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Defining Production-Grade Code

Deb Melkin puzzles on a topic:

To me, the most obvious part is that code going out into production can pass code review and testing. You don’t want to send out code that has obvious bugs – like having incorrect joins or inaccurate calculations or poor query plans, etc. Code should also go through reviews, not just to make sure the obvious bugs are there but other basic development standards, like naming conventions and proper commenting, have been followed.

There’s also an interesting bit about proofs of concept that I wanted to expand upon a little. The terms “pilot” and “proof of concept” sound interchangeable (and people switch the terms around quite often) but mean rather different things. A proof of concept is an attempt to see if some concept actually works: for example, can I have my .NET-based web app send 5,000 messages per second to an Azure Event Hub without things falling apart? Proofs of concept are intended to be quick-and-dirty code which do not take into account security, robustness, or code quality. This is throw-away code and should never go into production.

By contrast, a pilot is intended to be production-ready but serves as a scaled-down version of a product. A pilot data warehouse might only include data for one department in the organization but the design accommodates future growth and the people developing it do everything they would do to make the warehouse robust and production-ready.

The really tricky part is that companies will often ask for a proof of concept and then treat it like a pilot, which is where they go wrong and end up spending years on awful maintenance of an awful product.