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A Software Warranty

By Steve Jones,

This editorial was originally released on Oct 21, 2012. It is being re-published as Steve is traveling.

Years ago I worked in a large company on the operations team. We were responsible for all production issues for the 6,000 people and the assorted machines, devices, and applications that come with a large workforce. There was a department that was aligned with our group that focused on engineering and various development groups that built different applications. The engineering group was good at working closely with the production team to ensure smooth deployments, but they weren't on call and would at times respond slowly to develop solutions when problems occurred. They were, however, better than the development groups who often sent code to be deployed, and accepted bug reports back, but provided little support or assistance for problems with their code.

I ran across this link from a DevOps person called You Write It, You Support It in the Brent Ozar, PLF newsletter. The piece makes a case for the problems that occur with some deployments, like a lack of, or surplus, of logging, switches to turn features on/off, error handling, and more. It's a pretty good description of typical problems I've often seen, and it calls for developers to support the features that they write, even in production systems.

I like this idea, though I don't think that it should be a continuous expectation with developers required to support their code forever. I would like to see developers giving their code a "warranty" of sorts, perhaps a couple months of priority support when code is deployed into live environments with developers taking responsibility and responding to calls, even after hours.

There are arguments to be made that developers' time is better spent enhancing applications and applying their creativity to new ideas, but this leads to a human frailty. Too often we view a job finished as a job completed, and that's not always the case. Doing a job well means more than completion. It implies a level of craftsmanship and pride in the finished product, both from the developer and the client. 

Developers should write code that works. If it doesn't, then it's not really finished and should be fixed. With that contract in place, we usually find that the developer spends a bit more time ensuring the product is built in a quality way that reduces the need for much support.

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