(a blog)
Monday, June 18, 2007
  Changing SCM as a metaphor for organizational change

SCM is a terrible term: officially it stands for "software configuration management," which is not very illuminating. Those with a finer appreciation for semantics prefer "software change management" or "source code management."

Currently I'm evaluating SCM systems for local use. There are a ton of freely available open-source solutions, but so far the ones I've examined miss the mark. At my previous employer, I had the pleasure of using Perforce, albeit a modified version. So I've been reading up about Perforce, and happened upon a whitepaper "Changing how you change" by Peter Jackson of Symbian Ltd. (makers of Symbian OS) and Richard Brooksby of Ravenbrook Limited (a software engineering consultancy.)

On the surface it's about how Symbian changed the internal structure of their SCM system. Omit the technical details, and it reads as a metaphor for organizational change. It contains some real gems. On a light note:

A good thing about consultants is that they can move through an organization asking awkward questions and stepping on toes in a way that is hard for internal staff to do.

But this part compelled me to circle it in red ink and annotate it with "AWESOME":

The [...] changes were very successful and it is worth reflecting on the reasons for this and to try to abstract them to help with other change projects. They fall into two sets:
  1. The prerequisites for change:
    1. The organisation is in pain;
    2. There is a solution available;
    3. Key people on the ground are able and willing to act as agents of change;
    4. Senior management support the change exercise.
  2. The execution of the change:
    1. A lot of careful planning and thought goes into the change;
    2. this is coupled with extensive communication at all levels;
    3. the engineering community is fully involved in the change;
    4. everyone affected by the change receives training and documentation.

And there's more. If you're into three letter acronyms like SCM, it offers some great advice. If you don't know your SCM from your Scrum, it still offers some great advice. A recommended read.

Blogger Unknown @ 7:52 AM, June 19, 2007

If you're in the mood, check out Mercurial and tell me what you think. I've been using Subversion as path-of-least-resistance, but SD/Perforce spoiled me in many regards.



Blogger Walter GR @ 10:36 AM, June 19, 2007

Hey Paul, good to hear from you! I'll take a look at Mercurial.

BTW, Perforce offers a free 2-seat license, and all the software is available for anyone to download from their site. Each seat is limited to 5 client views, but I still think that's a pretty sweet offer.

(What hosting company do you use for your website, out of curiosity?)



Blogger Unknown @ 8:40 PM, June 19, 2007

Yeah, I know about Perforce. They get expensive really quickly beyond the free 2-seat license, so it's no good for my new job. As for using it personally, although it's easy to get a Perforce server running, I didn't want to do it on my home machine and don't have access to an always-on machine in a hosting environment where I could run a server. My webhost does SVN setups automagically, and from what I understand of Mercurial, it looks interesting in that there's no "central" repository I'd want to keep up 100% of the time.

As to the hosting, there are a few answers:

1. My personal site, along with my parents' personal sites and the family business site, are hosted at pair Networks. If you're looking for extremely reliable shared hosting, they can't be beat. I've been there over a decade now, and the longest spout of downtime was 8 hours about 7 years ago when the moved datacenters. Beyond that, they've never had more than ~15 minutes of downtime/year on any average server, and they manage their support amazingly well. They're a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for.

2. The company now I work at is hosted at HostRocket. The only thing I really have to say about them is that they're cheap. I had some issues with the way they setup the DNS for the domains - they create a wildcard record regardless of whether you want one or not, so their "unlimited subdomains" are easier to manage. Any typo ends up going to some random "Congratulations! Your Apache server is installed!" page. We'll be running our own infrastructure in a colo by the time we launch, so it's not worth changing in the interim.

3. I have another account at DreamHost, mainly because they're dirt cheap and oversell like crazy. If you want something high-bandwidth, low-CPU, and don't care about server uptime, they're cool. Unlike many people who say they're crap, I haven't had any bad experiences, but I keep my expectations low.

I've been considering dumping one or more of the above and moving to a VPS. The company I've got my eye on for hosting right now is Slicehost - they seem to have the most bang for the buck and so far at least they seem to managing their infrastructure well.

I've been playing with OpenSolaris a lot lately, and I'd love to see a VPS provider offer it - right now the closest thing are TextDrive accelerators, but they're about twice as expensive. The other thing about TextDrive/Joyent is that I'm not really sure they know what they want to be - they have their own web apps and services, and they sell hosting. I think a company that focuses on kick-ass hosting will do better than them, because they spread themselves thin. From what I've heard, TextDrive has gone through some serious growing pains since the Rails core team started pumping them as the defacto Rails host 2 years ago.


Blogger Walter GR @ 8:52 PM, June 19, 2007

I use pair as well! I think they're great. I spent forever looking for a hosting company, but in retrospect I think you can eliminate 99% of providers if you have a requirement for SSH+SFTP access. This one company I looked at - forgot which one - offered SSH but no SFTP! o_O? Is that even possible??

I actually looked at TextDrive and came away with a similar conclusion. Are you _really_ shared hosting, or are you _really_ a web app provider?

In the end pair won out because I don't think I know enough about being an admin to use SliceHost, and though Media Temple's Grid Servers sound interesting, they seem to be plagued with problems.

"The company you work at"? I didn't find your e-mail address on your website... e-mail me at I want to hear more! :)


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