Showing posts with label Best Practices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Best Practices. Show all posts

Monday, September 18, 2023

Why Java still matters

With the release of Java 21, the conversation on the relevance of the venerable programming language restarted. But a more important question remains, does Java still matter?

Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash

What announcement would you like to see in Java 21 that would make you excited? Well, for most people, actually nothing. Because, you know, what's exciting with a predictable, slow-paced, stable, widely adopted enterprise programming language?

Read to find out.

A little bit of Java History

Java was originally developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems in 1991. The goal was to develop a small, reliable, portable, distributed, real-time operating platform. The language was initially called Oak, later renamed to Green and finally renamed Java, from Java coffee, a type of coffee from Indonesia.

Officially released in 1995, Java quickly became popular for developing web applications. The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) allowed Java code to run on any platform that had a JVM, which made it a very versatile language. Java is also a very secure language, which made it a good choice for developing web applications.

Key events in Java's history

For brevity, here are some of the key events in the history of Java:

  • 1991: James Gosling starts the Java project at Sun Microsystems.
  • 1995: Java 1.0 is released.
  • 1996: Java becomes a popular language for developing web applications.
  • 1998: Java 1.1 is released, adding new features such as garbage collection and threads.
  • 2000: Java 1.2 is released, adding new features such as swing and applets.
  • 2004: Java 5 is released, adding new features such as generics and annotations.
  • 2009: Java 6 is released, adding new features such as concurrency improvements and a new security manager.
  • 2014: Java 8 is released, adding new features such as lambda expressions and streams.
  • 2017: Java 9 is released, adding new features such as modules and a new garbage collector.
  • 2018: Java 10 is released, adding new features such as a new date and time API.
  • 2019: Java 11 is released, adding new features such as a new HTTP client and a new text block literal.
  • 2020: Java 12 is released, adding new features such as switch expressions and sealed classes.
  • 2021: Java 13 is released, adding new features such as text blocks and pattern matching.
  • 2022: Java 14 is released, adding new features such as sealed interfaces and record classes.
  • 2023: Java 21 is released.
Looks like a pretty good cadence for a 30 year old programming language.

Applications

So where does Java run? Well, these days Java runs pretty much everywhere:

Enterprise Application Development

Java is commonly used to build large-scale, mission-critical applications for business operations. These applications can include customer relationship management (CRM) systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, and supply chain management solutions.

Web Development

Java is used to build robust and scalable web applications. Companies often use Java-based frameworks like Spring and JavaServer Faces (JSF) to create web applications that handle high traffic loads, such as e-commerce websites and online banking platforms.

Mobile App Development

Java is one of the primary languages used for Android app development. Many Fortune 1000 companies develop Android applications for their customers, employees, or partners

Big Data and Analytics

Java is used in big data processing and analytics applications. Companies leverage Java libraries and frameworks, such as Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark, to analyze large volumes of data and gain insights for decision-making.

Middleware and Integration

Java is often used to develop middleware components and integration solutions. These components help connect various software systems and applications within an organization, enabling data flow and communication between them.

Cloud Services

Java is used to develop and run applications on cloud platforms like AWS, Azure and GCP. Java-based microservices and containers are common in cloud-native architectures.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Java can be used to develop IoT applications and solutions. It's used to create firmware for IoT devices and build backend systems that collect and process data from these devices.

Security

Java's security features are essential for companies. It's used in developing secure authentication systems, encryption algorithms, and secure communication protocols to protect sensitive data.

Financial Services

Many large financial institutions rely on Java for their trading platforms, risk management systems, and banking applications due to Java's performance and reliability.

Customer Support

Java is used to develop customer support systems, including chatbots and helpdesk applications, to improve customer service and streamline support operations.

Supply Chain and Logistics

Companies use Java to build applications that manage and optimize their supply chain, inventory, and logistics operations, helping them reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Content Management Systems (CMS)

Java-based CMS platforms are used for managing and delivering digital content on websites and other digital platforms.

E-commerce

Java is frequently used for developing e-commerce platforms, shopping carts, and payment processing systems to support online sales operations.

Data Warehousing

Java is used in the development of data warehousing solutions that enable companies to store, process, and retrieve large volumes of structured and unstructured data for analysis and reporting.

What's new in Java 21

Finally, let's jump into Java 21 (released in September 2023). The release adds many interesting features are being added to the language including:

  • Virtual Threads: Virtual threads are a new lightweight threading abstraction that can be used to improve the performance of multithreaded applications.
  • Record Patterns: Record patterns are a new feature that can be used to deconstruct record values in a more concise and readable way.
  • Pattern Matching for switch: Pattern matching for switch is a new feature that can be used to match values in a switch statement in a more concise and readable way.
  • Sequenced Collections: Sequenced collections are a new type of collection that provides direct access to the first and last elements of the collection.
  • String Templates: String templates are a new feature that can be used to simplify the process of string formatting and manipulation.
  • Unnamed Classes and Instance main() Methods: Unnamed classes and instance main() methods are preview features that can be used to simplify the code for small, self-contained classes and methods.

Does Java still matter?

But the question remains: does Java still matter? Well, given the extensive reach and adoption of the language, the answer is of course, a lot!

But in case you are still not convinced, here are some reasons why Java still matters:
  • Popularity: Java is still a very popular programming language today. It is used by millions of developers around the world and is the language of choice for many large and complex applications.
  • Portability: Java code can run on any platform that has a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). This makes it a very versatile language that can be used to develop applications for a wide range of devices.
  • Robustness: Java is a very robust language that is designed to be secure and reliable. It has a number of features that help to prevent errors and crashes, such as garbage collection and exception handling.
  • Performance: Java code can be very performant, especially when it is compiled to native code. This makes it a good choice for developing high-performance applications.
  • Enterprise adoption: Java is by far the most popular language of the enterprise. And that's not changing anytime soon.
  • Community: Java has a large and active community of developers. This means that there are plenty of resources available to help you learn and use the language.
  • Tooling: There are a wide variety of tools available for Java development, including IDEs, debuggers, and code quality tools. This makes it easy to develop and debug Java code.
  • Ubiquity: Java is everywhere. Java runs anywhere.

What the future holds for Java

Despite the apparent slowness in adhering to new trends, Java is an actively evolving language. Each new version adds new features and improvements, making Java a powerful and versatile language that is still relevant today.

Those who complain that Java is slow don't understand successful products and enterprise software. This cadence is required when your solutions run on billions of devices, process billions of dollars in financial transactions, and support 5-9's SLA. How simple do you think that is?

Conclusion

In summary, don't let the doomers convince you. Java still matters!

And in case it helps, here's one reason to (re)consider Java: Java is not going away anytime soon. I predict at least another 20 years of strong support for Java. So for those that like a stable language, a great ecosystem, no shortage of work, a great salary and a great career should consider learning and working with the language.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Different Types of IT Architects

There is a lot of ambiguity and even misinformation regarding the role of an IT Architect in a software project. Let's understand the differences between them.

Photo by Medienst├╝rmer on Unsplash

There is a lot of ambiguity and even misinformation regarding the role of an IT Architect with regards to their participation in software projects.

Since the responsibilities of an IT Architect differ between organizations, I prepared this article to explain the particularities of different architecture roles, and bring clarity to those looking to work as professional IT Architects.

How Architecture varies per organization 

Due to differences in scale, complexity and organizational structure, Software Architecture varies significantly between small and large organizations.

Usually, large Enterprises have a more structured model for Architecture, and it's common to have a clear distinction between the different roles. In those organizations, it’s common to have different individuals performing different (and more specific) roles, with their titles aligning to their duties. Most of them, you will see in this article.

In smaller organizations though, very commonly Architects end up performing a combination of all of these roles (if not all at the same time for a given project). The name of the roles varies per organization, with the most popular being Solution, Cloud, Technical or Software Architects.

However, regardless of the size of the organization, architects are expected to do much more that just performing the tasks described in the job descriptions.

Which is why architects should broaden their skills as much as possible in different domains. Tough task, but will get you prepared to anything your employer (and clients) request from you. Make this a marathon, not a sprint.

With that said, let’s review the differences between the main types of architects as it relates to projects in technology.

Different types of Architects

Let's jump directly to the most common roles in architecture. Currently in the marketplace, they are:

  • Enterprise architect
  • Solution architect
  • Software/Application architect
  • Data/Information architect
  • Security architect
  • Cloud architect
  • Technical Architect
  • Principal Architect

So let’s review them.

Enterprise Architect

Enterprise architects are responsible for the technical solutions and strategic direction of an organization. They must work with a variety of stakeholders to understand an organization's market, customers, products, business domain, requirements, and technology.

From a broad perspective, enterprise architects are the most business oriented, and consequently, less technical in nature.

Solution Architect

A solution architect converts business/technical requirements into a solution architecture. They work closely with business analysts, product owners and technical people to understand the requirements in depth, so that they can design a solution that satisfies those requirements.

Solution Architects are the most hybrid role in this list. Solution architects are required to have great technical and business skill, making them a perfect fit for any project in technology.

Software (Application) Architect

Software/Application Architects focus mainly on the software architecture. They ensure that the requirements for their application are satisfied by the design of that application and serve as a liaison between the technical and non-technical staff working on an application.

Application Architects are involved in all the steps in the software development process.

Software/Application Architects architect and recommend solutions for new/existing/legacy technologies, as well as evaluating alternative approaches to problems and proposing solutions to existing problems.

Data (Information) Architect

Data Architects are responsible for designing, deploying, and managing an organization's data architecture.

Data Architects usually focus on data management systems, and their goal is to ensure that the appropriate consumers of an organization's data have access to the data in the right place at the right time.

Lastly, Data Architects are responsible for all of an organization's data sources, both internal and external. They ensure that an organization's strategic data requirements are met.

Infrastructure Architect

Infrastructure Architects focus on the design and implementation of an organization's enterprise infrastructure. This type of Architect is responsible for the infrastructure environment meeting the organization's business goals, and provide hardware, networking, operating system, and software solutions to satisfy them.

Security Architect

A Security Architect is responsible for an organization's computer and network security. They build, oversee, and maintain an organization's security implementations.

Security Architects must have a full understanding of an organization's systems and infrastructure so that they can design secure systems.

Cloud Architect

A Cloud Architect is someone who is responsible for an organization's cloud computing strategy and initiatives. They are responsible for the cloud architecture used for the deployment of software systems. An organization that has someone who is focused on cloud architecture leads to increased levels of success with cloud adoption.

The responsibilities of cloud architects include selecting a cloud provider and selecting the model (for example, SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS) that is most appropriate for the organization's needs.

Cloud Architects create cloud migration plans for existing applications not already in the cloud, including the coordination of the adoption process. They may also be involved in designing new cloud-native applications that are built from the ground up for the cloud.

Technical Architect

Technical Architects are another very technical role in Architecture. They develop the technical strategy for a project, making sure that the technical solutions meet the requirements of the customer and the business.

Technical Architects are also responsible for the long-term technical vision of a software solution. They evaluate new technologies and architectures to ensure the system meets the customer’s needs and is cost effective. Additionally, they are responsible for the development and implementation of standards and procedures to ensure the quality of the solutions.

Technical architects are very similar to Application/Software architects. Most likely, most people wouldn’t be able to differentiate them.

Principal Architect

Finally, Principal (or Lead) Architect. This role is usually more related to the leadership performed by the person (in this case, an Architect), than to specific tasks. However, it's expected that the Principal (or Lead) Architect usually possesses the widest knowledge within the team including Solution, Enterprise, Software and Cloud architecture.

Principal Architects frequently oversee and lead the design and development of projects from both a technical and managerial standpoint. Common tasks attributed to them include project leadership, design, planning, governance, team and client engagement.

Finally, principal Architects are expected to have exceptional technical, inter-personal, management, executive and sales skills. After all, they usually interact with a high level audience, including C-level executives.

Conclusion

On this article we presented a quick overview of the different types of IT Architects. Due to differences in scale, complexity, organizational structure and even how roles are defined, Architecture in the context of technology can (and will) vary significantly between organizations.

However, regardless of the role you execute in your organization, keep your skills sharpened by broadening your knowledge as much as you can in different domains. Tough task, but will get you prepared to anything your employer (and/or clients) request from you.

See Also

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The modern Solution/Software Architect

Understand what's required from modern Solution/Software Architects and learn why being one is much more complicated than you think 


Photo by Rodeo Project Management Software on Unsplash

Being a modern day Solution/Software Architect is much more complicated than you might think. On this article let's review the nuances of the role(s) and in which understand domains one should excel to be a successful modern day architect.

Solution Architects and Software Architects are not the same role. But because the guidelines listed on this article serve perfectly for both, for the purposes of this article, allow me to refer to both as simply, the Architect.

Apparently, there's a lot of confusion and ambiguity with regards to the Architecture role. Differently of most people think, an Architect is not an upscaled tech-lead or a principal engineer. In fact, the goals of each roles are so different that together, the Architect and a their technical counterparts make a great team.

With that said, allow me to introduce you to the Architect role.

Who is the Architect?

Architects are a hybrid of technical and executive. Which means that in order to be successful at their jobs they should have strong technical, communication, executive and interpersonal skills.

Architects are not expected to know every detail of a software component or every possible argument to Your-Favourite-CLI. But they should know enough to be able to evaluate the tradeoffs of each alternative, choose and detail how a particular technology is used, and most importantly why.

For that to happen, it is recommended that Architects prioritize to go wide and not deep (sorry, you can't do both). Wide in diversity of technology, frameworks, patterns and practices is preferred to deeply knowing how one technology works (which's what the Engineer is supposed to do). So having experience with a diversified portfolio of technologies is strongly recommended.

Additionally, the Architect should not act as a sales representative of a particular technology/cloud service provider. Their choices should always favour business decisions first and foremost.

The modern day Architect

With a lot of competition, AI, a plethora of technologies and faster than ever changes in the business marketplace, how can one keep up to date with so much? This is where the modern day Architect comes in. 

Modern day architects must be strong in technical and non-technical domains.

But because the modern day Architect being required to know so much and master many different domains, the first thing they should learn is how to prioritize what they'll work on. Make your goals SMART so they are prioritized, specific, measured and acted upon.

But remember that the fallacy that an Architect is purely technical has to be deconstructed. The modern day Architect should be technically strong while also possessing sufficient interpersonal skills to be able to lead teams, handle difficult conversations and interact with a diverse audience ranging from business executives, boards, RFPs to technical teams.

So let's review both domains.

Technical Skills

Software Design and Architecture

The modern software architect needs to be intimately familiar with software design principles and patterns, and be able to create efficient architectures that scale and can be easily maintained.

There is just so much here that the best way to address this is on another post. For now, let's summarize it to design + architecture + enterprise patterns, along with excellent

Development

Being able to program in a range of programming languages is essential for the modern Architect. Architects should be familiar with the syntax and features of the languages they work with, as well as the programming frameworks associated with them.

This should be a trivial one if you come from a development background. However, I'd like to add two things. First, beyond excellent programming skills, software architecture and design is crucial for the Architect role. Next, scripting (ex. Bash, Python or PowerShell) is also important as it's also needed by the DevSecOps area of expertise (see next).

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing includes a broad set of technologies that modern software architectures rely on, and a critical domain that the modern day Architect should be be well-versed in.

With the omnipresence of the cloud, make sure you have your cloud fundamentals right. On top of that, add the different facets of cloud (private, hybrid, multi) and complement all of that with architecture skills.

Sound complicated? Indeed. In fact, being a successful Architect that understands well the cloud (in all of its flavours) is much more than one may think. Especially because no certification can measure so much.

DevSecOps

Next, DevSecOps. Yes, DevOps + Security shifted left. The modern-day Architect should have strong fundamentals in everything from basic CI/CD pipelines to Kubernetes, as they'll need to engage frequently with engineers and business to make sure their solutions are modelled and work as expected.

Understanding of DevOps and Continuous Delivery are important for modern software architectures, and the modern software architect must be able to design and implement systems that use these technologies.

Data

Modern architects should have a deep understanding on data and related technologies. That includes data design, storage, analytics, security and governance.

Infrastructure

Modern architects should know enough infrastructure to help they clients wherever they are in their journey. That includes a solid understanding of virtualization, networking, containerization, monitoring, logging and infrastructure automation.

Security

Security is a moving target and a very difficult domain to master. Modern architects should know enough security to be able to understand, adopt security and communicate security to different stakeholders.

Governance and Compliance

Lastly, the modern architect should know enough on Governance, Privacy and Compliance. That includes standards, legislations and regulations as they have a profound impact on the business and on the final solution.

Interpersonal Skills

For an Architect, interpersonal skills are as important as the technical ones. Let's see the main ones.

Communication

Being able to effectively communicate with others is essential for the Architect. This includes ability to actively listen, clear communication, constructive feedback and be able to handle difficult conversations.

Communication is a critical skill for Architects as much of what their work - communicate their ideas and designs to other stakeholders - requires clear communication and must be done effectively.

Presentation and Public Speaking

Architects should be have strong presentation and public speaking skills, as they'll have to communicate to different audiences, both technical and executive.

Leadership

An Architect must have the ability to lead a team and guide them to achieve the project's goals. Part of the expectations include setting expectations, giving directions, and motivating peers.

Problem Solving

As part of their role, Architects must be able to analyze complex situations and come up with creative solutions. In this area, skills such as assessing the pros/cons of each alternative, balancing tradeoffs have to be counterbalanced with technical and business-specific requirements.

Negotiation

Negotiation is a critical skill for Architects as they have to negotiate all the time with vendors, customers, and other stakeholders to successfully achieve the project's goals.

Adaptability

Projects change all the time. Architects must be able to adjust to changing conditions and respond quickly to new challenges.

Emotional Intelligence

Executives must have the ability to read and understand the emotions of others and respond appropriately.

Networking

Architects must be able to connect to different stakeholders to build relationships with different types of professionals that help them make their projects successful.

Final Thoughts

Despite not being exactly the same, this article covered the general characteristics Solution/Software Architects should have to be successful in their hole.

As you may have realized, being a modern Solution/Software Architect is much more complex that one might think and involves being a hybrid tech-executive that takes a lot of time to master.

Hopefully this summary serves as a roadmap so you can guide your career to the level expected by the market when it comes to software/solution architecture.

Good luck!

See Also

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The importance of onboarding for tech employees

Not much about onboarding is discussed in the tech industry. As a critical component to any organization, here is what you should know as an employee and as an employer


Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

By far one of the most ignored things in tech is onboarding. Everyone talks about interviews, training, coaching, salaries and (recently) layoffs, but very little on the topic is mentioned.

Could it be because the topic is boring and won't get many clicks? Maybe.
Could it be because onboarding is for the HR only? For sure.
Could it be because tech people only is about tech stuff? Definitely.

Well, unfortunately that's all wrong. A lot.

As a critical piece for the human engine of any organization, onboarding should be carefully considered as it is critical for the long-term relationship between employers and employees, and directly impacts the profitability and growth of an organization.

High turnover

Recent studies show that the experience new hires have during the first weeks is crucial for the retention of the person. In fact, recent data outlines that "almost 20 per cent of turnover occurs within the first 45 days of a new employee’s start date".

If you add on top of that loss of projects due to shortage of skills, a very tight labour market, and the average cost to replace an employee taking up to $20,000.00/person, it's easy to see how much money is being lost by organizations doing a poor onboarding, especially on a tight job market / full-employment mode, as we're seeing in early 2023.

So how to make the overall experience better?

Improving the onboarding experience

First, start with proper training. Studies show that it can take between 3 and 9 months for the new hire to be fully productive in a company.

So forget that 1-week onboarding. Seriously.

In my experience, I've seen both extremes: people joining and kept on trainings for months, while others dumped in red-hot projects after mere weeks (or days). Obviously both examples are extreme and should sound like alerts for both employees and organizations as they signify either lack of projects or an understaffed organization.

However if we consider 3 month to be the ideal, then we can infer that organizations get a 40% discount should they onboard (and retain) a new employee within 3 months. Those are productivity gains that no organization should ignore.

Best-practices

So let's review how to address this critical issue. Here are some of my favourite onboarding practices for tech employees that leaders should consider:

  • Onboarding is not a one and done activity: it has to continue throughout the first year and potentially further on as is key to employee satisfaction.
  • Keep the employee engaged during the onboarding phase: offer different activities, have them meet different people and different teams. 
  • Make it fun: forget those long recording 
  • Foster interactions: introduce the new hires to other employees and teams they'll be interacting with.
  • Mix content: make sure your onboarding experience includes a mix of online led and self-directed sessions  
  • Avoid full-day back-to-back sessions: onboarding is exhausting. Don't make it painful.
  • Diversify: approach different topics and even allow them to explore different content.

How to make onboarding even more exciting

Additionally, if you want (and can) make onboarding even more exciting, here are 4 additional tips:

  • Provide a hands-on experience: Allow new tech employees to get hands-on experience with the technology they’ll be working with. If possible, provide a lab environment where they can play with the technology and get to know it better.
  • Assign a mentor: Assign each new tech employee an onboarding buddy. The onboarding buddy can serve as a mentor and help the new employee feel more comfortable in their new role.
  • Mix technology, medium and format: Use technology like video conferencing and interactive presentations to make the onboarding process more engaging. This will make the onboarding process more interactive and give the new employee a better understanding of the technology they’ll be working with.
  • Offer training: Provide online courses and hands-on training sessions to help new tech employees learn more about the technology they’ll be working with. This will provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in their new role.
  • Gamify: Use gamification techniques like rewards and leaderboards to make the onboarding process more interesting. This will help motivate new tech employees to learn more and keep them engaged throughout the onboarding process.

Next Steps

So what can you do to promptly address your own onboarding?

Well, the first thing is to take this conversation back to your manager and start the conversation. Additionally, interview recent hires and see what went good/bad/ugly in their first 6 months in the organization (don't mention onboarding).

Finally, engage the whole team and work together to make this experience great. Onboarding isn't only the responsibility of your leader.

Final Thoughts

Since the average cost to replace an employee getting up to $20,000.00, a very tight job marketplace and a high correlation between onboarding experience and employee retentions, companies of all sizes should re-consider the onboarding experience.

For the tech sector, in addition to that, consider making your onboarding experience more exciting by mixing sync and async sessions, training and gamification.

Further Reading

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Stress test your cloud applications with Azure Chaos Studio

Azure Chaos Studio makes it possible to stress test your applications directly from Azure, and can significantly help in your business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) strategies.

Azure Chaos Studio
Source: Azure

Azure Chaos Studio is a new service in Azure that allows you to test and improve the reliability of your applications. With it, teams can quickly identify weak spots in their architecture, addressing the enterprise goals of business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR).

Subjecting applications to real or simulated faults allows observing how applications respond to real-world disruptions.

Running chaos experiments used to be a complex task and required deploying very complex workloads. But with Chaos Studio it just became less complex, due to its availability from the Azure portal.

Azure Chaos Studio - Console
Source: Azure

What is Chaos Engineering?

Chaos engineering is a practice that helps teams measure, understand and improve their cloud applications by submitting those application to failures in controlled experiments. This practice helps identifying weak spots in your architecture, which if fixed, increases your service resilience.

Why Chaos Engineering?

The problem that Chaos Studio tries to solve is not new. Disaster recovery and business continuity are usually treated very seriously by organizations as outages can significantly impact reputations, revenues, and much more.

That said, practicing chaos engineering is a must for organizations actively working on business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) strategy. These drills ensure that applications can recover quickly and preserve critical data during failures.

Another important factor to consider is high availability (HA). Chaos Engineering helps validating application resilience against regional outages, network configuration errors, high load, and more.

Features

Some of the most interesting features provided by Azure Chaos Studio are:

  • Test resilience against real-world incidents, like outages or high CPU utilization
  • Reproduce incidents to better understand the failure.
  • Ensure that post-incident repairs prevent the incident from recurring.
  • Prepare for a major event or season with "game day" load, scale, performance, and resilience validation.
  • Do business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) drills to ensure that your application can recover quickly and preserve critical data in a disaster.
  • Run high availability (HA) drills to test application resilience against region outages, network configuration errors and high stress events.
  • Develop application performance benchmarks.
  • Plan capacity needs for production environments.
  • Run stress tests or load tests.
  • Ensure that services migrated from an on-premises or other cloud environment remain resilient to known failures.
  • Build confidence in services built on cloud-native architectures.
  • Validate that live site tooling, observability data, and on-call processes still work in unexpected conditions.

How to get started

Getting started with Azure Chaos Studio is simple, just log into your Azure Account and follow these steps.

References

Monday, May 2, 2022

Managed Grafana now available on Azure

It's now possible to run Grafana natively on Azure. Read to understand.

Source: Azure

Grafana, the most popular open-source analytics visualization tool is now available on Azure as a managed service. With it, customers can run Grafana natively within the Azure cloud platform without needing to provision or managing the backend services needed to run it.

Why use Grafana?

With Grafana, users can bring together logs, traces, metrics, and other disparate data from across an organization, regardless of where they are stored. With Azure Managed Grafana, the Grafana dashboards our customers are familiar with are now integrated seamlessly with the services and security of Azure.

Features

Azure Managed Grafana is a fully managed service for analytics and monitoring solutions. It's supported by Grafana Enterprise, which provides extensible data visualizations. Quickly and easily deploy Grafana dashboards with built-in high availability and control access with Azure security.

Source: Azure

Azure Managed Grafana also provides a rich set of built-in dashboards for various Azure Monitor features to help customers easily build new visualizations. For example, some features with built-in dashboards include Azure Monitor application insights, Azure Monitor container insights, Azure Monitor virtual machines insights, and Azure Monitor alerts.

How to get started

Getting started with Grafana on Azure is easy. Here are some links you should check:

References

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Why use Vim

Depending on your preconceptions, Vim may look exotic or sexy. Let's review those assumptions and provide rational reasons to use this fantastic text editor.
Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

It may be possible that you heard about Vim. It may be possible that you didn't. Depending on your background, it may even be possible that have preconceptions about it. On this post, let's try to review all assumptions and provide concrete reasons to use this fantastic text editor.

This article is an adaptation of another publication made by me on Vim4us. I'm re-publishing here to a wider audience with a few tweaks.

Vim is ubiquitous

Vim has been around for almost thirty years. Due to its simplicity, ubiquity  and low resource requirements, it's the preferred editor by sysadmins worldwide.

Easy to install

Vim is also easy to install on Windows and Macs and is packaged in most Linux distros meaning that, even if it isn't installed in your system, Vim is one line from the terminal and two clicks from your software manager.

Vim is lightweight

Differently from most editors, Vim is very lightweight. The installation package is only 10 Mb and depending on your setup, memory consumption reaches  20 Mb. Compare that with most text editors, especially the Electron-based editors like Visual Studio. Install size is not less than 200Mb, memory consumption quickly 1Gb (50 times more!) while requiring 1.5Gb of storage, making it slow, even on modern hardware.

If you're running a Mac, a low end computer, a phone, or even a Raspberry Pi, Vim is definitely a good option for you.

Vim is stable

As previously said, Vim has been around for almost 30 years. And will probably be for at two more decades. Learning Vim is an excellent investment as you will be able to use your knowledge for the next two decades at least.

Compare that to the editor you use today (EclipseVisual StudioSublime TextVisual Studio Code) - can you really guarantee you'll be using them ten years from now?

Vim is language-independent

Vim works well with anything you want, as long as it's text. Vim works by default with most file formats, has locales, can be localized, supports eastern typography such as Arabic and Hebrew and comes with built-in support (including highlighting) for most languages.

Vim respects your freedom

Vim does not contain any built-in telemetry. It's (unfortunately) common theses days the companies are abusing your statistics in favor of improvements in their system. Sysadmins trust that Vim will not be reaching the network to run ad-hoc requests.

Vim is efficient

Vim is brilliant in how it optimizes your use of the keyboard. We'll talk about that later but for now, understand that its combination of multiple modes, motions, macros and other brilliant features makes it literally light-years ahead of other text editors.

Thriving Ecosystem

Stop for a second and think about which feature you couldn't live without today on your current text editor? The answer you probably be that Python or Go extension, meaning that what you'll miss is not actually about the editor but about its ecosystem.

Vim has a brilliant ecosystem. You'll find thousands of extensions covering anything you need. You can also host your extensions anywhere (on GitHub, for example) without being locked by any vendor. You could also host them in private/corporate repos just for your team or share on public directories like Vim Awesome.

Vim is ultra-customizable

Even if by default Vim has most of what you need, it's important to understand that Vim lets you change pretty much everything. For example, you can make temporary/local customizations (by using the Ex mode), permanent customizations (by changing your .vimrc) or even customizations based on file type.

Vim is always getting better

Vim is actively developed meaning that it keeps getting better. Vim users get security patches and new features all the time. Vim is also updated to accommodate the latest upgrades on modern operating systems while also supporting older systems too!

Huge Community

Vim's community is huge and you can get help easily. These days, the most active discussions happen on Vim's mailing listsStack ExchangeIRCYouTube and of course, Reddit.

Extensive documentation

Learning how to learn Vim is the key to a continuous understanding of the tool and not getting frustrated. There are many ways to get help on Vim: using its built-in help system, using the man pages and obviously, accessing the communities listed above.

Vim is free

These days it may be odd to say that Vim's free. Vim's freedom goes beyond its price, but also your freedom to modify it to your needs and deploy it wherever you want. Vim developers also have a strong commitment to helping needed people around the world.

GUI-less

Vim also runs GUI-less, meaning it runs on your terminal. So you get a full featured text-editor on any system you're working on, regardless if it's a local desktop or remote supercomputer. This feature is essential for sysadmins and developers who often need to modify text files on remote machines trough an SSH connection.

Rich out-of-the-box toolset

Vim comes with fantastic tooling by default: powerful search, regular expression support, syntax highlighting, text sort, integrated terminal, integrated file manager, cryptography, color schemes, plugin management and much more. All without a single plugin installed!

Vim integrates into your workflow

Differently from other text editors which force you into their thing, Vim adjusts seamlessly to your workflow via powerful customization, extension support, integrated shell support and ability to pipe data in/out from it. 

Vim can be programmed

Want to go the extra mile? Vim also has its own language, called VimL. With it you can create your own plugins and optimize even further the system to your needs.

Vim will boost your productivity

There are multiple ways Vim will boost your productivity. First, Vim's extensive use of the home row of the keyboard saves you from having to reach the arrow keys (or even worse, the mouse) to do your work. Second, with Vim you can quickly create macros to reproduce repetitive operations, third, the combination of motions, plugins, custom shortcuts and shell integration will definitely boost your productivity way more than you could imagine.

Vim will make you type better and faster

Being keyboard based, Vim's workflow based on the home row will definitely help force you to type better. With Vim you'll realize that you probably move your hands way more than you should and will significantly increase your typing speed.

Vim will make you learn more

Most editors these days do too much. Yes, part of that is imposed on us by languages that require a lot of metadata (Java and C# for example). One problem with that is that you end up relying on the text editor much more than you need. Without access to Eclipse or Visual Studio it may be possible that you'll feel the impostor syndrome

With Vim, despite being able to, you'll feel closer to your work, resulting in a better understanding of what you're doing. You'll also realize that you will learn more and memorize better the contents of what you're working on.

Conclusion

On this post we provided many tips why one should learn Vim. Vim is stable, ubiquitous and is supported by an engaged, growing community. Given all its features, Vim is definitely a good tool to learn now and harvest the benefits for decades to come.

References

See Also

Monday, January 3, 2022

Why use the terminal

The command-line (aka terminal) is a scary thing for most users. But understanding it can be a huge step in your learning journey and add a significant boost to your career in tech.

Photo by Tianyi Ma on Unsplash

Depending on your technical skills, the command-line interface (also known as CLI or terminal) may look scary. But it shouldn't! The CLI is a powerful and resourceful tool that every person aspiring greater tech skills should learn and be comfortable with. On this article, let's review many reasons why you should learn and use the command line, commonly (and often incorrectly) referred to as terminal, shell, bash and CLI. 

This article is an adaptation of another one originally published by me on Linux4us. I'm re-publishing here to a wider audience with a few tweaks.

Ubiquitous

The command-line interface (CLI) is available in every operating system, not only in Linux. Very frequently, this is where developers and system administrators spend a lot of time. But, if you want to work with Linux, development, the cloud or with technology in general, better start learning it.

Terminals are available in every operating system including Linux, Windows and Macs

Powerful

CLI-based apps are much more powerful than their GUI-based equivalents. That happens because usually GUIs are usually wrappers around libraries that power both the GUIs and the terminal apps. Very frequently, these libraries contain way more functionality than what's available in the graphical interface because, as you might expect, since software development takes time and costs money to produce, developers only add to GUI apps the most popular features. 

For example, take a look at the plethora of options that the GNU find tool provides us:

Does your GUI-based find tool has all those options?

Quicker

Common and repetitive tasks are also faster in the terminal with the advantage that you will be able to repeat and even schedule these tasks so they run automatically, releasing you to do actual work, leaving the repetitive tasks to computer.

For example, consider this standard development workflow:

  1. download code from GitHub
  2. make changes
  3. commit code locally
  4. push changes back to GitHub

If you were doing the above using a GUI-based git client (for example, Tortoise Git), the workflow would be similar to the below, taking you approximately 20 minutes to complete:

  1. Open Tortoise Git's web page
  2. Click Download
  3. Next -> Next -> Next -> Finish
  4. Right-click a folder in Windows Explorer (or Nautilus, or Finder) -> Select clone -> Paster the Url -> Click OK
  5. Wait for the download to Complete -> Click OK
  6. Back to Windows Explorer -> Find File -> Open it
  7. Make your changes (by probably using GEdit, KEdit or Visual Studio Code) -> Save
  8. Back to Windows Explorer
  9. Right Click -> Commit
  10. Right Click -> Push
  11. Take a deep breath

In the terminal (for example, in Ubuntu), the workflow would be equivalent to the below and could be completed in less than 2 minutes:

sudo apt update && sudo apt install git -y   # install git
git clone <url>     # clone the GitHub repo locally
vim/nano file -> save  # edit the file using a text-based editor
git commit -m <msg> # commits the file locally
git push  # push the changes back to our GitHub repo

Automation

Terminal/CLI-based tasks can be scripted (automated) and easily repeated, meaning that you will be able to optimize a big part of your workflow. Another benefit is that these scripts can be easily shared, exactly as business and professional developers do!

So let's continue the above example. Our developer realized she is wasting too much time in the GUI and would like to speed up her workflow even more. She learned some bash scripting and wrote the function below:

gcp ()
{
    msg="More updates";
    if [ -n "$1" ]; then
        msg=$1;
    fi;
    git add ./ && git commit -m "$msg" && git push

She's happy because now she can run from the terminal, the below command as soon as she finishes her changes:

gcp <commit-msg>

What previously took 5 minutes is now is done in 2 seconds (1.8 seconds to write the commit message and 0.2 to push the code upstream). A significant improvement in her workflow. Imagine how much more productive she would be during the course of her career!

It's important to always think how can you optimize your workflow. These small optimizations add up to your productivity significantly over time.

Lightweight

Not only the CLI is faster and more lightweight than equivalent GUI-based applications but it's quicker to run the same commands. For example, consider a Git client like Tortoise Git. It was supposed to be lightweight (what most GUI apps aren't) but it takes 3s to completely load and uses 10Mb of memory:

Our GUI-based git client TortoiseGit

Now take a look at its CLI equivalent. git status runs in 0.3s and consumes less than 1Mb. In other words, 20 times more efficient memory-wise and 10 times faster. 

A simple CLI command is 20x more efficient and 10x faster then its GUI equivalent

Disk Space Efficient

Another advantage of terminal apps over their GUI-equivalents is reduced disk space. For example, contrast these two popular apps. Can you spot the differences?

Application    Installation Size       Total Size       Memory Usage   
Visual Studio Code        80Mb 300Mb 500Mb (on sunny days)
Nano 0.2 Mb 0.8 Mb 3 Mb
400x more efficient 375x more efficient 160x more efficient

Extensible

Another important aspect is that the CLI is extensible. From it, skilled users could easily either extend its basic functionality using its built-in features like pipes and redirections combining inputs and outputs from different tools.

For example, sysadmins could list the first two users in the system who use Bash as a shell, ordered alphabetically with:

cat /etc/passwd | grep bash | cut -d : -f 1 | sort | head -2

What's interesting from the above command is how we combined 5 different tools to get the results we need. Once you master the Linux terminal, you'll too will be able to utilize these tools effectively to get work done significantly faster!

This is a more advanced topic. We'll see in future posts more details about it.

Customizable

As you might expect, the terminal is extremely customizable. Everything from the prompt to functions (as seen above) and even custom keybindings can be customized. For example, In Linux, binding the shortcut Ctrl+V to open the Vim text editor on the terminal is simple. Add this to your .bashrc file:

bind '"\C-V":"vim\n"'

Extensive range of Apps

Contrary to what most newcomers thing, the terminal has apps too! You will find apps for pretty much any use case. For example:

The above list is far from comprehensive. It's just to give you an idea of what you'd be able to find in there

For example, here's the Castero Podcast app running on a terminal:

Source; GitHub

Professional Development

Want to work with Linux, as a developer or with the cloud? Another important aspect of using the terminal is that it will make you more ready for the job market. Since servers usually run Linux and don't have GUIs, you will end up having to use some of the above tools on your day-to-day work. Developers frequently use it to run repetitive tasks, becoming way more productive. So why not start now?

Learn more about your System

Hopefully at this point you realize that you will learn way more about your system and computers in general when you use the terminal. And I'm not talking solely to Linux users. Windows and Mac users will learn a lot too! This is the secret sauce that the most productive developers want you to know!

It's also a huge win for testing new tools, maintaining your system, installing software, fixing issues and tweaking as you wish.

Getting Started

Ready to get started on your terminal/CLI journey? Here's a video that may serve as a good intro: 

Conclusion

Every modern computer has a terminal. Learning it will save you time, allow you to automate common actions, make you learn more about your system, grow professionally and be more productive. Well worth the effort, isn't it?

See Also

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Vimium, the hacker's browser

Vimium is an essential tool for those looking to increase their productivity regardless if you're on Windows, Mac or Linux. Read to understand.
Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

If you read this blog before, you probably know my perfect setup: Fedora Linux, the i3 window manager (or Sway), the terminalRangerVim and lot, lots of automation. I got to this setup after meticulously searching for tools that could improve my workflow so I could be more productive, doing less. However, during that journey I realized that the browsing experience  - which takes a lot of our productive time - wasn't as optimal as it could be, so I started looking for ways to optimize it as well.

Turns out that Vimium is the key ingredient on that setup. On this post, let's learn what Vimium is, what it offers, how to use it, and how you too can be more productive, regardless of what your perfect setup might be.

About Vimium

So what's Vimium? Vimium's is a browser extension that provides keyboard shortcuts for navigating and controlling your browser inspired by the Vim text editor.

But why use Vimium?

So why should you care for yet another browser extension? Because Vimium:
  • will increase your productivity: by allowing you navigate the web without using the mouse.
  • makes you work faster: when you get used with Vimium you'll be able to accomplish work faster.
  • is highly customizable: allowing you to set your own keyboard shortcuts
  • is simple to use: once you understand how it works, it'll be very intuitive
  • has Vim-like keybindings: this is what makes Vimium 
  • helps reducing your fatigue: during the day, we do thousands of movements from the keyboard to the mouse. Keeping your hands centered on the keyboard will save you a lot of energy.
  • is an active open-source project: mature and healthy open-source projects are important as they guarantee you'll receive updates, fixes and improvements. You can find it's source code here.

Supported browsers

Currently Vimium runs on most browsers including Google Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Brave.

Why based on Vim?

Contrary to what you may have heard, Vim is a fantastic text editor. Vim emphasizes good typing practices by leveraging the keys located around the home row. The home row (F and J) is the most efficient place to place of your fingers causing less muscular stress and reduced arm movement. Vimium brings these concepts to the browser, transforming the traditional point-click browsing experience into productivity through the use of the keyboard.

Installing Vimium

Installing Vimium is very simple. Just open the app store for your browser and click Add extension (or equivalent) button on the extension page. Google Chrome users check this page, Firefox users can find Vimium here.
Installing Vimium on your browser should be as simple as navigating to the links above, clicking the Add extension button and confirming. No restart is necessary.

Using Vimium

With Vimium installed, let's start with the basics. The most essential shortcuts are:
  • f: pressing f will make Vimium highlight all hyperlinks. Entering the key opens the link on the same tab
  • F: same as f but opens on another tab
  • x: close the current tab
  • j: scroll down
  • k: scroll up
  • d: scroll down half a page
  • u: scroll up half a page
  • gg: scroll to top of the page
  • G: scroll to bottom of the page
  • H: go to the previous page
  • L: go the the next page 
  • b: open a bookmark
  • /: search
Vimium does not run on all pages. If the V icon on your bar is grey, it's turned off.  Vim also does not run by default on Private Mode but you can configure it to, on the extension settings page.

Managing Tabs

Vimium can also manage your tabs. The most used commands are:
  • x: close the current tab
  • F + link: opens link in another tab
  • J: previous tab
  • K: next tab
  • g<num>: goes to tab <num>
  • t: create new tab
  • yt: duplicate current tab
  • X: undo close tab

Getting Help

With Vimium installed, press ? to view the default shortcuts. You should see a screen like this:

A simple example

So let's do a simple example if possible, by just using the keyboard. With Vimium installed, open its GitHub page and press f. You should see:
As you can realize, all the yellow boxes contain letters inside. Typing them will tell the browser to click those links. For example, if I pressed S, I'd be taken to the link that here points to on the same tab. Need to continue working? Just open a new tab and go from there. Change tabs with J or K (uppercase), close with x, rinse and repeat.
I used F instead of f, typing S next would open here in another tab.

Advanced Features

As previously said, Vimium is also highly configurable. Because it's out of the scope of this post, will simply point you to the official configuration. There's a lot more there and once you get used with the tool you'll probably want to explore and customize it to your needs.

Conclusion

On this post we explained why using Vimium may yield good results by increasing your productivity and reducing your fatigue. I hope you are excited to try it out. If you want to learn other productivity hacks, check the Ranger file manager and the Vim text editor. Together with Vimium, these tools will make your workflow way more productive.

See Also

About the Author

Bruno Hildenbrand      
Principal Architect, Hildenco Solutions.