DevOps Misconceptions and Testing Confidence: An Interview with Hans Buwalda

In this interview, Hans Buwalda, the CTO at LogiGear, details the common misconceptions people have when it comes to DevOps. He also discusses continuous integration and continuous deployment, having the right amount of confidence when it comes to testing, and how to know if DevOps is right for you.

Jennifer Bonine: All right, we are back with more of our virtual interviews here at STAREAST. Hans, how are you doing?

Hans Buwalda: Doing very well, having a great show.

Jennifer Bonine: Good, good.

Hans Buwalda: Good as always.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Now, some of the folks who watch these year over year may have seen I talk to Hans quite a bit. I enjoy our conversations we get to have at these. So, what's new since last time we talked last year? Anything exciting?

Hans Buwalda: Yeah, a lot of exciting things. New talks.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah?

Hans Buwalda: You wouldn't expect any other answer, I guess.

Jennifer Bonine: Right. No, I'm expecting you to have great new things to tell me.

Hans Buwalda: But, what interests me personally the most right now is the whole CI/CD thing.

Jennifer Bonine: Yes.

Hans Buwalda: That is ... That's taking over the spotlight from agile.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Hans Buwalda: Which was last year, year before.

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Hans Buwalda: And it's exciting, it's interesting, and it's new. And we're also learning, ourselves, about it.

Jennifer Bonine: Right. So, do you think that means ... Have folks gotten more comfortable, then, with agile and now they're like, "Hey, we need to go the next step"? And, what is this DevOps piece, and how do I put that in play with my agile pieces? And what's continuous integration, what's continuous delivery? How do I do that?

Hans Buwalda: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Sounds exciting?

Hans Buwalda: I think so. When I ask them and I do my tutorials, I always ask questions like that.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Hans Buwalda: If I ask who is doing agile, and who is doing Scrum in particular ...

Jennifer Bonine: Yep.

Hans Buwalda: ... all the hands go up.

Jennifer Bonine: All the hands.

Hans Buwalda: Almost.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Hans Buwalda: At least 80 percent. And, my next question is, who is a "Scrumbut"?

Jennifer Bonine: Oh.

Hans Buwalda: And "Scrumbut" is a company that says, "We are doing Scrum, but ..."

Jennifer Bonine: "But."

Hans Buwalda: And then, the same hands go up.

Jennifer Bonine: Right, right.

Hans Buwalda: So, I do feel that the industry still has a lot to learn about agile as well, including the testers.

Jennifer Bonine: Yep.

Hans Buwalda: But, it is not taking the spotlight right now. It's not the hot thing.

Jennifer Bonine: Right. Now, they're interested in these other components. Yeah.

Hans Buwalda: Yeah, what I also notice is that with Scum and agile, between companies, but it is also the open source world, where there are contributions coming in from all over the world, the entire building a product has its own kind of QA cycle, and is different from Scrum, is different from agile. In agile you're collocated, you're in the same room.

Jennifer Bonine: Right, right.

Hans Buwalda: In open source, it can be all over the world.

Jennifer Bonine: It connects, right, the whole community and thought process is not just in one country, but many countries. Right, and globalizes the thought process.

Hans Buwalda: Yeah, exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: That's pretty exciting, right, to see that, and getting the input from all over, because you know, things can vary from different countries, and the way they look at it, and their maturity levels and what they're worried about. So I think that's fun to see.

Hans Buwalda: Yeah, absolutely.

Jennifer Bonine: It's globalizing that, and that collaboration.

Hans Buwalda: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Across that.

Now, in terms of the DevOps pieces, any common misconceptions you've seen around DevOps? Because, again, it's a word that a lot of people hear, but just like certain terms, I think it's one that sometimes people don't understand what it actually means. They just know it's a buzzword that they hear, and that it means something different, but I'm not sure what it is. Any misconceptions you're seeing around that, or challenges?

Hans Buwalda: Yeah. Well, challenges for sure. I'm very interested in that CD—sorry, CI/CD. Continuous integration makes a lot of senses to me.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Hans Buwalda: That is, you're checking your file and it's accepted and then you build, and you see if the build works. That integration, the continuous integration. Going back in time, that really reminds me of the make files and the make process, for people who know what that is, that's basically a good strategy. I'm very curious about the CD, the complete continuous deployment. Is that really necessary, is that really what you want to do? I feel that answer to that question needs to come from the business.

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Hans Buwalda: What business am I in, does my business make it necessary to continuously deploy?

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Hans Buwalda: And this morning we had a great keynote from The Guardian, and we really had an example of an organization where continuous deployment pays off, and they can make lots of changes to their website per day, and they have to have some kind of continuous deployment to ...

Jennifer Bonine: And a mechanism to do that. Yep.

Hans Buwalda: But if I look at our own product, in a test tube, customers don't really appreciate if we deploy there too quickly, because then they have to adapt. So especially the more application side of it, we might deploy it maybe three times a year or something, except for maybe the automation technology, we deploy that much more often. Because usually customers are in a hurry—if there is some kind of third-party control that isn't supported, they think, so we deploy that much quicker. But the main product, people don't want to constantly change their process, and because we don't make changes to our product.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. No, that makes sense. So, you know, kind of from your perspective then, the advice for folks out there saying, does continuous deployment make sense, is to really ask the business, right?

Hans Buwalda: Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Bonine: And see what business you're in, and for some, because the risk is you'll do that and you may not catch everything, right, so there's things that could get through. And what is the fallback or the risk if that happens, and are you comfortable with what that will mean, to revert back if you need to or fix it as you continue to go forward? Right, some places that makes sense, other places they, I know, are a little bit more afraid—risk averse, we could say. Some organizations and businesses are more risk averse and say, we really still need and feel comfortable at least with having a check before we say go.

Hans Buwalda: Yeah, I heard a good talk this morning about confidence, and what kind of confidence, and you should not be overconfident, you should not be overconfident.

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Hans Buwalda: And you should be the right kind of confident, so still a little bit critical. In my field, if you are hesitant, if you don't really feel well with the idea of anything, including continuous deployment, I would be a little bit careful.

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Hans Buwalda: Figure out why you are not comfortable, and investigate these reasons and see if that can be ... addressed, remedied. Otherwise, then just to wait and see, because especially with best words and with new fashions, it can go, it cannot go.

Jennifer Bonine: Right. And you can always, you know, small step in, right? So you know, test the water, see how it goes, and it doesn't mean you can't eventually get there, it's just, you know, if you're not comfortable, just try it.

Hans Buwalda: And if everything else fails, go back to the business.

Jennifer Bonine: Yup.

Hans Buwalda: The B-word. That is where the reasoning starts, is, what do we need for our business.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Hans Buwalda: Now of course, being in this confidence, the next question is, how does testing and automation fit in?

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Hans Buwalda: In that lifecycle. And I think that is where our industry is currently looking to answer those questions. And you probably know from the previous interviews that I do a lot about structuring tests and designing tests so that automation goes well, and now what I'm seeing is that with DevOps, that becomes even more important.

Jennifer Bonine: Yes.

Hans Buwalda: You have to structure your tests in what I call modules, that manage small pieces, so you can say, okay, these tests we're gonna run when we have a check-in of a file, and these tests are gonna run if we maybe do some integration and interprobability with other systems, and the integration environment, and then maybe we have a deploy, and even after deployment you can still test.

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Hans Buwalda: There is a lot of testing and production going on. It's also something, and by organizing those, you can make those choices relatively easy. You can say, this module goes there, this module goes there, etc. if you just have a whole lot of instructor test cases, converted manual test cases, then that's not gonna work. You'll never be able to get that effectively deployed, and the tests also need to be deployed. And to get automation down there as well.

Jennifer Bonine: Right. So for people that are struggling that say, you know, I need that right now, I don't have that structure that I feel is necessary to organize and make it easy to evolve, where do you point them to start learning how to do that effectively? Because I think sometimes that's the struggle for folks, is they have new concepts, is, where do I get information and get started and you know, get some mentoring on how to go about starting it? Because sometimes starting out is the hard part, so we don't, right, because we're like, "I don't know where to start, so I'm not gonna do it!"

Hans Buwalda: Am I allowed to point to myself?

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, you can, absolutely!

Hans Buwalda: Absolutely. I talk about it a lot, I write about it a lot. I have a website, you probably know that, Happy Tester, but of course as a company, LogiGear, we also have a website, but that's more aimed at the services. We do have an interesting magazine there, that might also be interesting, that magazine comes about three to four times per year, and it is themed. So if you want to know about mobile testing or IoT, you just pick that number, that issue, and that issue has lots of third-party contributions and basically gives you a very systematic overview of that particular field.

Jennifer Bonine: Nice.

Hans Buwalda: So that might actually also be a good point to say.

Jennifer Bonine: That would be a good place to start. So themed, and you said it's three?

Hans Buwalda: Three to four times per year, yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Three to four, okay.

Hans Buwalda: Yeah, you could see it on the website.

Jennifer Bonine: Three to four times a year. And if they go to Happy Tester they can ...

Hans Buwalda: Basically it's a very small site, it's only one page, but ...

Jennifer Bonine: Well, that's easy then! You won't get lost.

Hans Buwalda: Exactly. But it has a fairly long list of articles that I wrote. So you can see I blog a lot over at TechWell, and they are relatively short pieces, mostly, a couple are long but mostly are short.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. So do some research, some homework, but there are some sources out there then to get you started, right? So that's the key, is start investigating. I think it's good to hear, you know, this is something a lot of organizations are now starting to put top of mind and think about, so if you haven't thought about it out there, good thing to start researching, getting more information on. You know, looking out for those sites. This is one of those things that is becoming more prevalent, you know, across the industries.

Any other final thoughts? Our times goes so quickly. Any other final thoughts on sort of themes, the conference, what you're seeing this year? Or things that are kind of being raised as issues to you in the sessions you've had?

Hans Buwalda: Well, see as many sessions as you can, that is of course clear. And think. Be intelligent, you know, intelligent beings, think about what are the challenges that we face, what could be the potential solutions. If you're not sure what to do, then wait until you are and go look around, but most of all, do the thinking.

Jennifer Bonine: Do the thinking.

Hans Buwalda: That is what I constantly see. Not do this something just because it's a buzzword or everybody else is doing it. Of course we all want to be cool, when we are at the party and the barbecue we want to brag to other people, oh, we are doing DevOps, yeah, good, we are also doing DevOps. But try to give it some substance, and with a lot of input available here at the conference, here in the life channel, there's lots of stuff to help you.

Jennifer Bonine: So check it out, so again do your homework, do the research, and think and see if it makes sense for you and your organization and how it makes sense for you.

So thanks again, Hans, for being with us.

Hans Buwalda: Yeah, even we sometimes think. Not making it a habit, but ...

Jennifer Bonine: Thanks for being with us, I appreciated the interview today.

Hans Buwalda: Okay.

Jennifer Bonine: We look forward to next time.

Hans Buwalda: You're welcome, yeah, will do.

Hans BuwaldaHans Buwalda has been working with information technology since his high school years. In his career, Hans has gained experience as a developer, manager, and principal consultant for companies and organizations worldwide. He was a pioneer of the keyword approach to testing and automation, now widely used throughout the industry. His approaches to testing—action-based testing and soap opera testing—have helped a variety of customers achieve scalable and maintainable solutions for large and complex testing challenges. Hans is a frequent speaker at STAR conferences and is lead author of Integrated Test Design and Automation.

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