Thursday, February 19, 2009

(These Days) Development Skills

I do remember times very well when software development was envisioned as a process of combining components (either ActiveX or some kind of Beans), and smart people started to perceive software as a kinda utility (like water, electricity or network access). I did not comment on this. Talking about the technical aspects, not much has changed. Writing (beautiful) code is still a creative and a heuristic process. And, beside patterns and practice, it needs strong skills and a lot of experience. Again, there is nothing new about this (since 19** ?). Just two examples from today’s problem spaces: parallelization and distributed apps on a large scale. To cope with today’s hardware platforms (multi-core) needs a lot of knowledge and diligence in developing applications running on them. There is no magic tool, workbench, compiler, etc. to solve such problems implicitly, not yet. You need a decent understanding of processors, cashing, threads and shared memory. Sure, testing this stuff comes with another steep learning curve. Secondly, largely distributed systems (take upcoming clouds as an example) do need a different approach pertaining to availability and consistency (see my posts on BASE, CAP, etc.). It’s up to the development team to hide the trade-off between data consistency, system availability, and tolerance to network partitions. This is not a piece of cake. It needs new approaches and thinking models, pretty similar as when we moved from the client server-paradigm to more or less simple distributed- application-patterns. In essence, the heuristic part of software development is alive and kicking.

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