04 August 2011

A trip back to the sharp end

On 1st August, James Moore, head of the team at Red Gate who brought to the world the likes of SQL Prompt, SQL Compare and SQL Source Control, and responsible for the future strategy for SQL developer tools at Red Gate, set off on a “walkabout”, leaving a sizeable team to run itself, for an indefinite period. Read this blog post to find out why James has made this decision.

Over recent years, my team, and Red Gate in general, has thrived by providing simple robust tools that solve common database development problems better than any other, and fit smoothly into a user’s existing workflow. I’ve personally talked to countless people who tell me how much time SQL Compare, for example, has saved them when migrating schema changes.

However, development practices are changing faster than ever; Agile techniques are well and truly embedded in mainstream development and evolving quickly. Cloud computing is starting to affect where we store, and how we distribute, our data. An important part of my job as manager of the team is to make sure our tools evolve in the right way; to make them as effective as possible in supporting these and many other new ways of working.

As a hot-headed developer, it could be easy to get swept up in the level of automation that’s now possible in integration and deployment of software builds, with relatively modestly-sized teams handling 10K automated builds a month, and Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment moving from a team practice towards being an integral part of enterprise-wide software delivery. Why is the world of database development less enthusiastic in participating in these trends? Surely with the right tools, Continuous Deployment for database development can be a reality?

Certain complexities, such as the likelihood that databases are shared between applications, the need for data interchange between databases, and the requirements for maintaining the integrity of the data in all its complexity during deployments, all make the rapid refactoring of databases more difficult, and so we’re already working hard to make database refactoring, version control, and deployment easier and quicker.

However, I came to realize that, however much I’ve liaised with our existing users of our products, I don’t have enough personal experience of working in an enterprise database environment, to enable me to fully understand the exact requirements for enterprise database deployments, what the real barriers are to Continuous Deployment for databases, and whether it is even a desirable goal for many businesses.

Ultimately, though, I also believe that, despite the complications of persistence and data, the principles of refactoring, automated regression testing and so on, can be applied equally as well to database code as to application code, and to great benefit.

So this, in short, is why I am on the road. I want to visit as many organizations as I can, big and small, especially if you are pushing the barriers of database development. I need to watch, and learn how you work. I need to understand what parts of your process are automated, and what parts defy automation. If you’re already trying to continuously deploy databases, perhaps even to the cloud, I’d love to visit you. If the concept is anathema, I’d be just as pleased be able to visit you and find out why.

If you could spare even just an hour, I’d be grateful to hear from you. Please email me here or comment below and I’ll be in touch shortly.

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James Moore

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