IBM exec: Impending death of Moore's Law calls for software development changes

Grady B ooch says more levels of abstraction needed as performance levels off

Las Vegas – IBM Fellow Grady Booch on Tuesday cited the need for more levels of abstraction in software development to compensate for what he believes is the upcoming death of Moore’s Law.

Speaking at the IBM Rational Software Development Conference, Booch also reviewed a list of IBM research projects ranging from Star Trek-like speech conversion technology to a Dick Tracy-style high-tech watch.

The end is in sight for Moore’s Law of continually increasing computer performance, said Booch, who made a similar statement last year. This end will require raising the level of abstraction for developers, he added. But Booch offered little solace to those who want to make software development an easy task.

“Software development has been, is, and will remain fundamentally hard,” Booch said. Technologists can try to push back complexity of development, but it will always be there, he said.

But a conference attendee held out hope for Moore’s Law. “We may have to go to something besides quantum physics for that to keep up,” said the attendee, Jay Guhlke, a software engineer at Northrop Grumman. Software, meanwhile, has had limitations because of its reliance on metal for storage, but resorting to something like crystal materials may be a solution, Guhlke said.

Booch cited trends in software, such as a two-exabyte annual growth in code being written and the acceptance of Java and Linux. “This really annoys the heck out of Bill, but the reality is the Linux marketplace has grown amazingly well,” said Booch, referring to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.

An analyst attending the speech expressed interest in Booch’s citing of “activity spaces,” which pertain to the relationship between social networks and development organizations.

"Too often, developers work in isolation,” said analyst Melinda-Carol Ballou, principal at Ballou IT Strategies, in an e-mail response. “Understanding patterns of interaction -- who works most frequently with whom and for which initiatives -- will help bridge the gap between them and also across disparate business, operational, and development groups to facilitate efficient use of resources and faster innovation."

Innovation, Booch said, is either done through intentional adaptation, in an unconstrained “skunkworks” manner, or through research.

Continuing with IBM’s SOA push, Booch introduced a demo of “SOA Integration Framework,” which is intended to provide for a set of services at the developer’s disposal when building an SOA. Still a research project and not an actual product, the framework generates a WSDL for a service and allows the developer to search for appropriate business components.

Booch also said the Rational Unified Process is being transformed into the IBM unified process and being deployed throughout IBM.

Booch said IBM’s research thrusts are in four categories: Eclipse, model-driven development capabilities, automated software quality, and enterprise change management. He then proceeded through a roster of research projects, some of which did not seem very pertinent to software development:

* Shorthand-Aided Keyboarding (SHARK), to improve word recognition when typing, factoring in past typing history

* Multilingual Automatic Speech, featuring Star Trek-like speech translation between languages

* Multimedia Analysis and Retrieval Engine (MARVEL), for mining of multimedia objects. Users, for example, would be able to find scenes in long video clips.

* IBM Smart Surveillance System, an advanced surveillance system featuring facial recognition and identification of unusual events

* Veggie Vision, a point-of-sale technology project that automatically recognizes objects such as fruits and vegetables being scanned

* Everywhere Displays, which would embed displays on different objects to promote ubiquitous computing

* Meta Pad Modular Computer, transforming a device into another unit such as a handheld laptop computer

* Linux Watch, a Dick Tracy-style watch that boasts Wi-Fi capabilities.

* Blue Gene, the company’s supercomputer project. “IBM’s investing in this stuff because what you see in supercomputers today becomes stuff that enters your personal computers in some generation hence,” Booch said.

* Milipede, for nanotechnology-based data storage. The project seeks to store approximately 1 terabyte of data on a square inch. Reading back the data remains a challenge, Booch said.

* Quantum Information Process, enabling functions such as quantum cryptography

* Deep Thunder, which features research into short-term weather forecasting

Also on Tuesday, IBM’s Mark Wegman, CTO for software technology at IBM Research, briefly discussed a research project called Architect’s Workbench. The project is intended to move architects through the software process, including mapping out requirements.

The company noted resources available on the company’s alphaWorks site for emerging technologies including IBM Web Services Navigator, which is a Rational Application Developer plug-in for interactive visualization of Web service transactions.

The company’s developerWorks site, meanwhile, now features customizable RSS feeds and a Wiki that is focused on the IBM Emerging Technologies Toolkit.