Agile Tool – Expert Recommendation

For some time I have been observing the discussion thread in LinkedIn – Any recommended tools for Agile and Scrum based software development? which is a part of  Agile Alliance group.

It is one of the most active discussions and have 127 commends till date and has recommendations from agile experts from all around the world and 53 different tools have been suggested. Not all of them are specifically for agile or scrum. In addition to the tools listed below, there are 12 recommendations for using manual methods like – “A dedicated team room with white boards, bulletin boards, index cards, writing implements, and work stations” as suggested by Steve Gordon.

Here are the top 12:

  1. JIRA and it add-ins like GreenHopper, Confluence(Collaboration), Bamboo(Continuous Integration) and Crucible(Code Review) (24 recommendations)
  2. VersionOne (11 recommendations)
  3. Rally and its add-in like AccuBridge (10 recommendations)
  4. Mingle (10 recommendations)
  5. VSTS with Scrum Templates and its add-ins and templates like UrbanTurtle, Conchango etc. (9 recommendations)
  6. Excel and template from Jeff Sutherland (8 recommendations)
  7. PivotalTracker (8 recommendations)
  8. Scrumworks (4 recommendations)
  9. Hudson(Continuous Integration) (4 recommendations)
  10. Scrumpad (4 recommendations)
  11. TargetProcess (4 recommendations)
  12. Agilo (4 recommendations)

Apart from these following tools received 3 recommendations:

Twelve tools had 2 recommendations each:

Here is the balance twenty eight which received 1 recommendation each:

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Is HTML5 a game changer

To answer this question we first need to look at what way it is different from HTML4. Here are the salient features of HTML5 arranged in the order of importance (my opinion).

  • Offline working: Like Google Gears it allows mechanism for ensuring Web applications are available even when the user is not connected to their network.
  • Local storage: It provides for client-side SQL database to store structured data.
  • 2 way communication with server: For implementing games, chatting and remote control, web sockets API are available.
  • Rich Text Editor: It is like supporting a mini word processor with spell check and grammar check extension.
  • Drag and Drop: Has full support for drag and drop with access to computer’s native drag system and clipboard.
  • Cross-document messaging: It attempts to provide a secure method of exchanging messages pages of different domains.
  • Support for 2D drawing: There will be tags available for 2D vector graphics.
  • No media plug-in required: New audio and video elements will enable developers to embed and control multimedia content and Flash, Silverlight or JavaFX will not needed.

Here is a link to the draft standard.

What HTML5 proposes to do is to remove most of the programming limitations from the browser and allow any browser based application to be almost as powerful as any native client application. It would also allow us to take advantage on increasing processing power of the client machine and build richer applications – Moore’s Law, Performance and RIA.

One of the important facts we have to keep in mind is that though it will remain “work in progress” probably till 2022, all the major browsers have already started implementing specific features. Therefore, the impact will be felt over a period of time but we can say with reasonable confidence that …

  • …the importance of O/S on the client machine will go down
  • …it will be technically feasible to create an office suite of application which runs in a browser and is as powerful as a native office suite
  • …there will be less incentive to build native mobile applications (Mobile App or Mobile Web)
  • …it will be a fillip for the cloud provider (Cloud Strategy)
  • …most of the RIA plug-ins will become redundant

And the gainers and the losers are:

  • Adobe —-
  • Microsoft —
  • Apple +-
  • IBM +
  • Oracle +
  • Amazon ++
  • Google ++++

Here are some more useful links to HTML5 related sites:

Cloud On-demand Hosting vs. Dedicated Server Hosting

How does the cost of dedicated hosted server solution compare with on demand hosting?

For the purpose of the comparison I have selected Rackspace for dedicated server hosting and Amazon for on-demand cloud hosting. (In an earlier post I had compared the cost of different cloud providers). This is only a direct cost comparison. I have not considered issues like support, security, reliability, availability etc. There are also several other assumptions I have made that can be challenged.

My one line conclusion is that the market forces have ensured that the prices on paper are comparable – to arrive at what is right for you, performance benchmarking may be called for.

The comparison is based on published data as on 16th February, 2010.

[Update (27th May, 2010): Here is a recent post by Severin which has more details – Cloud Hosting Price Comparison]

Rackspace

There are 4 listed configuration with standard price (all have 2TB Bandwidth and choice of either Windows Server or Red Hat Linux)

  1. Basic One: 1xDual-Core AMD Opteron, 4GB RAM (DDR2), 2x250GB, 7.2K, SATA (RAID1), ( $419 per month)
  2. Basic Two: 1xQuad-Core AMD Opteron, 8GB RAM (DDR2), 3x250GB, 7.2K, SATA (RAID5) ( $529 per month)
  3. Enhanced One: 1xQuad-Core AMD Opteron, 4GB RAM (DDR2), 2x146GB, 15K, SAS (RAID) ( $959 per month)
  4. Enhanced Two: 1xQuad-Core Intel Nehalem, 12GB RAM (DDR2), 2x146GB, 15K, SAS (RAID) ( $1,059 per month)

Note: Basic One and Two are supposed to be available only in IAD Data centre. When I asked their live assistant I had the following interesting conversation:

Welcome to Rackspace. We are connecting you to our next available operator. 
My name is Ray Q and I am a Live assistant. How may I help you today?
Ray Q: Welcome to Rackspace, how can I help you today?
you: What is IAD Datacenter?
you: It is mentioned on this page – http://www.rackspace.com/managed_hosting/configurations.php
Ray Q: IAD is a name of one of our datacenters…
you: Which one?
Ray Q: im sorry i cannot release that in formation…
Ray Q: but here is a link to our datacenters
Ray Q: http://www.rackspace.com/whyrackspace/network/datacenters.php
you: If this is a secret then why do you mention in your site “*Available in IAD Datacenter only”
Ray Q: im sorry i dont know the answer to that..

[I am inclined to think that this response came from a real person and not from a BOT – notice how information is spelled with a space after in]

Amazon

There are different configurations available but Standard On-Demand Large Instance & Extra Large Instances are comparable to Rackspace offering

To calculate the cost we need to consider multiple elements:

CPU cost: There are different options available but the following configurations are comparable

  • Large Instance 7.5 GB of memory, 4 EC2 Compute Units (2 virtual cores with 2 EC2 Compute Units each), 850 GB of local instance storage, 64-bit platform – cost $0.34 for Linux and $0.48 per hour for Windows – which translates to $245 per month for Linux and $346 per month for Windows
  • Extra Large Instance 15 GB of memory, 8 EC2 Compute Units (4 virtual cores with 2 EC2 Compute Units each), 1690 GB of local instance storage, 64-bit platform – cost $0.68 for Linux and $0.94 per hour for Windows – which translates to $490 per month for Linux and $677 per month for Windows

Persistent storage cost: Since a persistent storage will be required, we need to include an EBS instance also – however the cost is very low – $0.1 per GB per month plus $0.1 per million I/O.

  • Let us assume …
    • …100% redundancy
    • …million I/O per GB per month
    • …user data storage capacity of Basic One = 250GB, Basic Two = 500GB, Enhanced One & Two = 146GB
  • Equivalent data storage cost is:
    • Basic One = $75 per month
    • Basic Two = $150 per month
    • Enhanced One = $44 per month
    • Enhanced Two = $44 per month

Bandwidth cost: Actual cost will depend on the specific application – it is charged at the rate of $0.1 per GB of incoming data (but free till 30th June) and $0.15 per GB of outgoing data

  • Assuming that you require the full 2TB of bandwidth provided by Rackspace it works out to $150 per month till 30th June and $250 per month after that

The Comparison

  1. Rackspace (Basic One @ $419 per month) is cheaper than Amazon (Large Instance with Linux @ $470 and Windows $571)
  2. Rackspace (Basic Two @ $529 per month) is cheaper than Amazon (Extra Large Instance with Linux @ $790 and Windows $977)
  3. Amazon (Extra Large Instance with Linux @ $684 and Windows $871) is cheaper than Rackspace (Enhanced One @ $959 per month)
  4. Amazon (Extra Large Instance with Linux @ $684 and Windows $871) is cheaper than Rackspace (Enhanced One @ $1,059 per month)

China and India – Spider and Starfish

Last week I came across 2 seemingly unrelated essays (one blog post – Understanding the Nature of Self-Organizing Teams by Jim Highsmith and one article – Don’t Underestimate India’s Consumers by John Lee)

The blog post provides a snapshot of the book – The Starfish and Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. This is how the post starts:

“A spider is an eight-legged arachnid that has a head attached to a central body. Pull a leg off a spider and most can still walk, even if a little lopsided. Cut off the head and the spider dies. Not so the starfish. While many people know that if you cut off a starfish’s leg, it will grow back, most don’t know that a starfish’s major organs are replicated throughout its body. One species, Linckia, can regenerate an entire starfish from each of its severed parts. A starfish is a decentralized network.”

Here is a summary of the book – The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. It outlines 10 rules for the new world:

  1. Diseconomies of Scale
  2. The Network Effect
  3. The Power of Chaos
  4. Knowledge at the Edge
  5. Everyone wants to contribute
  6. Beware of the Hydra response
  7. Catalysts Rule
  8. The Values are the Organization
  9. Measure, Monitor, Manage
  10. Flatten or be Flattened

The article compares the centralized, state managed China with decentralized, chaotic India quoting the following interesting statistics:

  • Wage and income growth, even for China’s urban residents, hovers at about half the level of GDP growth over the past 15 years
  • India can now boast of an overwhelmingly independent middle class about 300 million strong, vs. China’s 100 million to 200 million, depending on the parameters
  • The rural half of China is falling behind. Back in the mid-1980s, the mainland’s urban-rural income ratio was 1.8. It now stands at about 3.5
  • In India, … urban-rural income gap has steadily declined since the early ’90s
  • Rural India now accounts for half the country’s GDP, up from 41% in 1982. World Bank studies show that rural China accounts for only a third of GDP
  • Rural China … generates just 15% of China’s growth. Meanwhile, rural India is chipping in about two-thirds of overall growth

Is there any doubt that India is more like a Starfish and China is more like a Spider? In terms of infrastructure and other related development India is about 15 years behind China – but in the new world will the Starfish upstage the Spider?

Here are some more links explaining the Starfish and the Spider (Eswaran: thanks for the references):