This 'UFO' stops coders leaving problems behind in the office

Dynatrace’s ‘UFO’. (Source: Tony Yoo, Business Insider)

A technology strategist from US tech company Dynatrace visited the Business Insider Australia office this week and plonked down a curious-looking disc.

“This device stops our coders from leaving the office,” said Andreas Grabner.

Grabner’s team in Boston had developed what they call a “UFO” – a disc that lights up with different colours to communicate to humans what state a system is in. A corporate traffic light, if you will.

While the device can be programmed (through a RESTful API, for those that are technically inclined) to light up for all sorts of different purposes, it was originally invented within Dynatrace to maintain discipline among its computer programmers.

With coders spread all around the world, Dynatrace often ran into problems with programmers locking files that they’re working on then leaving the office — either leaving international colleagues unable to open the files or leaving a build that is “broken”.

“So we built this thing with a 3D printer and there’s a little chip in there that controls 15 by 15 LED [lights]… then you hook it up to the wi-fi.”

The team then placed the UFO next to the office door, and configured it to light up green if all the code is available to be worked on by others — but red if there are any problems. If the light is red, the programmer cannot leave the office until they resolve the issue.

Dynatrace’s Andreas Grabner. (Source: Tony Yoo, Business Insider)

“We make developers automatically better,” he said. “We wanted to raise the awareness of quality and impact that an individual developer has on the other team members, other teams and production.”

After successful use internally, Grabner revealed the device at a Dynatrace customer conference in Las Vegas earlier this month. The 3D printer code for the device is freely available, but interested customers can also buy physical units from the company.

Grabner also revealed Alexa integration of Dynatrace’s system monitoring software this month, named Davis, demonstrating how users could even ask what performance problems have affected company revenue that day.

A natural-language way of communicating with system monitoring, said Grabner, was important in the current business climate when those without traditional operational skills are often put in situations to deal with issues.

Dynatrace is an Austrian-origin software company now headquartered in Boston, USA. It counts Telstra, Westpac New Zealand, Adobe and Verizon among its customers.

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