The Free Lunch Is Over, via Random Thoughts, is a fascinating look at where CPUs are headed, and what effect that has on software development. The subtitle: “The biggest sea change in software development since the OO revolution is knocking at the door, and its name is Concurrency” drives home the fact that the author believes that concurrency will be the next big thing in software development.

I was struggling to write a relevant post about this topic, becuase I feel like, at least in the companies I’ve been with, there just wasn’t that much object oriented software being written. I’m working on a project right now that has a minimum of object orientation, even though it is written in java. I’m definitely more familiar with small scale projects and web applications, but I know there are plenty of applications out there that are written and working well without the benefits of objects.

Or, should I say, that are written and working well without the benefits of objects directly. Servers, operating systems and general purpose platforms are a different beast and require a different skill set. And by building on top of such platforms, normal programmers don’t have to understand the intricacies of object oriented development–they can benefit without that investment. Of course, they’d probably benefit more if they understood things and there may come a time in their development that they’ll have to. However, the short term gain of being able to continue on their productive plateau may be worth postponing the learning process (which will take them to a higher plateau at a short term cost).

In the same way, I think that multi-threading won’t be required of normal busines developers. I was struggling with this until the latest NTK came out, with this to say:

CPUs aren’t getting faster! Multi-core is the future! Which means we’ll all need to learn concurrent, multi-threaded programming, or else our software is never going to get faster again! That’s what Herb Sutter’s future shock article in Dr. Dobbs says (below). But before you start re-learning APL, here’s a daring thought: maybe programmers are just too *stupid* to write multi-threaded software (not you of course: that guy behind you). And maybe instead we’ll see more *background* processes springing up – filling our spare CPUs with their own weird, low i/o calculations. Guessing wildly, we think background – or remote – processes are going to be the new foreground.

From the Jan 21 edition, which should be online in a day or so. Those Brits certainly have a way with words.

If you’re a typical programmer, let the brilliant programmers who are responsible for operating systems, virtual machines and application servers figure out how to best use the new speed of concurrent processor execution, and focus on process and understanding business needsand making sure they’re met by your software. Or, if you have a need for speed, look at precalculation rather than multi threading.

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2 thoughts on “Concurrency, object orientation, and getting software done

  1. KJ says:

    Well, if the academics TAUGHT us about multi threading how-tos, we’d be better off. In my case they just mentioned it in passing, but not being able to DO it themselves, could not train us students. This was a good few years back, maybe its different now.
    Even now, Googling around for ANY info on multi threading brings up very thin pickings and a few lab experiment level code snippets. Nothing solid or useable. Mentoring of programmers is the key; sharing knowledge, not hiding it as a dark art. Ok, maybe hiding it to an extent, before ALL our freakin jobs go offshore to Bangla…

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