Software Product Lines:
Ready for Prime Time
Greetings from BigLever:
One of the most important objectives -- and responsibilities -- of the systems and software product line (SPL) community is to bring this emerging practice into widespread use in the mainstream development community.
Key indicators, such as a groundswell of interest at industry conferences and visibility in the trade press (see sidebar), signify that SPL methods are gaining entry into the consciousness and vocabulary of the mainstream development world. For SPL adopters and proponents, this is especially good news. It provides validation and supporting evidence that SPL technologies and tools are "ready for prime time" and should be part of every portfolio development organization.
The impetus for this growing acceptance appears to be that SPL approaches are becoming more congruent and compatible with current development practices. For example, as SPL methods become more incremental, agile and non-disruptive, development organizations are able to extend, rather than replace, their current approaches. By removing the upfront barriers to SPL adoption, these new methods and approaches allow companies of all types and sizes to broaden their current practice to accommodate the unique requirements of developing a product line portfolio.
Thus, a broader range of companies now have greater, more immediate access to the order-of-magnitude gains and benefits -- both strategic and tactical -- delivered by SPL practice.
The New Generation of Pragmatic SPL Methodology
First generation SPL methods tended to be large and complex, making adoption difficult in practice. Through direct involvement in a spectrum of real world SPL deployments, including SPL Hall of Fame inductees LSI Logic/Engenio and Salion, we have identified a simpler pattern of SPL engineering methodology, referred to as the 3-Tiered Methodology.
This pragmatic new generation methodology is useful for understanding SPL and in justifying why SPL technology and methods should be part of every portfolio development organization. Its practical tiered approach is instrumental in allowing companies to remove barriers and successfully transition to and operate SPL practices.
The 3-Tiered Methodology comprises the following three tiers of capabilities and benefits, where each tier builds upon and is enabled by the previous tier.
- Base Tier -- Variation Management and Automated Production
First class variation management and a fully automated production line deliver optimized developer productivity and significant reductions in per-product development cost.
- Middle Tier -- Core Asset Focused Development
Shifting from product focused to core asset focused development enables the portfolio to be developed as a single system rather than a multitude of products. High levels of software reuse and deep core asset expertise are the result, leading to optimized product quality.
- Top Tier -- Feature Based Portfolio Evolution
As the business transitions from product based to feature based portfolio evolution -- where the entire portfolio evolves by adding or modifying feature requirements -- the result is extremely efficient collaboration and concise communication between the business and engineering teams, leading to faster time-to-market and increased product line scalability.
Over the next several weeks, the BigLever Newsletter will feature an informative 4-part introductory series focusing on our experience and observations regarding these three tiers of SPL capabilities and benefits, and how you can achieve them.
Charles W. Krueger
BigLever Software CEO
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