Sunday, December 09, 2007

Software Engineering Institute and Software Product Lines

SEI has a certificate program in SPL, and I decided I'd take the leap all the way across the country to check it out. If SPL works, it addresses a problem we've wanted to solve for decades: reuse of working code. The first course is basically a high speed tour through the book, Software Product Lines, by Paul Clements and Linda Norththrup. The book is excellent, covering all 29 practice areas with details regarding what you might want to think about for each of them. Moreover they include real world examples, which the two-day class discussed.

A Product Line is not about ad-hoc re-use, which is what most of us do. It is about strategically putting the pieces in places so that a set of core assets are developed that will be re-used by virtue of the decisions made along the way. The core assets are more than re-usable components, and include things such as documents. But the key is that they are defined such that they are usable by all members of the product line. The trick is to choose the scope to make that viable, and do a good job predicting the future of technology.

In 2001, I was leading an effort to try to create an architecture that would be usable across multiple products in a product line; it would have been helpful to have these tools. I have also worked with clients who desperately need to architect their products so that they focus their development efforts on adding value. I am cautiously hopeful that these tools will add significant value.

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