In the fast lane

Earlier in the year I attended Sugcon Europe 2019. There Donovan Brown showed a video which compared F1 pit stops during the 1950s with those nowadays. The difference was mind-blowing in terms of the time taken to do the task but Brown wanted delegates to look closer than that and to consider the processes which were going on. He likened the process to DevOps and digital transformation. 

Apart from the obvious increase in speed of a pit stop in today’s FI world, another difference was the number of people involved in the process. In the 1950s, there were far fewer people than today. The question was, did these bodies really add value? 

In today’s world, Donovan explained, that there are far more people involved in delivering software now than even a decade ago. He explained that he saw those extra people as automated tasks to achieve a common goal. It was all incredibly orchestrated. While there were more people, they all had a defined role and they helped to roll out the process quicker and more efficiently. 

Looking more closely at the video, delegates noted that some of the team members in the modern day pit stop weren’t actually doing anything practical – they didn’t touch the vehicle. There were also two people with jacks – one to jack up the back of the vehicle and the other there simply as back-up, in case the first jack failed for any reason. 

In addition, there were people who were simply observing the whole exercise, looking at ways to learn and improve the process next time – in the same way which DevOps works today. 

In simple terms, DevOps is a set of software development practices that combines software development and IT operations to shorten the system’s development life cycle, while delivering features, fixes and updates. 

In the 1950s pit stop, the tyre change is what takes the time, with refuelling over before they second tyre has even been changed. In the modern day pit stop, all four tyres are changed and the car is not even refuelled. Over the years, improving the speed at which the tyre change takes place has been key – and Donovan explained that it’s important to fix ‘what hurts most first’. 

In the modern pit stop, the car wasn’t refuelled at all – which showed that the vehicle has been made more efficient, which Donovan likened to what has happened with software. 

He explained that, over the years, manual testing has proved a bottle neck, so now DevOps teams are utilised automated tests, making the whole process more efficient. That said, manual testing might still be run – but the number of times reduced. 

We’ve looked at manual testing versus automated testing in a previous blog. In it, we said that, manual testing is useful for checking a new change and making sure everything works properly. Each manual test is arguably unique – as no human will act quite the same as another. However, humans can generally only do one thing at a time, while machines are better at multitasking.

Automated testing is quicker and you can do it at any time – overnight if that makes sense. It is also good at finding glitches in the early stages of development, which could cost money if not dealt with when they appear. There is a cost to automated testing though – so, as many of these things do, it will come down to risk and budget and picking your battles.

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Ian Jepp
14 August 2019