Software Quality Insights

June 28, 2010  4:49 PM

Coverity version 5 makes defect discovery quicker and less painful

Daniel Mondello Profile: Daniel Mondello

Earlier this year, Coverity announced the fifth release of its defect investigation software tool, now called Coverity 5. Coverity 5 is basically a rehashing of its existing code analysis engine, process tools and debuggers, but with some added features and improved interfaces.

Recently, I spoke with Behrooz Zahiri, Coverity’s self-proclaimed perfect storm of code engineer and market analyzer. Zahiri summarized where Coverity 5 came from in three words: “our market research.” Coverity has been running audits of software development organizations to find out where common defects are found, which tools are used to discover these defects and how these issues are resolved. From their research, Coverity built a database of common defect areas and solutions, which it integrated into its latest software.

This new research-derived database serves two purposes: one, to work as a resource for developers so they can devise code with fewer errors; and two, to use the information in the database, once Coverity’s analysis engine is engaged, to find issues quicker and recommend common solutions to the problems found.

“When we decided to revamp Coverity 4, we had two goals that we wanted to reach. One was to make certain that our product was scalable and could deliver quick results for teams regardless of the team’s size. But we also wanted to elevate the adoption of our tool by increasing the effectiveness of defect repair,” said Zahiri.

Coverity’s new defect manager is built on a Java platform that has direct access to popular open source tools that have been approved and entered into its database, which also allows for plug-and-play of these pre-approved tools. The interfaces have also been updated and Coverity believes them to be more business-focused than prior versions.

Also new is a feature Coverity calls Defect Impact. This feature evaluates Coverity’s analysis of source code for defects. If defects are found, it prioritizes how they should be resolved by grouping them under three levels of severity (high, medium and low).

“High-risk defects negatively affect multiple parts of an application,” said Zahiri. “Many of these cause unexpected behavior throughout the application and alter the application’s memory management. Medium-level concerns are often performance dampeners. These defects allow the application to run, but at less-than-optimal speeds. And lastly, there are the low priorities — these are usually warning tags or artifacts in the code. Sometimes low-priority defects can be left alone, as the cost to resolve them doesn’t reflect a true positive return on the investment and they normally don’t hurt the application enough to matter.”

Defect Impact is broken into two features: a static analysis tool that supports analysis for applications built with C++, C# and Java, as well as dynamic analysis, which currently only supports Java.

Static analysis uses map checkers, which will seek out common areas where defects occur and search for problems — this is the primary way that risks are assessed in the final report generated by the tool. Dynamic analysis, which, again, is only for Java at press time, looks for concurrency issues and lockups in the user interface.

According to Zahiri, Coverity’s closest competitor is Klockwork, which he says is a similar offering that is priced and marketed very differently. Zahiri also admits Coverity has crossed paths with Polyspace and Parasoft from time to time.

For more information on Coverity check out these articles:

Coverity introduces build analysis tool, new Integrity Center (Apr. 14, 2009)
Coverity this week announced a new software build analysis product along with the bundling of all its software analysis products into one offering called the Coverity Integrity Center.
Coverity releases open source application architecture diagrams (Feb. 17, 2009)
Coverity’s new Scan library of open source software project “blueprints” can help software pros shave time off development and testing.
Coverity creates program to enforce code adherence (Nov. 25, 2008)
Coverity introduced Coverity Architecture Analyzer, which validates software architecture and detects potential security vulnerabilities.

Inside information from Coverity points to large-scale announcement in early July so stay tuned.

June 16, 2010  9:33 PM

Author Larry Klosterboer speaks on ITIL configuration and change management

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

Are you having trouble implementing ITIL in your organization? Or perhaps you’re new to ITIL and want to learn more? Then you will benefit from two new books: Implementing ITIL Configuration Management and Implementing ITIL Change and Release Management.

I was able to talk to author Larry Klosterboer at the IBM Innovate 2010 conference last week to find out more about his books. In this video you’ll learn Klosterboer’s number one piece of advice for those organizations implementing ITIL Change Management.

June 14, 2010  11:42 PM

Sign up to participate in an Agile innovation game

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

There is a growing interest in agile; but other than a short certification class, it might be hard for people to gain necessary skills and experience to become successful, particularly if their work group is not practicing agile.  The Agile Skills Project is a group that formed with the idea of creating an inventory of agile skills and forming a community of those interested in both practicing and enhancing their skills. I’d created a similar group called Beyond Certification last December.

Recently, there has been some discussion of the future of the Agile Skills Project. So, Cory Foy suggested an agile innovation game, called Prune the Product Tree, in order to explore ideas for the group. Foy explained his goals, saying:

“Basically I want to get two-to-three groups of five-to-eight people each to play the online game. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the conversations we have; no special software or cost. I’m a facilitator for the games, so I’ll host and run the game; just need the interest and time.”

Foy has scheduled three sessions:

  • Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 at 6am EST / 11 a.m. GMT
  • Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 at 10pm EST / 3 a.m. GMT
  • Thursday, June 17th, 2010 at 3pm EST / 8 p.m.

If you are interested in participating, you are welcome to sign up via Foy’s game spreadsheet , or contact Foy via email.

June 11, 2010  6:21 PM

IBM Innovate: IBMers give their impressions of the conference

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

Over the past week, I’ve been blogging about some of the highlights I’ve experienced while attending the IBM Innovate conference. The conference presented  opportunities to both learn and play and included IBM announcements, keynotes from high-profile speakers, over 350 technical sessions, excursions to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and last —  but not least —  the opportunity to meet and talk with people who are energized by innovation and the role that software will play in shaping our future.

I caught up with several IBMers after the conference to ask about their impressions. Listen in to what they have to say:

June 11, 2010  4:02 PM

IBM Innovate: End of life for the waterfall methodology?

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

Innovate 2010 wrapped up today with a keynote from Walker Royce focusing on “econometrics that are core to continuous improvement.”

Royce’s message was clearly one of “breakthrough agility,” speaking out against the waterfall approach which he labeled as “geriatric.”  He promoted integration test before unit test claiming that this would give teams the ability to catch “malignant errors early in the cycle,” saying that key metrics such as defects, scrap and rework were improved when using agile methods rather than conventional approaches.

To be honest, I was surprised that IBM took such a strong and public stance against the traditional waterfall methodology. I attended a Tuesday breakout session, “Quality in the Trenches Panel: Traditional? Agile? Something Else?” with Terry Quatrani and Scott Ambler, and in that session, too, the underlying message was clearly one that screamed “agile is the better approach.” The debate was pure tongue-in-cheek with Ambler in suit and tie arguing the waterfall approach and Quatrani with Mickey Mouse ears and casual dress arguing for agile, much in the style of Mac vs. PC commercials. However, the humor was clearly mocking the waterfall approach as an approach riddled with inefficient processes and an over-emphasis on documentation and lack of collaboration.

Though I knew a lot of agile was going on within IBM, with Big Blue having more of a suit-and-tie reputation, it surprised me that their message was not just pro-agile, but anti-waterfall.

At the keynote, Tim Lyons of Nationwide spoke about his implementation of an agile methodology.
“We thought we had standardized practices, but when we applied metrics they weren’t as standardized as we thought. Metrics provided the insights to dive down into multiple levels of standardizations and truly get into best practices,” said Lyons.

Nationwide adopted an onshore agile, lean model, operating with CMMI level 3 team and found it more cost-effective than an offshoring model.

Agile and CMMI combined? That was something I hadn’t expected to hear. Royce confirmed I was not alone in this viewpoint when he got back up on stage and said, “Many people think they’re opposing, but they can be used together.”

CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) is a model that helps organizations attain continuous improvement of their software development processes. My experience with CMMI is that it’s quite rigid, requiring thorough documentation of standardized, repeatable processes. Agile is adaptable. The Agile Manifesto promotes “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “Working software over comprehensive documentation.” With CMMI being documentation-heavy with strict adherence to process, I have a hard time imagining this being used in a purely agile environment which promotes adaptability and change. Nevertheless, Nationwide is using both and seeing positive results.

What do you think? Are agile and CMMI a good mix or are they opposing in nature? And what about waterfall? Is the methodology dying?

June 10, 2010  12:55 PM

IBM Innovate: Dean Kamen inspires crowd to give back to community

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

Though there have been many great speakers at the IBM Innovate conference this week, I’d give Dean Kamen, who spoke at this morning’s keynote, the prize for being the most inspirational. Kamen is the owner of a company called DEKA, credited with a number of life-changing inventions, many in the health-care field, including an insulin pump, a mobile dialysis machine, and the iBOT — an all-terrain wheelchair that will allow owners to go up and down stairs and rise up so that they can be eye-level with those who are standing.  (It was technology from the iBOT, by the way, that was used in an invention which Kamen is probably best known for — the Segway.) Kamen also spoke of the advanced prosthetic arm that DEKA developed, with funding from The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for veterans, some of whom have lost both arms.

Kamen stressed the amount of software included in devices and joked that when dealing with medical products, you can’t afford to get The Blue Screen of Death! The importance of software quality is underscored in medical devices and quality of embedded software and “systems of systems” has been a common theme throughout the conference this week.

Kamen had a very humble demeanor as he described his hopes for a better world.  He gets a laugh from the crowd in this video clip as he tells us “In my company, if I want people to listen to me speak, I have to pay them.”

Kamen described projects to purify water and provide power to under-developed communities. What he seemed most passionate about was his commitment to FIRST(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization which encourages the worlds’ youth, particularly girls and minorities, to pursue education in science and education. Kamen described the history of FIRST, telling us it started with the need to have a “Shaquille O’Neal of science and technology” rather than having kids think of those who like science as crazy frizzy-haired nerds. With support from the White House, the program started in 1992 in a New Hampshire gym. When it got too big for the gym, the venue was moved to Epcot, from there to the Houston Astrodome and now is held in the Georgia Dome with participation from over 150,000 kids from around the world. Kamen relays the story of George W. Bush proclaiming, much to Kamen’s embarrassment, “This is just like WWF, but for smart people.” The saying caught on, and turned out to be fantastic marketing slogan for the organization.

Kamen reminded us of a quote by William Butler Yeats: “Education is not filling a pail… it is lighting a fire.”

His talk ended with a plea to the group, ” The technical community has to have a voice in the hearts and minds of kids.”

Based on the applause and standing ovation, I’d say he touched the hearts and minds of the audience and inspired us to find ways that we can help our kids develop the skills to better the world.

June 9, 2010  8:12 PM

Grady Booch: Cloud computing is like virtualization on steroids

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

Grady Booch’s title at IBM is Chief Scientist of Software Engineering which, he says, “basically means I get to do what I feel like doing with software engineering.”  IBM acquired Rational Software in 2003, where Booch was working as Chief Scientist. Whatever his title, he’s considered somewhat of a “rock star” among software engineers. I was tempted to ask for his autograph when I had the opportunity to speak with him at the IBM Innovate conference this week, but resisted “groupie behavior.” Booch is best known for his work, along with Ivar Jacobson and James Rumbaugh, on developing the Unified Modeling Language (UML). He’s also quite well known for his work on design patterns and has authored several books on UML and object oriented design and analysis.

Though he’s an icon in the world of software development, he chats easily with the crowd at the Innovate conference, with a laid-back smile that sets people at ease.

In this video clip, Booch gives his thoughts about cloud computing and what he sees as future trends in this space.

Booch was one of the speakers at this morning’s keynote at the conference. The title of the presentation was “Imagine!” and included the many exciting opportunities for innovation that are being explored at IBM.  More predictive weather forecasting, improvements in DNA sequencing, and the use of Zinsight were just a few of the projects Booch mentioned.  Booch described the use of Second Life to allow virtual teams to collaborate and demonstrated with a short video of avatars working in cyberspace on an agile project.

I didn’t find the video that Booch showed at the keynote on YouTube, but I was pleased to find a series called “Rational is Agile,” including this video in which you will find the avatars of Matt Holitza, Scott Ambler and Grady Booch.

June 9, 2010  6:44 PM

IBM Innovate: Plans for “smart city” Babcock Ranch

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

The theme of IBM’s Innovate 2010 conference has been “building a smarter planet.”  Building a smarter planet starts with building a smarter city – literally! Plans are underway to build the world’s first fully solar-powered city. IBM announced on June 7th a partnership with Kitson & Partners to develop Babcock Ranch in Southwest Florida using IBM Rational Focal Point software to coordinate and manage the design of the city.

The short video of the city of tomorrow shows a visionary lifestyle focused on high quality of life and powered completely by solar energy. Syd Kitson described this “system of systems” which would emphasize the interconnectedness of education, fitness and wellness, transportation and energy efficiency throughout the entire community, using innovations in software technology. It was only fitting that this modern-day Tomorrowland was presented at the Innovate conference held at the Disneyworld Dolphin Resort.

I got a chance to sit down with the emcee of the Innovate conference, IBM’s Scott Hebner, along with Syd Kitson and Richard Brockway from Kitson & Partners, to talk more about Babcock Ranch.

When I asked about the timeline of the project, Kitson replied, “We expect that we’re going to start construction next year. Right now we’re in the middle of engineering. We’re going to start with jobs. We’re working with several companies that we’re hoping will move into Babcock Ranch. If we have 1000+ employees that’s 800-900 homes and then you start to build a community.”

June 9, 2010  12:11 PM

Scott Ambler at IBM Innovate: Scaling in Agile

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

We spoke with Scott Ambler last week about his thoughts on organizational acceptance of agile.  Today, I was able to speak with him again, this time, in person, at the IBM Innovate 2010 conference.

Ambler is the chief methodologist for agile and lean for IBM Rational. He goes around the world helping organizations understand agile and lean and how to scale. “We’ve been working on the IBM agility  scaling model, the goal of which is to put projects in a context from a scaling point of view. If you want to be effective you need to tailor your processes and tools to reflect the situation you find yourself in.  Even simple practices like daily standup meetings will be very different if you’re a small team, large team, distributed team or regulated team so part of our observation is that there are several scaling factors,”  said Ambler

We mentioned agility within a “system of systems,” a phrase that was used often in the morning’s keynote presentations. Complexity can be a significant scaling factor. If you understand the context you can see that some of the mainstream agile advice may not work, warned Ambler.

When I asked about best practices of distributed agile teams, Ambler said that the majority of agile teams have some aspects of distribution. He said teams need to start using different types of tools and communication practices when they’re distributed. They may organize their teams differently. Each individual subteam will have their own product owners and architecture owners who will need to coordinate.

I asked Ambler about the difference in agile methodologies. “The important thing is to do the right thing for your situation.”

“But how do they know which is the right methodology?” I persisted.

“There are no silver bullets. You need to know what you’re doing,” Ambler said. He recommended that organizations do the research and find help from experienced consultants, making sure they are asking the right questions of the consultants.

In this video, Ambler talks about trends with agile including scaling and integrated systems.

June 9, 2010  12:10 PM

Innovate 2010 Keynote: Software defines success of every business

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

Wow! Innovate 2010 opened up with entertainment from Natually 7 and several speakers who inspired the audience of approximately 4000 people, to take innovation seriously.

Author of Gadget Nation Steve Greenberg was the first speaker who talked a bit about the difference between invention and innovation. “To invent is to be the originator. To innovate is to make changes to something established.” Greenberg entertained us with stories of crazy gadgets and told us that to be successful, you need “competitive differentiation.” 

Following Greenberg, Vice President, Marketing and Strategy, IBM Rational software, Scott Hebner introduced  a theme that prevailed with all the speakers: the complexity of integrated software systems creating a “system of systems” linked by the “invisible thread” of software.  “We need to continuously improve collaboration across the solution delivery lifecycle,” Hebner said.

Dr. Danny Sabbah. General Manager, IBM Rational software, spoke next about “econometrics” and the importance for businesses to “balance economic, social and environment objectives.” He tells us, “the world is becoming more interconnected, more instrumented and more intelligent.  In fact, it will be 10x more instrumented in a short five-year period to more than one trillion connected devices. The world is becoming smarter. Software is pervasive. It is the building block of smarter products and services. Software is becoming the invisible thread that enables what we refer to as “system of sytems.”

Several examples were given of “smart systems.” Sabbah talked about intelligent sytems in the health care industry. He described implantable heart defibrillators that are being used to monitor cardiac response for patients with critical heart conditions.  If medical attention is needed, an abulance is alerted and medical care must be administered immediately. The national standard is a four-minute response time for 90% of all emergencies.  A response rate of less than five minutes doubles the chances of patient survival. Software systems are used to help with prioritization, ambulance queueing, decision support, notification, traffic systems to avoid. route optimization with instant integration with local traffic.  A typical ambulance uses software with approximately 50 million lines of code and 10,000 interfaces that help to track, update, test, deploy and maintain the functions needed for this system. And this is just one system of many within health care that is part of a system of systems.

Robert LeBlanc, Senior Vice President, IBM Middleware, IBM Software Group, rounded out the opening keynote by talking about how cloud computing was being used as an IT delivery model, reducing costs and improving efficiency with service delivery.  “Every single industry is going to be impacted by the change that’s going on. Software is becoming the fundamental driver in every single industry. Think about the grid.  Think about how we’ve delivered power for the last 50 years. It hasn’t fundamentally changed. And now we’re starting to see a change in the use of power grids. Every industry’s going to change.”

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