Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The February issue of Python Magazine is out and contains my article "Using Python and SOAP to create a CLI for JIRA" about the Python CLI that I wrote for JIRA a while ago. The article's summary reads:

Many web applications include an API that lets you interact with them from the command line as well as with a browser. In this article, Matthew shows how to build a command line interface for JIRA, a well-known issue tracking system, using Python and SOAP. JIRA is a Java application, but using SOAP allows you access to many of its features using just Python.

One hint that I wish I had remembered to add is that when you have a redirect to your JIRA server, for instance when http://jira.mycompany.com is redirected by Apache or IIS to http://jira.mycompany.com:8080, you may see your login mysteriously fail. The answer is that you have to use the redirected URL with the JIRA CLI. You can find out what the redirected URL is by running the CLI with the argument -v10 to increase the logging verbosity and look at the line that starts with "Host". This example shows that the port to use is 8080.

*** Outgoing HTTP headers **********************************************
POST /rpc/soap/jirasoapservice-v2 HTTP/1.0
Host: localhost:8080

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Finally, a use for those JIRA user properties

One of the most useful JIRA plugins I've found is the JIRA Toolkit, described as "a bunch of neat custom fields Atlassian have developed for their own use". As an aside, if they're so neat and useful then why aren't they in the core product?

One of the more recently developed fields is the View User Property custom field, which is currently only documented in the issue that last link refers to. This handy little field allows you to display properties that you previously added to a user, as a read-only field in each issue.

For example, add a property named "Company" to some of your users in JIRA, then install the JIRA toolkit and create an instance of the View User Property field. Now configure it with "reporter:Company". Add the new field to some screens and the value of the reporter's Company field will show up in the issue. This also works with "assignee:Company". You can even get a user name with "My Custom Field:Company". This will use the user name found in the custom field named "My Custom Field". Just use the JIRA custom field name, including any spaces.

I've just used this to associate a company name with every customer user, and I'm sure there are a number of other pieces of per-user information that could be displayed with this field. One missing piece for this field is the ability to search for issues with particular values.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Evaluating JIRA Multisite

Given the number of organizations already using JIRA across a WAN, there is plenty of interest in finding ways to improve the experience. I've had a few clients suggest using distributed databases, changing HTTP caching behaviour or not using HTTPS. None of these are really great fixes, and are complicated by the fact that JIRA keeps much of its data in a local Lucene index outside the database for performance reasons.

So when WANdisco announced a beta of JIRA Multisite last November in partnership with Atlassian, I was interested to see what it would do. It's billed as a high availability solution and in doing that it gives you local JIRA servers with all your data nicely synchronized. There is another approach that was announced at about the same time, the JIRA clustering solution Scarlet. I haven't evaluated Scarlet yet but it appears to have a single point of failure by default.

I contacted WANdisco to ask for an evaluation copy and they were happy to help. They have an existing replication tool for CVS and Subversion that they've connected to JIRA. You need their tool and their instance of JIRA. As an aside, though they are keeping up with each release of JIRA, I'd rather have instructions about how to modify my existing instance of JIRA to work with their tool, but I'll take what I can get for now.

To provide high availability you have to have 3 or more instances of JIRA, but since I was mainly interested in how each sites' performance changed, I just set up two instances of JIRA, one in San Jose, CA and the other in Bangalore, India. The connection between the two sites is a clogged T1 at best and the team in India often have sluggish response times from JIRA.

Setup Experience

WANdisco wanted to set the tool up, but I did it myself in an hour for the two nodes. Instructions were beta quality, but not bad. After that piece of stubbornness, their tech founder worked out what I had done wrong in about an hour, and then together we had it all working in another hour. Three hours from scratch is pretty good as these things go.


I modified a bug in San Jose and watched the change appear in India a second or two later. Then I modified a bug in India and saw the change locally in about the same time. Just as expected. Then we stopped one of the JIRA servers, made some changes, waited a bit, restarted the server and saw the changes all get synchronized. Other users updated issues over the next month and the changes appeared just as expected. The big win was that the users in India saw their local response improve dramatically. The underlying WANdisco replication tool was rock solid for the month's evaluation.


The version I tested didn't synchronize attachments, but that has been added since then. You do have to use the same OS (and database I believe) for all the instances of JIRA. This was not a problem for me, but if you have a Windows server in one location and Linux in another, it won't work.

I didn't try https, but I did set up LDAP authentication and that worked as expected

I'm pretty sure that if I wanted to go back to one instance of JIRA I could have exported the data and then reimported it into a non-multisite instance of JIRA.


Pricing is public and is US $7500 per instance of JIRA, which is about 50% more than the current Enterprise license cost. This seems about right given the cost of the tool and the target customers. Support comes from WANdisco and JIRA, in that order.


JIRA Multisite is still in its early stages, but it is very promising. It worked well for me with little effort, and provides good value for the price.