Building Robust Software

Software is infamously hard. This notion dates back to the 70s with the software crisis and the “No Silver Bullet” paper by Fred Brooks. The bigger the system, the more complicated it is to build software for it. The traditional trajectory is build a system to spec and watch it decay over time and rot until it is impossible to add new features or fix bugs due to the overwhelming complexity.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Robust software (per my own definition) is a software system that gets better and better over time. Its architecture becomes simpler and more generic as it incorporates more real world use cases. Its test suite gets more comprehensive as it checks for more combinations of inputs and environment. Its real-world performance improves as insights into usage patterns allow for pragmatic optimizations. Its technology stack and third-party dependencies are getting upgraded to take advantage of their improvements. The team gets more familiar with the general architecture of the system and the business domain (working on such a system is a pleasure so churn will be low). The operations team gathers experience, automates more and more processes and builds or incorporates existing tools to manage the system.

The team develops APIs to expose the functionality in a loosely coupled way and integrates with external systems. This may sound like a pipe dream to some of you, but it is?possible. It takes a lot of commitment and confidence, but the cool thing is that if you’re able to follow this route you’ll produce software that is not only high quality but also fast to develop and adapt to different business needs. It does take a significant amount of experience to balance the trade-offs between infrastructure and applications needs. If you can pull it off, you will be handsomely rewarded. The first step in your journey is to realize the status quo is broken.

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