From afar, all software development looks similar. The language and tools are often the same: java, Eclipse, SQL, sometimes even the odd bit of C. Yet, software is today a basic building block of our society, just like humble steel. And just like steel is used to manufacture car frames, swords, the fork you will use tonight and the frame of concrete buildings, software is concerned by several very different areas, including hollywood style video-games, super-reliable airliner autopilot, consumer web sites to ... corporate software. I will try to summarize what makes corporate software special. I think this is important, as many disasters are linked to the misunderstanding of those specifics and the abusive reuse of best practices from other areas.
It is a common humiliation of the corporate IT professional. After 5 years of work, even more millions spent, and 3 burn-outs in your team, the replacement for the 1960’s old mainframe application of your company is at last ready. You chose the best software package after a long selection process, and customized it to meet all user needs. Yet, today is the end of the second week of your performance tests and you are still stubbornly slower than the mainframe you are replacing: you struggle with ensuring 5 seconds to display a page, whereas the old application ensured typically less than one second. And later in after deployment, things will even be worse.
Two decade ago, many businesses built from scratch large customized business applications on Unix or equivalent platforms. After 5 to 15 years in operation, most of those systems became extremely expensive to maintain. As a reaction to this, most IT department managers saw coding as extremely dangerous. I believe the analysis is mostly flawed.
Innovation is at the core of IT marketing messages. This is at least partially legitimate for some segments of the industry. Chip designers and makers are pushing every day the limit of physics to produce hardware that is more reliable, more powerful and cheaper. The market is commoditized and efficient. I am, overall, a happy buyer of hardware. But go beyond the silicon and the rest is somehow less impressive.
Maintaining a blog is a significant investment, and it is generally done for a purpose. Ego is always one, and I admit I would be glad to see the number of visitors grow. I will however spare you my smiling picture in suit and neck-tie and my resume, because I have nothing to sell you yet, and I am not looking for a job.
Posted by U at 7/29/2013 09:38:00 a.m.