Microsoft Changes How It Builds Software

This article from Wall Street Journal talks about the changes Microsoft adapted in Windows Vista programming (earlier, code named Longhorn). Worth reading for all software engineers.

Link to the article at WSJ (subscription required). A copy of this article is available at net127 blog

Quotes:

Midway through the development of Longhorn, the team realized that Longhorn was irredeemable because Microsoft engineers were building it just as they had always built software. Throughout its history, Microsoft had let thousands of programmers each produce their own piece of computer code, then stitched it together into one sprawling program. Now, Mr. Allchin argued, the jig was up. Microsoft needed to start over.

In 2001 Microsoft made a documentary film celebrating the creation of Windows XP, which remains the latest full update of Windows. When Mr. Allchin previewed the film, it confirmed some of his misgivings about the Windows culture. He saw the eleventh-hour heroics needed to finish the product and get it to customers. Mr. Allchin ordered the film to be burned.

…..

When the Longhorn project to build an XP successor got started, teams of engineers set off to develop it as they always had. Mr. Gates was especially eager for them to add a fundamental change to Windows called WinFS that would let PC users search and organize information better. One goal was to let users scour their entire computer for work they had done on a subject without needing to go through every individual program or document.

Mr. Srivastava had his team draw up a map of how Windows’ pieces fit together. It was 8 feet tall and 11 feet wide and looked like a haphazard train map with hundreds of tracks crisscrossing each other.

By late October, Mr. Srivastava’s team was beginning to automate the testing that had historically been done by hand. If a feature had too many bugs, software “gates” rejected it from being used in Longhorn. If engineers had too many outstanding bugs they were tossed in “bug jail” and banned from writing new code. The goal, he says, was to get engineers to “do it right the first time.”

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