Tag Archives: quality

Get Started with Free Service Virtualization

Free service virtualization, sounds great! Whenever you hear free, should get nervous, I know that I do. After I wrote this title I looked at it and immediately hated it. But here’s the thing – at my day job at Parasoft we’ve just taken one of our really great products, Parasoft Virtualize, and made a free “community edition” version of it.

So who needs this and why should you care about it? Well software applications have gotten a lot more complex in the last decade. Time was you had a simple monolithic desktop application and that’s all you had to worry about. Some of them had a little connectivity, like to a database or maybe simple external dependencies, but mostly they stood on their own. Today’s “applications” look more like systems or even systems-of-systems. It’s not uncommon to have a relatively small core application but surrounded by a plethora of dependencies like databases, cloud APIs to provide data, shipping services, payment services and even connections to physical devices in the real world – the Internet of Things or IoT.

That’s where the “service virtualization” technology comes in. I know, I know, it’s a horrible name and it’s already caused you to think it’s something other than what it is. Nothing I can do about it, that name is in use by the analysts and I have no control over it. I think of it more like “communication emulation” in that it emulates the communication. Think of it this way, instead of APIs linked into an application as part of the compilation processed, we now have services that are accessed live dynamically – meaning we talk to them and they talk to us. Even in the IoT world of SmartHome or SmartFactory or SmartCity it’s all about pieces talking to each other. This gives as remote info, remote control, and even some degree of autonomous decision making – like the NEST thermostat. Initially I used the app to control the thermostat to my liking, now it just figures out what I was doing and mostly does it for me.

Testing these kinds of systems is a huge pain. You need a test lab that has one of everything you’re connecting to. If you’re updating some of them, then you need a lab with the old one AND the new one – like a new version of Oracle or MySQL. Setting up the lab costs time and money, and then I have to fight with other teams to use it. Service Virtualization let’s me make fake (virtual) versions of the things I depend on, and then use them to test instead of needing the real thing.

This not only makes it faster/easier/cheaper to test, but it frees IT to do other important things. Plus I can make these virtual things behave how I want them to – if I want them to flood the network, they will. If I want them to be fast or slow to respond, I can do that. If I want one of them to be a bad actor and pretend it’s been compromised, no problem. My testing will be more thorough in addition to easier.

Once you realize that service virtualization technology is for you, the next step is to choose a tool. Lot’s of people instantly go check open-source, because of course it “doesn’t cost anything”. I’ve done a pretty thorough check of all open-source SV tools and at the moment they’re only really useful if your whole world is centered in http/https. Even then there are lots of other features like using a UI to create, manage, and deploy the virtual assets. So now that Parasoft created a free version, why not see what commerical software offers you? You can download it here.

Try it, you’ll like it.

Does Cloud Change Static Analysis

Look, we all know that using static analysis tools can be a real pain. In the past I’ve talked about some of the reasons people struggle with the output of AppSec tools. Similarly people struggle with using static code analysis. I even did a poll about static analysis challenges at one point.

From the feedback I’ve gotten, it seems that some people think that doing static analysis via SaaS (IE the cloud) would address the problems I’ve discussed. There are real challenges in getting the most out of your static analysis, but the claim that somehow cloud will solve them is ridiculous marketing hype – why would it change at all? Why should developers even be able to tell the difference? It doesn’t address any of the core issues. There are benefits you can get from using cloud for your static analysis aka Static Analysis as as Service (SAaaS?) such as reduction of up-front costs, saved IT costs, and easy deployment. But the most common problems are the same whether you run the tool in-house or use a service.

The core problem I mentioned was really getting developers to buy-in. They need to believe in the results because they need to fix them. Once the developers start picking and choosing what to fix, you’ve lost. They’ll spend countless hours challenging results and explaining why they’re not important – the inappropriately labeled “false positive“. Changing the method or location of how you run static analysis may have ramifications on the overall process, but it will in no way affect how developers perceive the results.

Getting the static analysis tool running is one of the first steps in a successful rollout, but from there you’ve got to do several things to make sure that you’ll get the value you expect.

Static Analysis Policy

It begins with having a clear static analysis policy. The policy should include when static analysis must be run and when it can be skipped. It also needs to cover when suppressions are acceptable, how severity level affects fix now vs fix later, what rules you must run, and how to handle legacy code. Legacy is one of the big problems – do you fix everything in your code regardless of age? Can you just fix it when you happen to be editing one of the old files? Should you only run static on the code you actually change in old files? These are real issues that will occur when you deploy and if you don’t decide what is proper, each developer will do their own thing.

Training

Developers need to be trained to use static analysis. Usually people remember to train on the mechanics of the tool, but not the further training that ensures success. Developers need to know when/how to suppress – does it go into the code or into an external system? They need to know how to find out more information about the problem. They need to understand what the severity levels mean and how it will affect their decisions.

It’s important as well that they understand the ramifications of a particular error. I’ve repeatedly had the experience of a team claiming a static analysis error was invalid when it was actually a real serious problem that they didn’t understand. Heartbleed is a classic example of this behavior. Finally your training needs to shift the mindset of the users from “static finds bugs” to “static finds bad code”. This distinction is crucial to get the most value. The “bugfinder” rules in static analysis are the proverbial tip of the iceberg. They’re only a small part of the full value. The bigger value is the rich set of coding standards that represent hundreds of man years in crafting best practices that help you harden your code and avoid problems in the first place.

Persistent Static Analysis Suppressions

Suppression handling can make or break your project. The symptom of this is developers saying things like “I keep fixing the same things.” What they mean isn’t that they’re fixing them, but they keep seeing the same violation and tagging it as invalid or acceptable every time the tool runs or versions change. They understandably view this as a stupid tool.

There are two schools of thought on suppressions. One is that they belong in an external system, whether it’s the static analysis tool itself, a file in source control, or a spreadsheet. The other idea is that they belong in the code. There are advantages to both, but I prefer the “suppressions in code” method. The benefits of this are that you never end up with issues that cause old suppressions to come back, because they’re tightly coupled to the code. A secondary benefit is that suppressions will end up in source control, you’ll know who did them, when they’re done, and if they left a comment you’ll even know why. This is really important if you operate in a compliance environment like FDA, Aircraft/DO-178B/C, or Automotive ISO 26262.

Good documentation

I’ve alluded to the idea that the docs need to explain why a particular static analysis rule is important. I’ve got several things I look for in good tool documentation.

  • Example bad code
  • Example fixed code
  • Impact – what will happen if you don’t fix this violation
  • Possible security relevance
  • Resources to learn more
  • integration to IDE – right-click on a violation to see the docs

Summary

Getting your static analysis rollout right is crucial to your success. There are many options from on-premise to cloud-based and you should carefully weight the benefits of each approach. But don’t expect the cloud to solve all the challenges you’ll face. There is no substitute for a well-planned tool deployment.

Resources

Better Software East Conference

The Better Software East conference is coming up on November 13-18th in Orlando, FL. This conference about ways to improve your software development process is held concurrently with Agile Dev East and DevOps East.

I’ll be speaking at this conference on Thursday Nov 17th about “Evolving from Automated to Continuous Testing” which should be pretty interesting. And the fun part of it is that because I’m speaking I have a discount code you can use to sign-up at the conference. You can register here and if you put in the discount code BE16AH16 you can save up to $200. If you register early before Oct 14th then you can get up for $400 off, so take advantage.

About my presentation:

Testing issues can be a significant barrier to taking full advantage of agile approaches to software development and the emerging DevOps movement. To leverage these development and delivery strategies to their fullest, you need to evolve beyond automated testing to continuous testing. Arthur Hicken discusses the testing and development processes and technology that enable continuous testing. He shares insights on how to close the gap between business expectations and development activities by encapsulating clearly defining development policies for software releases.

Arthur describes how to prevent defects in code and prioritize defect remediation before a release candidate goes live. Explore ways to realistic test environments and simulations—critical features of the dev/test infrastructure—that enable continuous testing. Learn how to create a feedback loop that exposes defect patterns while highlighting opportunities to improve application design. Take back a comprehensive to do list for processes and infrastructure that must be in place for your organization to implement continuous testing and accelerate the SDLC.

About the conference:

Discover the latest in agile methods, technologies, tools, and leadership principles.

Whether you’re new to the agile process and need to get up to speed quickly or you’re experienced and ready to take your team or organization to the next level, our hands-on, in-depth workshops have you covered. Plus, Agile Dev East is held in conjunction with Better Software and DevOps East, allowing you to choose from three distinct programs.

  • Agile Development
  • Agile Testing
  • Agile Requirements
  • Agile Metrics
  • Improving the Process
  • Agile Leadership
  • Lean and Kanban
  • Agile for the Enterprise
  • Calendar

    Keep track of my calendar for other events – it’s over there on the right somewhere ——–> and don’t forget to register here and use the discount code BE16AH16. In the meantime you can follow the conversation about the conference on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn using the hashtag #BetterSoftwareCon. See you there!

Software Safety Keynote EuroSPI 2016

I was honored this week to have the opportunity to present a keynote session at EuroSPI 2016. The title of my presentation was “Software Safety and Security Through Standards” and I discussed one of my favorite soapboxes. That is the idea that software development is often less disciplined than it should be, but it doesn’t have to be. We can and should develop software as an engineering discipline.

One of the key ways to start down this path is to implement coding standards properly. Too many are trying to use coding standards late in the process as a way to find bugs, rather than a way to flag improper methods of coding early on. While the former is cool, the latter is far more valuable.

The adage that “you can’t test quality in a product” is well known, but for some reason in software we think that you can indeed test quality into an application. The same goes for application security, perhaps even doubly so.

In order to break out of the current cycle of code, deploy, fix, redeploy we have to start doing things differently. We have to build a more mature software development process and static code analysis is the way to build upon the body of knowledge and best practices available.

Slides are below. Let me know if you have comments, questions, suggestions. And thanks to everyone at EuroSPI and ASQ for putting on a great conference and allowing me to participate. These are great organizations to get involved with if you’re serious about software quality. I encourage you to check them out.