Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lesson learned: Keep it simple... but not stupid!

In most areas of life you don't get a redo. But luckily, when it comes to software all you need is time and motivation.

The development effort that has gone into the ControlTier automation platform thus far has been gratifyingly leveraged by some of the largest e-commerce and SaaS providers out there. But while we were out there earning a reputation for getting the impossible done, we took our eye off the ultimate goal: To make the ControlTier automation tools useful and accessible to organizations of all sizes and complexity.

Being too focused on solving the biggest and thorniest problems can lead you to forget that you also have a responsibility to make the small to medium problems trivial to handle. After all, in our field, most people's day-to-day lives are consumed with an overwhelming amount of minor to moderate tasks. If you don't focus equal attention on the "small stuff" you are just throwing up artificial barriers to adoption and making it more more difficult it is to reach the people you are trying to help.

Ok, so lesson learned. Now what are we doing about it?

The first thing we've done is take the distributed automation framework that provides ControlTier's foundation and completely reworked the code to make it a standalone tool the comes with useful utilities built right in (the tool is called CTL). The second thing we did was provide users with an option to skip the environment and application modeling that was required to get going with ControlTier tools. While, yes, it is ControlTier's modeling capabilities that make it such a powerful and flexible solution, it's tough to get your head around it when all you want to do is plug in the framework and automate some simple tasks.

With the release of CTL, users now have the option of writing standalone command modules that require no modeling. As a solution grows in complexity, scale, and variability that same user can piece-by-piece take advantage of the full modeling and context management features as appropriate. This way we've managed to make the "easy stuff" trivial and straightforward while still giving you the full power needed to tackle the big problems.

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