Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Looking back - and being differently successful

Failure is not an option... it's a standard feature.
As witicisms go: it is neither particularly funny, or particularly original - and can be seen on T-shirts, fridge magnets and snarky comments across the Internet.

Anyway, not being funny or original has never stopped me before.

We are looking back at the last two years of R+D: we've done the successes, now it is time for the failures.

I'm not talking about those magnificent 'Brown Paper Bag' failures that will haunt us for many years to come. I'll cover those another time.

Here, I want to mention those projects that have been mentioned at conferences or at this blog, which are working or very nearly working, but are not where we hoped they would be.

I am not criticising the highly-capable and skilled developers involved, or the way the work was managed. The NGS is a small organisation: bad luck or the need to solve more pressing problems limit what we can do.

The nearly-successful projects involved are the CA Wizard, SARoNGS and DataMINX.

The CA Wizard (not to be confused with the existing NGS Certificate Wizard) was intended to replace the confusing - and, to some users, downright scary - business of obtaining a certificate with a single desktop tool.

It was delayed by the loss of some key members of staff but is still being actively developed. The developers expect to release a version in May.

DataMINX was a joint UK and Australian service designed to ship data to where it was needed with minimal user involvement. It also fell foul of staff losses and had to finish early.

The developers were concerned about software sustainability and have left the code in a state where someone else could readily take over: it was released with an Open license and is available from Google Code. It is still being recommended in some quarters.

SARoNGS has been mentioned a number of times on the blog. It provides a way of allowing users onto a grid using their institutional credentials.

We know that SARoNGS development has been too slow. We know that the user interface is confusing. We know it doesn't quite work with the UI/WMS. We were reluctant to turn it into a production service until we had overcome some mind-twistingly-obscure bugs.

But SARoNGS has been used - at York, within the NeISS project, and elsewhere - as a simple way to pass authentication information around.

Failure may not be an option but - thanks to the efforts of people within and outside the NGS - it isn't inevitable either.

[With thanks to David Meredith]

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