Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Stackify Blog, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Automated Error Prevention for Linux

Protect the reliability and cost-effectiveness of Linux

Most organizations that use Linux as a business operating system are developing their own applications for Linux - perhaps in response to the current scarcity of packaged applications available on Linux. With so much internal development for Linux, it is critical that the IT groups building your Linux-based applications have a means to efficiently produce reliable code. If they don't, you will jeopardize the very reliability and cost-effectiveness that most organizations are trying to achieve by turning to Linux.

However, most development teams follow a development process that is far from efficient, and the applications they provide typically experience functionality problems and security weaknesses that require patches, updates, and redeployments. In fact, most IT organizations waste a great deal of their time, effort, and resources fixing what is essentially the same error. As a result, applications are not deployed on time and on budget, applications are not reliable, and/or the organization's developers are probably following the standard rule of 80% time spent debugging and 20% time spent writing new code. Here's why: traditional software testing methodology tries to control costs and improve quality by promoting the tactic of testing "early and often." If an error is detected at any time during the software life cycle, a bug report is filed, the responsible developer tries to reproduce and repair the problem, then testing must verify that the modification corrected the reported problem and did not introduce any new problems. This approach is not only time consuming and costly, but also inefficient because it doesn't do anything to prevent the same types of errors from happening again. Consequently, a single IT group probably wastes a significant amount of time, effort, and resources on the same types of errors thousands of times over.

With the error prevention knowledge and technology available today, an IT development team should never encounter the same type of software error twice. By applying a concept called Automated Error Prevention (AEP), you can ensure that any time an error is discovered, the development process is improved, and that error - along with entire classes of similar errors - is prevented from recurring. If this methodology is implemented throughout your organization's IT groups, the developers will have the infrastructure and process essential for efficiently producing applications that leverage the strengths of Linux.

What Is the Parasoft AEP Methodology?
The Parasoft AEP methodology defines the practices that apply the concept of AEP to the software life cycle, and describes how those practices can be used in a group environment. The concept of AEP advocates the automation of five specific procedures, which are combined to improve the development process and prevent software errors:

  1. Detect an error
  2. Isolate the cause of the error
  3. Locate the point in the process that created the error
  4. Implement practices to prevent the error from reoccurring
  5. Monitor for improvements
The key to AEP is that you should find a bug only once (or learn from someone else who has already found and analyzed that bug). The knowledge you gain from finding and analyzing bugs should be used to improve your process so that you never encounter repeat occurrences of bugs similar to those you have already found.

For example, imagine that you have an n-tier system that includes a client, middleware written in Java, and a database. Assume that load tests revealed that a heavy load stopped the system. After detailed analysis, you discovered the problem was caused by a resource leak from open connections to the database. Normally, you would simply identify and modify the code to close the connection.

However, if you were to approach this situation from the perspective of AEP, you would try to determine how to prevent the problem from recurring. After isolating the problem as an open connection, you would determine that the error was introduced because a developer wrote code to open - but not close - a connection. You might then try to stop this error from recurring by implementing a practice that ensures that code written to open a connection is always accompanied by code to close that connection.

One way to implement this practice is to establish a Java coding standard requiring that each class that opens a connection must have a finalize() method and the finally block to close the connection. If code follows this rule, the error won't reoccur. But how will you enforce this? You could try to enforce the practice by having the team conduct code reviews. However, this is inefficient because the team would need to manually review and analyze all of the code to determine whether all of the connections were closed.

A more efficient strategy is to use a static analysis tool that can analyze the code and automatically identify any violations of this guideline. The team can then prevent leaks by ensuring that all connections are closed.

This is the idea behind AEP. You found an error during load testing, then isolated the error's source as a resource leak from an open connection in the Java middleware. You found that the Java code was missing a finally block and finalize() method, defined a coding standard to specify how code should be written in the future, and automated the process to ensure that this standard is actually followed.

How Is AEP Implemented?
You implement AEP by defining error prevention practices - including coding standards, static analysis, unit testing, regression testing, load and stress testing, functional testing, integration testing, application testing, and monitoring - and integrating these practices into the software life cycle as shown in Figure 1.

 

Whenever an error is detected during a specific practice, you modify an earlier practice to prevent that error and all similar errors. For instance, in the example from the previous section, an error was identified during load testing, then the coding standard checking practice was modified to include a new coding standard.

How Do I Implement AEP Practices?
The way that you implement AEP practices can determine whether AEP becomes an effective and sustainable part of the development process, or just another fad that sounded good in principle, but never produced the promised results. Each AEP practice implemented must satisfy three requirements for success. Each practice must be:

  1. Implemented as a group practice
  2. Embedded in the software life cycle
  3. Automated to ensure that it does not decay
All three requirements are critical for every practice, which is why I recommend that you implement each practice in a similar manner. The recommended group workflow for all practices is described in Figure 2.

 

To achieve automation, you ensure that each developer is equipped with the technology required to automate the practice. The technology might be scripts or programs developed internally, open source tools, or commercial tools.

To promote the necessary uniformity and enforce group behavior, you ensure that all team members are automating the practice in exactly the same way, and that only the team architect can modify the tool settings. Moreover, to maintain the integrity of the code base, you require that developers apply the practice to their code before they add that code to the source control system. Any practice violations must be remedied before the developers check in the code.

To verify that developers actually adhere to the required practices, you configure the technologies that automate the practice to run regularly scheduled batch mode tests on the code available in the source control system. No violations should occur at this point. If any do occur, the tools notify the architect and the developer; this notification serves as an invitation for a code review. During the code review, the architect and developer review the violation of the practice and determine whether this was an appropriate violation.

Information from the regularly scheduled batch mode tests should be collected in a central location (such as a relational database), and then analyzed to measure how well the practice is implemented. In addition, managers can use this information to better assess group productivity and project progress.

A Final Word
The software industry must mature, and there can be no maturation without effective error prevention and process improvement. We have no other options - we must do it. If we don't, we will pay dearly for it in functionality and security problems, excessively high development costs, and depressingly low productivity.

The Parasoft AEP Methodology
The Automated Error Prevention (AEP) Concept has been developed over the course of many years through close work with the software industry, Parasoft development personnel, and the personal dedication of Dr. Adam Kolawa, chairman and CEO of Parasoft Corporation. The AEP Concept addresses a basic need within the software industry, that of improving application quality through the automatic prevention of errors during the entire software development lifecycle. We believe that the AEP Concept is fundamental for improving the efficiency of the software industry and is critical for the software industry to mature.

Because the AEP Concept is so important, it must be shared with others in the industry. Therefore, Parasoft is pleased to place the Automated Error Prevention (AEP) Concept, the "five steps plus automation," into the Public Domain. Parasoft is very committed to the AEP Concept, and wishes to see it embraced by companies and organizations that want to improve their software manufacturing and development processes. We encourage others to adopt the Parasoft AEP Concept, to improve it or change it as needed, and build their own methodologies and products from it. To this end, Parasoft will soon unveil the AEP Consortium, a think-tank that will bring together software corporations and leaders to foster support and practical implementation techniques for the AEP Concept.

Parasoft AEP Methodology is a specific application of the AEP Concept to the software development life cycle. It defines how you place the automated procedures into the software life cycle and how you ensure that the development group works together to implement and maintain the practice. The Parasoft AEP Methodology is not a product. Rather, it is the definition and description of a process in which proven error prevention practices are automated for the software development industry.

We believe that there are other AEP Methodologies that are waiting to be discovered and applied to the software development life cycle, and we encourage others in the software industry to conduct research to facilitate the creation and dissemination of these additional methodologies. We have simply conducted the first phases of this research - there is still much more that can be done.

Parasoft AEP Solutions are specific implementations of the Parasoft AEP Methodology that combines tools, services, and know-how to support the full software life cycle. Companies such as IBM, Cisco, and Warner Music Group have adopted Parasoft AEP Solutions and are already reaping benefits throughout their entire software development programs.

More Stories By Adam Kolawa

Adam Kolawa is the co-founder and CEO of Parasoft, leading provider of solutions and services that deliver quality as a continuous process throughout the SDLC. In 1983, he came to the United States from Poland to pursue his PhD. In 1987, he and a group of fellow graduate students founded Parasoft to create value-added products that could significantly improve the software development process. Adam's years of experience with various software development processes has resulted in his unique insight into the high-tech industry and the uncanny ability to successfully identify technology trends. As a result, he has orchestrated the development of numerous successful commercial software products to meet growing industry needs to improve software quality - often before the trends have been widely accepted. Adam has been granted 10 patents for the technologies behind these innovative products.

Kolawa, co-author of Bulletproofing Web Applications (Hungry Minds 2001), has contributed to and written over 100 commentary pieces and technical articles for publications including The Wall Street Journal, Java Developer's Journal, SOA World Magazine, AJAXWorld Magazine; he has also authored numerous scientific papers on physics and parallel processing. His recent media engagements include CNN, CNBC, BBC, and NPR. Additionally he has presented on software quality, trends and development issues at various industry conferences. Kolawa holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the California Institute of Technology. In 2001, Kolawa was awarded the Los Angeles Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the software category.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Dan Kegel 12/29/03 11:59:48 AM EST

Parasoft just wants to sell you expensive tools.
Skip their sales pitch, and go check out Valgrind
(http://valgrind.kde.org). It's a free tool that
finds a lot of the same problems the Parasoft tools
do. And it doesn't even require you to recompile your
apps. Valgrind was used recently by the Openoffice team
to find and fix a large number of subtle bugs in their
extremely complex C++ app. If it's good enough for Openoffice,
it's good enough for your app. Valgrind rocks!

@ThingsExpo Stories
I think DevOps is now a rambunctious teenager - it's starting to get a mind of its own, wanting to get its own things but it still needs some adult supervision," explained Thomas Hooker, VP of marketing at CollabNet, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessio...
IoT is rapidly becoming mainstream as more and more investments are made into the platforms and technology. As this movement continues to expand and gain momentum it creates a massive wall of noise that can be difficult to sift through. Unfortunately, this inevitably makes IoT less approachable for people to get started with and can hamper efforts to integrate this key technology into your own portfolio. There are so many connected products already in place today with many hundreds more on the h...
No hype cycles or predictions of zillions of things here. IoT is big. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, Associate Partner at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data analytics considerations, edge-to-cloud tec...
Announcing Poland #DigitalTransformation Pavilion
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that All in Mobile, a mobile app development company from Poland, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. All In Mobile is a mobile app development company from Poland. Since 2014, they maintain passion for developing mobile applications for enterprises and startups worldwide.
The best way to leverage your CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at CloudEXPO. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audienc...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader Sergey Grebnov provided an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, discussed the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docker c...
JETRO showcased Japan Digital Transformation Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo® at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...