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Advances in Streamlining Software Delivery on the Web and its Relations to Embedded Systems

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Title: Advances in Streamlining Software Delivery on the Web and its Relations to Embedded Systems
Author(s): Hirvikoski, Kasper
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Computer Science
Discipline: Computer science
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2015
Software delivery has evolved notably over the years, starting from plan-driven methodologies and lately moving to principles and practises shaped by Agile and Lean ideologies. The emphasis has moved from thoroughly documenting software requirements to a more people-oriented approach of building software in collaboration with users and experimenting with different approaches. Customers are directly integrated into the process. Users cannot always identify software needs before interacting with actual implementations. Building software is not only about building products in the right way, but also about building the right products. Developers need to experiment with different approaches, directly and indirectly. Not only do users value practical software, but the development process must also emphasise on the quality of the product or service. Development processes have formed to support these ideologies. To enable a short feedback-cycle, features are deployed often to production. A software is primarily delivered through a pipeline consisting of tree stages: development, staging and production. Developers develop features by writing code, verify these by writing related tests, interact and test software in a production-like 'staging' environment, and finally deploy features to production. Many practises have formed to support this deployment pipeline, notably Continuous Integration, Deployment and Experimentation. These practises focus on improving the flow of how software is being developed, tested, deployed and experimented with. The Internet has provided a thriving environment for using new practises. Due to the distributed nature of the web, features can be deployed without the need of any interaction from users. Users might not even notice the change. Obviously, there are other environments where many of these practises are much harder to achieve. Embedded systems, which have a dedicated function within a larger mechanical or electrical system, require hardware to accompany the software. Related processes and environments have their limitations. Hardware development can only be iterative to a certain degree. Producing hardware takes up front design and time. Experimentation is more expensive. Many stringent contexts require processes with assurances and transparency - usually provided by documentation and long-testing phases. In this thesis, I explore how advances in streamlining software delivery on the web has influenced the development of embedded systems. I conducted six interviews with people working on embedded systems, to get their view and incite discussion about the development of embedded systems. Though many concerns and obstacles are presented, the field is struggling with the same issues that Agile and Lean development are trying to resolve. Plan-driven approaches are still used, but distinct features of iterative development can be observed. On the leading edge, organisations are actively working on streamlining software and hardware delivery for embedded systems. Many of the advances are based on how Agile and Lean development are being used for user-focused software, particularly on the web.

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