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8 Ways to Improve Your Java EE Production Support Skills ~ Java EE Support Patterns

8 Ways to Improve Your Java EE Production Support Skills ~ Java EE Support Patterns

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Published by Jairo Zamora

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Published by: Jairo Zamora on Sep 18, 2012
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Java EE Support Patterns
Java EE, Java tutorials, JVM, Middleware technologies
8 Ways to improve your Java EE Production Supportskills
8/11/2012 P-H2 COMMENTS
Everybody involved in Java EEproduction support knows this job can bedifficult; 7/24 pager support, multipleincidents and bug fixes to deal with on aregular basis, pressure from the clientand the management team to resolveproduction problems as fast as possibleand prevent reoccurrences. On top of your day to day work, you also have totake care of multiple applicationdeployments driven by multiple IT delivery teams. Sounds familiar? As hard as it can be, the reward for your hard work can be significant. You may have noticedfrom my past articles that I’m quite passionate about Java EE production support, root causeanalysis andperformance related problems. This post is all about sharing a few tips and workprinciples I have applied over the last 10+ years working with multiple Java EE productionsupport teams onshore & offshore.This article will provide you with 8 ways to improve your production support skills which mayhelp you better enjoy your IT support job and ultimately become a Java EE production supportguru.
#1 – Partner with your clients and delivery teams
My first recommendation should not be a surprise to anybody. Regardless how good you arefrom a technical perspective, you will be unable to succeed as a great production supportleader if you fail to partner with your clients and IT delivery teams.You have to realize that you are providing a service to your client who is the owner andmaster of the IT production environment. You are expected to ensure the availability of thecritical Java EE production systems and address known and future problems to come. Stayaway from damaging attitudes such as a false impression that you are the actual owner or getting frustrated at your client for lack of understanding of a problem etc. Your job is to get allthe facts right and provide good recommendations to your clients so they can make the rightdecisions. Over time, a solid trust will be established between you and your client with greatbenefits & opportunities.
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Java 7: HashMap vs ConcurrentHashMap java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: Parentfirst Class...8 Ways to improve your Java EEProduction Support ...July
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Building a strong relationship with the IT delivery team is also very important. The deliveryteam, which includes IT architects, project managers and technical resources, is seen as theteam of experts responsible to build and enhance the Java EE production environments viatheir established project delivery model. Over the years, I have seen several examples of friction between these 2 actors. The support team tends to be over critical of the delivery teamwork due to bad experience with failed deployments, surge of production incidents etc. I havealso noticed examples where the delivery team tends to lack confidence in support teamcapabilities again due to bad experience in the context of failed deployments or lack of proper root cause analysis or technical knowledge etc. As a production support individual, you have to build your credibility and stay away fromnegative and non-professional attitude. Building credibility means hard work, proper gatheringof facts, technical & root cause analysis, showing interest in learning a new solution etc. Thiswill increase the trust with the delivery team and allow you to gain significant exposure andexperience in long term. Ultimately, you will be able to work and provide consultation for bothteams.Proper balance and professionalism between these 3 actors is key for any successful ITproduction environment.
#2 – Every production incident is a learning opportunity
One of the great things about Java EE production support is the multiple learningopportunities you are exposed to. You may have realized that after each production outageyou achieved at least one the following goals:You gained new technical knowledge from a new problem typeYou increased your knowledge and experience on a known situationYou increased your visibility and trust with your operation clientYou were able to share your existing knowledge with other team members allowingthem to succeed and resolve the problemPlease note that it is also normal to face negative experiences from time to time. Again, youwill also grow stronger from those and learn from your mistakes.Recurring problems, incidents or preventive work still offer you opportunities to gather moretechnical facts, pinpoint the root cause or come up with recommendations to develop apermanent resolution.The bottom line is that the more incidents you are involved with, the better. It is OK if you arenot comfortable yet to take an active role in the incident recovery but please ensure that youare present so you can at least gain experience and knowledge from your other moreexperienced team members.
#3 – Don't fear change, embrace it
One common problem I have noticed across the Java EE support teams is a fear factor 
Pierre-Hugues Charbonneau is a Java EEconsultant currently working for CGI Inc. inCanada. He has 10 years+ of experiencedeveloping and troubleshooting Java EE systems. Email:
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around production platform changes such as project deployment, infrastructure or networklevel changes etc. Below are a few reasons of this common fear:For many support team members, application “change” is synonym of production“instability”Lack of understanding of the project itself or scope of changes will automaticallytranslate as fear Low comfort level of executing the requested application or middleware changesSuch fear factor is often a symptom of gaps in the current release management processbetween the 3 main actors or production platform problems such as:Lack of proper knowledge transfer between the IT delivery and support teams Already unstable production environment prior to new project deploymentLack of deep technical knowledge of Java EE or middlewareFear can be a serious obstacle for your future growth and must be deal with seriously. Myrecommendation to you is that regardless of the existing gaps within your organization, simplyembrace the changes but combine with proper due diligence such as asking for more KT,participating in project deployment strategy and risk assessments, performing codewalkthroughs etc. This will allow you to eliminate that “fear” attitude, gain experience andcredibility with your IT delivery team and client. This will also give you opportunities to buildrecommendations for future project deployments and infrastructure related improvements.Finally, if you feel that you are lacking technical knowledge to implement the changes, simplysay it and ask for another more experienced team member to shadow your work. Thisapproach will reduce your fear level and allow you to gain experience with minimal risk level.
#4 – Learn how to read JVM Thread Dump and monitoring tools data
I’m sure you have noticed from my past articles and case studies that I useJVM ThreadDumpa lot. This is for a reason.Thread Dump analysisis one of the most important and valuable skill to acquire for any successful Java EE production support individual. I analyzedmy first Thread Dump 10 years ago when troubleshooting a Weblogic 6 problem running onJDK 1.3. 10 years and hundreds of Thread Dump snapshots later, I’m still learning newproblem patternsThe good part with JVM and Thread Dump is that you will always find newpatterns to identity and understand.I can guarantee you that once you acquire this knowledge (along withJVM fundamentals), notonly a lot of production incidents will be easier to pinpoint but also much more fun andself-rewarding. Given how easy, fast and non-intrusive it is these days to generate a JVMThread Dump; there is simply no excuse not to learn this key troubleshooting technique.
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