Debugging can be a bit like detective work. First a developer discovers a faulty function or webpage through testing, bug reports or user feedback. They then try to reproduce it, develop a hypothesis for the underlying cause, root around the relevant code to make changes and then test to see if it fixes the problem.
There’s a lot of time, legwork and communication involved in the initial information gathering stages of the process. Rookout, a cybersecurity startup based in Tel Aviv, Israel, rolled out a new cloud-based debugging heatmap Thursday designed to quickly identify the buggiest applications in an enterprise and cut down on the time developer teams spend troubleshooting.
Delivered as a cloud-based software development kit that plugs into an organization’s IT environment, it creates a color-coded map of an organization’s IT environment that flags the buggiest applications and drills down into when and where developers are spending their time debugging.
There’s plenty of room for increased efficiency in the debugging process. Research from Microsoft that included interviews with dozens of software developers found that finding and fixing software bugs continues to take up an inordinate amount of time at many companies, and many developers are crying out for new and better tools to help with the debugging process.
One of the needs expressed was for more information and context on the front end: where and when bugs are manifesting in the application code and the data and traffic inputs flowing in at the time of a crash. Gathering that data can be time consuming and rely on interactions with multiple parties.
“Whether finding the source of a bug or evaluating a potential change to a program, the answers come from many sources,” researchers write. “There is often not enough information about a bug or desired fix, necessitating communication with team members, be it face-to-face or via email, between external specialists or customers.”
Rookout’s primary business model is based on pulling out actionable data from software code to inform debugging strategies. Last year, the company received $8 million in seed funding from Cisco Investments, GitHub CEO Nat Freidman and other parties.
Oded Keret, Rookout’s director of product management, said in an interview that most commonly used tracking tools fail to capture or document all the work that goes into the debugging process, or don’t provide enough granular information to pinpoint which stage of development the software is glitching. Other tracking tools on the market “only show you some of the picture, they only show you the documented work, and debugging is often a lot of undocumented work.”
The idea behind the heatmap is to automate some of that early discovery process and make it easier for enterprise to identify hotspots where functionality is most affected and more quickly deploy organizational resources as needed. Because the kit interfaces directly with an organization’s IT applications, it can monitor and pull more data about the organization’s debugging flow from IT tickets and a variety of other sources. It also allows labeling for bugs found in different parts of application deployment cycle.
“We know which files in the code our customers have set a breakpoint, we know which files in the code that breakpoint was activated and sent data,” He said.
He places potential customers for the heatmap into two buckets: for some, it can be useful to validate existing anecdotal or instinctual beliefs about where the biggest problem spots in their application environments lie. Others “just don’t know how bad things are” and would benefit from a higher baseline situational awareness. Either way, the goal is to cut down on hours of extraneous research and data collection that goes into the debugging process.
“What the new heatmap does for that second group…is it makes the un-measurable measurable," Keret said. "It gives them a true sense of ‘this is the problem, this is how deep it is, and this is how much it can improve if you enhance your debugging flow.'"