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The RAS team met at NCAR in Boulder, CO, for a two-day planning meeting.


(In person) NCAR: Dave Hart, Brian Sterner; NCSA: Amy Schuele, Ester Soriano, Steve Peckins, Alina Banerjee; PSC: Ken Hackworth, Rob Light, Burt Cubbison, Steve Deems; TACC: Carrie Arnold

(Remote) NCSA: Michael Shapiro; SDSC: Sonia Nayak; TACC: Maytal Dahan


The full agenda and slides presented are attached to this page. The first day focused on new ideas and food for thought, including learning about Agile software development and brainstorming about RAS activities and objectives. The second day worked to turn the activities into a plan and the Agile information into a plan of action for RAS.

RAS Planning Agenda 2016.pdf

Day 1 (Sep. 22)

Welcome, Introduction and Goals

Dave Hart presented a summary and recap of XSEDE Resource Allocation Service mission, goals, objectives and plans—primarily taken from various review presentations to XSEDE senior management, the XSEDE Advisory Board, and NSF review panels—to set a common understanding for the team. We also discussed the XSEDE climate survey results overall and findings specific to the RAS teams (provided by Lorna Rivera of the XSEDE Evaluation Team).

Final food for thought: What does it mean for RAS to be "wildly successful."

  • XRAS in self-sustaining, non-subsidized mode for non-XSEDE clients
  • XSEDE serving as central point of information about open-science shared research infrastructure
  • Clearer understanding of the scientific impact of shared research infrastructure 

    • Enabled by published XDCDB data collection(s) for analysis of the use and impact of XSEDE ecosystem 

  • Seamless, reliable-maintainable-available allocations, accounting and database infrastructure

    • Well-defined, automatic communication between components

    • Robust, “future-proof” XDCDB infrastructure 

    • AMIE retired in favor of modern messaging service

RAS Planning 2016 Intro.pdf

Agile Process Tutorial

Nate Wilhelmi (NCAR) presented an overview of and introduction to the Agile development process, including the rationale and value of the process, primarily in comparison to the traditional "waterfall" process.

Takeaways: Agile has a number of advantages, particularly in situations where long-term planning is not practical. Agile engages non-developer stakeholders in "just-in-time" planning cycles to focus on delivering features with the highest business value first.

RAS Planning 2016 Agile Wilhelmi.pdf

Agile in Practice at NCAR and Lessons Learned

Nate Wilhelmi continued with a discussion of how Agile was used in practice by the Software and Web Engineering Group (SWEG) at NCAR. Also present were SWEG team members George Williams, Jason Cunning, Jay Schollenberger and NCAR allocations administrator Michelle Smart.

Discussion focused on the two-week sprints used by the team, how daily standups worked, how pointing/sizing tasks played out in practice, and other practical considerations and questions raised by the team.

RAS Activity Brainstorming

In this session, all team members took turns adding their desired activities and tasks for RAS over the next five years to Post-In Notes that were placed on the wall. The items were only roughly categorized into RAS products: XRAS, Accounting/Account Management, RDR, XDCDB/AMIE, Policy/Procedure, and Other. No prioritization, scheduling or ordering was attempted. The team also included tasks from the team's current JIRA backlog, the draft Allocations Policy Review document, and the RAS introduction slide set (from the first session).

In the last part of this session, the team began sizing the various tasks, using the "T-shirt size" approach: Small, Medium, Large and XXL. Each Post-It was tagged with a colored sticker for its size. Small (green) was loosely defined as "could be done in less than a quarter" (3 months). Medium (blue) was "more than a quarter." Large (orange) was "about a year," and XXL (double orange) was "more than a year."

Note that the activities included non-developer activities, such as tasks to discuss and propose policy/procedure implementations for the recommendations from the Allocation Policy Review team, update allocations documentation and so on. We did not include operational tasks such as managing quarterly XRAC meetings, processing Startup allocations, or responding to help tickets.

RAS Planning 2016 Session Intros.pdf – Includes intro slides for this and Day 2 sessions.

Day 2 (Sep. 23)

RAS Mapping and Five-Year Plan

Starting with the same Post-Its, the team collectively tried to prioritize and order the tasks into XSEDE program years. A few smaller items already in progress were identified as "PY0" to be completed first. The bulk of the items landed, perhaps optimistically, in PY1 and PY2, though PY1 included most of the Policy Review Recommendations. A few of the XXL items were coarsely split into Phase 1, 2 & 3 Post-Its to reflect the expectation that they would require effort in multiple years.

Managing RAS with Agile and JIRA

The team discussed how the Agile process might affect how the RAS team as a whole would interact. The RAS managers also sought the team's input as to the frequency and value of various communication options. 


  • Based on the Agile presentations and discussions with NCAR, the RAS team agreed to initiate two-week Agile iterations, starting the first week of October 2016. 
  • Due to lack of interest and attendance by SP participants, Amy S. will cancel the regular AMIE/accounting calls. Discussions will be held with individual sites as issues arise. Ken H. will similarly discuss with SP participants on the biweekly Allocations call about the value and level of interest in continuing these calls. Based on these conversations, RAS will explore whether our SP communications can be more efficiently conducted with regular participation in the already scheduled SP Forum calls. 
  • The RAS managers had previously scheduled biweekly RAS management calls (along with the RAS PM and Evaluation reps) following the XSEDE SMT meetings. We discussed using one of these meetings, the first such meeting after each XSEDE quarterly meeting, as an all-RAS call to provide XSEDE-wide updates to the team. 
  • A3M had previously scheduled biweekly team meetings; these will continue for the time being as a means of bringing the newer members up to speed, separate from the planned Agile sprint meetings.

RAS A3M Developer Coordination

The preceding session transitioned into more specific discussion on using JIRA to support the proposed RAS Agile approach. Nate Wilhelmi returned to demonstrate how the SWEG team uses JIRA in practice – which features had proved useful and which had been tried and then dropped. Nate did note that the SWEG team members are physically colocated "within 4 feet" of one another. As a distributed team, RAS may find different approaches are needed.

Two interesting takeaways:

  • In SWEG, JIRA issues are not specifically assigned to a team member. This helps to discourage developer silos and keep the focus on the overall goal of delivering business value.
  • The handling of bugs (defects) was also discussed. They are not pointed/sized for various reasons. In addition, where possible, non-critical defects are added to the backlog and prioritized against other business value. Some defects may never be fixed.

Nate W. also presented JIRA Portfolio, which supports longer-term planning (versus the short-term developer prioritization of standard JIRA).


  • Minimally, two JIRA projects will be established – one for A3M development tasks and one for Allocations Policy/Procedure tasks. Amy S. to explore how best to use JIRA to manage tasks that span multiple RAS-supported products. 
  • Amy S. will begin populating JIRA with PY0 and PY1 tasks as discussed and prioritized by the team. 
  • Dave H. to maintain activities prioritized for PY2–PY5. 
  • Dave H. to investigate whether JIRA Portfolio is of value and potentially available to RAS via XSEDE for longer-term initiatives. Trello board may be used in the interim.


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