project?

Subversion is an Apache project, ideally it should not be inside a corporation.

After This, Then What?

We are still calibrating the requirements, but one hypothesis may be to completely upgrade the backend of Subversion. This is definitely not the end – we still have lots more to do.

Why we got so heavily involved in the Subversion project..

First of all I should point out that WANdisco has products that enable Subversion to perform on various different scales. Subversion MultiSite products provide service over a Wide Area Network (WAN) while Subversion Clustering is our specialist Local Area Network (LAN) system.

Some of the large-scale implementations we oversee have as many as 40,000 users, 2,000 repositories and over 18 million transactions a day. Of course not all of our customers are on that scale, but quite a few are and obviously Subversion is pretty important to them. Actually, let’s not beat around the bush, WANdisco Subversion is critical to the vast majority of those clients – mission critical.

About 18 months ago we started to hear a few murmurs from sources within the industry, including some of those big implementations, that we should really be involved in the core development of the Subversion project.

Why? Well, what happens to most (if not all) volunteer-based open source projects is that they go though phases. The initial phase is the really cool phase – it’s a blank sheet of paper and you have a bunch of guys that basically say “OK let’s go climb Everest… and we’ll do it on a diet of coffee and pizza”.

So many of these projects never get off the ground because the guys that can do that have to be capable of climbing a huge mountain – people like Karl Fogel, Jim Blandy, Ben Collins-Sussman, Brian Behlendorf, Jason Robbins and Greg Stein. These are the kind of guys that would; (a) even conceive the idea of building a brand new SCM product from scratch and; (b) actually get off their arses to do it (the latter is much easier said than done!)

The initial goal of our project was, basically, to create a better mouse-trap than CVS. At the time CVS was the de facto SCM product. Much like Subversion is today.

The CVS project was beginning to resemble the abandoned Mary Celeste. The committers had simply moved on. There was no innovation and proprietary vultures such as Perforce, Accurev and Serena began to circle. Unfortunately (for them) Subversion was coming into view on the horizon.

Subversion had a couple of key features that were missing from CVS including Atomic Commits, efficient binary diff storage, versioning of symbolic links, web access via Apache and the open source license was not restrictive (unlike CVS), meaning vendors could take it and pretty much do what they wanted.

Sounds good, so why the concern?

Well the good news is that the initial phase was a raging success. The moment Forrester Research recognized Subversion as the sole leader in the Standalone Software Configuration Management (SCM) category in 2007 was the moment that everyone knew Subversion was it. The market from that moment was going to be IBM Clearcase and Subversion. Can you even imagine trying to be any other vendor in this market where one product is free and the other is IBM? Game-set-and-match you would think. Well, not quite.

Without corporate sponsorship you don’t tend to get key enterprise features on a product road-map. You’re probably familiar with these kind of projects – they usually don’t involve a UI and have labels like ‘LDAP integration’, ‘security’, ‘performance benchmarking’, and so on. Let’s face it nobody’s going to tackle those problems over a cold beer on a cold November evening. And that’s not a criticism of open source; it’s just the way things go.

And that’s really why we decided to get involved on the scale that we did.

We didn’t get involved to take the credit for creating Subversion. That credit goes to the guys I mentioned earlier.

We got involved to push the creation of a road-map and to tackle the trick un-sexy tasks that just need to get done. We have a fantastic team of open source engineers and we don’t interfere with what they do on a day-to-day basis because they are 100 per cent hired to develop Subversion.

WANdisco is now making some big improvements to the working copy that will be released in SVN 1.7. We are improving the JavaHL bindings so you won’t need to use the third party GPL SVNKit product. Subversion 1.7 is a very promising release that will see not only huge performance improvements but also the beginnings of features that some ‘GIT fanatics’ criticize us for.

The emergence of GIT has brought with it a breed of DVCS fundamentalists – the ‘Gitterons’ – that think anything other than GIT is crap. The Gitterons seem to think software engineering happens on their own island and often forget that most organizations don’t employ senior software engineers exclusively. That’s ok but it’s not how the rest of the market thinks, and I am happy to prove it: GIT, at the last look had less than three per cent of the market while Subversion has in the region of five million users and about half of the overall market.

The problem we saw was that the Gitterons were firing (cheap) shots at Subversion. Tweets like “Subversion is so [slow/crappy/restrictive/doesn't smell good/looks at me in a funny way] and now I have GIT and [everything works in my life/my wife got pregnant/I got a girlfriend after 30 years of trying/I won six times running on the blackjack table]. You get the picture.

So we decided to do something about it. We pointed out that shelving would enable, if an organization chooses, working in a disconnected mode. Oh boy did the Gitterons not like that. How dare we make Subversion better?!

Thankfully, Subversion has a very bright future and WANdisco is 100 per cent committed to it.  Our  team is led by Hyrum Wright, Subversion’s release manager since early 2008, and backed by others including Julian Foad, Philip Martin, Erik Huelsmann and Stefan Kung(TortoiseSVN).  They’re all very talented and dedicated to the task of making Subversion the best and last centralized version control system.

What a Git!

Linus Torvalds put the cat-among-the-pigeons after his rather clumsy attack on SubversionCVSPerforce and anything else that was specifically not a disconnected repository in a presentation to Google employees last year. Linus is of course obsessed with the Linux project to the extent that he thinks every company developing software should operate like the Linux project. His comments included:

  • Subversion has been the most pointless project ever started.
  • Subversion used to say CVS done right: with that slogan there is nowhere you can go. There is no way to do CVS right.
  • If you like using CVS, you should be in some kind of mental institution or somewhere else.
  • Bitkeeper is the only commercially available distributed SCM solution.

The trouble is of course that not all commercial companies operate like the Linux project, in fact very few do. The idea that software developers operate from within a remote cave, rather like a hermit in the middle ages, is more than a little far-fetched.

GitBitKeeperMercurial and Bazaar are collectively referred to as ‘Distributed Version Control Systems’ or DVCS for short. But are they really distributed? In a sense, yes they are. The distribution comes from the fact that they work offline and everyone can have a copy of the entire source tree on their local machine. This is a really cool feature if you happen to be working in a loose-knit environment where working in a prolonged disconnected mode is a positive advantage, for example exploring multiple implementations without disturbing the master repository.

The problem is that, at any one moment in time, there is no ‘golden-copy’ of the source code assets, except via unenforceable convention. This presents quite a large problem to most software companies who undertake continuous builds. Working in a prolonged disconnected mode is fine but what happens if your laptop is stolen at the airport? Not only have you lost your work but you also run the risk of someone having access to the entire source code repository.

This pretty much means that companies, much to Linus’s disgust, must adopt some sort of centralized source code repository or do they?

So I’m pretty biased. Actually, no, I’m very biased but I think WANdisco really is a distributed source code management system (for Subversion and CVS) I don’t think that having a centralized repository with distributed developers solves the problems of distribution either.

In the case of WANdisco every replica is a golden copy of the source code repository. The assumption WANdisco makes is that development teams are working collaboratively even across global teams, with continuous integration of their efforts. Here you get the best-of-both-worlds: performance of a local repository for the entire global team, with the manageability and continuous integration associated with central repositories.

Bottom line: Git, Bitkeeper, Bazaar and Mercurial should not be referred to a Distributed Version Control Systems – they are Disconnected Repository Systems and Subversion / CVS users do not belong in ‘some sort of mental institution’ but I would recommend that Linus get’s out of his virtual reality bubble before it completely seals.

Atlassian Partnership – JIRA Clustering / MultiSite

We announced a partnership with one of my favorite company’s last week - Atlassian. Founded by a couple of twenty-something-year-oldAustralians they are taking the developer world by storm. The interesting thing is they are doing it one customer at a time and the products retail for about $5K each. With over 9,000 customers they are doing well, very well indeed.

One of the reasons I am so enamored with them is because they have just got this space nailed. They understand exactly how to position, market and sell into the software development business. JIRA andconfluence are their two main products and they are selling like proverbial hot-cakes. The number of our own customers who told us that they either were on or wanted to move to Subversion with JIRA and Confluence is amazing.

Like WANdisco, Atlassian is not venture funded. They are a company built from the ground-up where necessity is the mother of invention. JIRA was built, for example, because the company needed a decent defect tracking system. In fact the story is the same across most of their product suite. Not being venture funded is often a critical success factor for an early stage software company. Taking venture money too early can create an artificial marketplace, whereas building products to put food on the table makes you do stuff better than anyone else. Too many early-stage venture backed company’s do too many unnatural things like hiring a huge operational infrastructure for a handful of customers – anyway don’t get me started on that topic or we could be here all day.

Back to blatantly marketing our new stuff… We produced 2 great new products: JIRA Clustering and JIRA MultiSite. With JIRA MultiSite we have transformed JIRA into a distributed server implementation thus eliminating WAN latency and, by default, creating a series of globally distributed failover nodes. JIRA clustering, as you could guess, is a clustered version of JIRA that facilitates massive scaling.

From a selfish standpoint, we are not only excited by the partnership but we have also proven that we can embed our secret sauce (DConE) into a database-centric application. Mathematically we always knew it could be done, but there’s nothing like seeing it with your own eyes. Secondly, and how we missed this in the past I don’t really know, we have what is possibly the best clustering product in the world. Due to our unique architecture we scale disk, memory and CPU. There is no single point of failure, as you may see with traditional clustering architectures that rely on some sort of cache shield, we have ashared-nothing architecture. We will be announcing 2 other clustering products in the very near future…

Technology from Death Valley to Home Depot

After much consternation, my wife actually managed to persuade me to go on an RV trip over the Thanksgiving break. Head-shaking we set off on a 1,100 mile 5 day trip from our home in the East Bay to Sequoia National ParkDeath Valley and Yosemite National Park.

Being a Brit, 1,100 miles still seems like from here to eternity. In fact I remember when I first arrived in the US, about 11 years ago, I asked for directions and was told it was “just up the road”. Now where I come from “just up the road means” a quick stroll. So I set off walking until I discovered “just up the road” in the US can mean almost 100 miles.

So, after driving “just up the road” (453 miles) we arrived at Panamint Springs, Death Valley. To my amazement not only did they have just about the best selection of beer I’ve seen on this side of the Atlantic; but they also had a high speed wireless Internet connection. Maybe I’m naïve, and maybe I shouldn’t be surprised about these things, but I am. It’s wonderful to see how technology can change everything. Unfortunately, after connecting to the Internet, it became apparent that the English soccer team had (yet again!) failed to qualify for a major tournament, and suddenly remoteness and the cold Stella seemed a much better proposition.

Technology can and should be beneficial and make positive change. I really couldn’t imagine my life without GPS navigation – before GPS Mr Magoo would have got from A-to-B better than me. As an early adopter of VOIP, I can barely remember what it was like to pay for calls to Europe. On the flip side of this there is implementing technology for the sake of it.

For example, some complete &*@#%! stole my notebook from my car. When I discovered what had happened I called the local police, who arrived in less than 10 minutes. The very efficient policeman took copious notes and told me to contact his office for the official police report. I waited a few days, called the station and was told the report was written, but was “somewhere in a workflow approval system”. Being an old EAI vendor I could empathize with her and she confided that “before this they’d just type them up, put them in a file and they’d be done in a day or so”. Many of the EAI vendors over -promise and under-deliver and often, as in the case of the local police station, make things worse than they were. So much so, the industry consortium had to remove the words EAI from its’ name.

Those self check-out machines at Home Depot are another example. I was reading the other day how a guy in Seattle took a crowbar to one of these incredibly frustrating machines after he accidentally hit the Spanish button. I can sort of understand this – and he did leave the store without completing the purchase of the crowbar…

Give me a KISS!


One of the things I feel passionately about is ease of use. I’m one of those guys that doesn’t normally read the documentation – the theory being that you should be able to intuitively use any product. Take Google’s Adwords product for example. I really hate to compare anything to Google by the way – everyone in the technology industry wants to compare just about anything to Google – then talk themselves out of doing anything because “Google are already doing that”. What a load of tripe – if that was the case nobody would ever start a company. Anyway, I digress. Google’s Adwords product was just about the easiest product I’ve ever used. When Adwords was first launched we managed to get an ad up in a couple of minutes that served hundreds of hits to our website. It was intuitive, clean and simple.

Pretty much everyone agrees that Google changed the game in online ads. Yet there was nothing innovative about online advertising.Yahoo and Microsoft had been doing it for years. Google though made it easy. I didn’t need to read a manual, I didn’t need customer support – quite simply it was the best product on the market.

Compare that to Overture. The interface was confusing, my anti-spyware blocked cookies that the product needed to log me in, it took days not minutes to get an ad up.

Speaking as a software vendor, we all need to spend more time on making this stuff easier. At WANdisco, we’re big boys and girls about this stuff and admit to ourselves where our product could and should be improved. Ease-of-deployment and ease-of –use are top of the agenda right now. Our product solves a terrifically complex problem; but we don’t want our users to see or deal with any of that complexity. It is a trap to assume that users have special skills – sure some do but they are usually early adopters. Einstein’s maxim that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler” probably says it all.

Subversion Comes of Age


Over the past few weeks I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting quite a few senior mangers and executives from some of the world’s largest companies to talk about source code management (SCM). The recurring theme from them all has been their readiness to adopt an open source product to manage their source code.

The product in question is Subversion.

Now that’s pretty cool, but now consider that most of these companies are ripping out proprietary technology in favor of Subversion and you have an industry trend that may already be upon us.

This isn’t new though – who would have thought that Linux would challenge Windows, JBoss would challenge BEA or even that MySQL would dare to take on Oracle. By the time the market realizes that open source is a legitimate challenger, it’s already happened. The result is nearly always a commodity market with terrific downward price pressures – good for customers, bad for vendors.

Subversion is showing those characteristics. Managers seem to understand that the SCM repository is commodity. They should not be paying millions of dollars in support and maintenance for that. Add administration costs to the equation, and proprietary SCM is an expensive proposition – even for companies with huge IT budgets.

So is cost the reason so many are looking to Subversion? Well, sure its free, but that’s not enough - CVS is free remember, and growth for that product has slowed dramatically. Subversion is really liked by the development community so there’s lots of innovation. Many of the annoying things with CVS such as a lack of atomic commits are fixed with Subversion. This makes Subversion a whole lot easier to adopt from a large enterprise perspective. What’s more, the Apache/BSD license is not as intrusive as GPL, particularly for vendors looking to OEM.

So the future is looking good for Subversion, which is great news for our company, WANdisco. In fact the timing could hardly be better. Many companies looking at Subversion usually have multiple sites so they go and look for a Subversion Multi-Site product. A cursory glance at Google will quickly get you to our active/active replication solution for Subversion. Disaster recovery is also a significant issue, and we can provide that on a WAN scale… more about that next time.

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About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies. Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland. David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth. With over 15 years' executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards. David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Specialties:IPO's, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A