There Will Come Soft Rains

I am an early riser, especially on the weekends in summer when the sun rises early. This means I get 2-3 hours of time to myself before anyone else

is awake. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I often spend the time catching up on Vertica email and tasks that didn’t quite get done during the week. This is one of the only times where I can write email without getting semi-immediate responses back.

This morning, I did get several emails, though from our automated performance test systems, which reminded of Ray Bradbury’s short story “There Will Come Soft Rains” in which the humans are gone, but their automated systems still remain.

Of course the story’s main points aren’t about software automation early morning emails, but sitting here in the quiet before the day wakes, it seems somehow appropriate.

The automation systems we have at Vertica please me. Of course I am biased — I mostly wrote what we call “ServerFarm” which runs regression tests regularly (every few checkins) as well as allows developers to run tests on demand on a farm of machines. This system came about like most good productivity enhancing systems do: I was annoyed. Specifically I was annoyed of having to run our 1 hour long test suite on my laptop before checking in. I had taken to saving patches for my changes and running them manually at night so that I didn’t tie up my development machine during the day. ServerFarm started out as a way for me to automate that process and has grown from there.

Automated and regular regression testing is, of course, software best practice, but it is cool to see it working well at Vertica. By lowering the bar for using ServerFarm, even the crustiest of our developers now uses the Farm. The one thing that could be better is reporting of the results, especially over time. Thankfully we have a clever intern this summer helping us out with that. I am totally psyched to see what he comes up with.

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