German cars are a product of Over Engineering

Germany and over-engineering

Siemens Research Director Reinhold Achatz outlined the future of software development in his keynote at embedded world and warned against too much perfectionism.

The keynote at embedded world this year was all about software development. Dr. Reinhold Achatz, who heads central research and development at Siemens, described Siemens as a software company. Siemens employs 20,000 software developers. "We sell software - packed in hardware boxes," said Achatz.

Achatz described the development from isolated embedded systems of the past to networked systems of the current generation. According to him, the next step will be »Cyber-Physical Systems«, which are not only networked, but also act autonomously. While today's systems have a hierarchical organization, cyber-physical systems form a network of independently working systems that interactively connect the real, physical with the digital world in real time. As examples, Achatz cited the interaction of roads and cars in the future or the emerging “smart grid”, an electricity network that independently adjusts renewable energy sources and base load power plants to the electricity demand.

According to Dr. Achatz general metrics are developed and used with which things like degree of reuse, quality and costs can be measured.

One key to successful software that does not have to be developed from scratch for every project are »platforms«, i.e. standardized blocks that can be used as the basic building blocks of development. Here it is important to set appropriate standards in Europe.

On the subject of outsourcing software engineering to low-wage countries, Achatz said that such a relocation not only saves costs, but also adds complexity to the project. The resulting additional costs would have to be carefully weighed against the costs saved.

At the end of his lecture he warned against too much perfectionism: "We Germans tend to overengineering". This is not valued in the USA and much less in Asia. "More features don't always make a better product." His urgent appeal: "Only requirements that the customer pays for are good requirements."