From Cargo Containers to Code| Unpacking the World of Modern Software

Sean McAdams – 09/28/2023

From Cargo Containers to Code| Unpacking the World of Modern Software

Modern software systems are often complex webs of interacting pieces of software written by various people, teams, or even organizations that work together in a sort of "organized chaos." Each part of the system typically lacks awareness of its role within the whole, but it does define how it interacts with other software components.

This component-based structure is important for a system that needs to move and evolve with a rapidly changing market. A commonly used analogy for software is a maritime container ship. The ship is the software system, and the containers are the individual pieces of software that make up the system. 

Various elements collectively shape modern software development, and understanding their roles is pivotal in crafting successful software solutions. 

  • Containers

    The construction of shipping containers directly influenced the concept of software containers. These containers encapsulate your software, akin to cargo, onto the software platform. While not the sole method for software delivery, it has proven highly efficient for constructing complex systems. Containers offer the flexibility to move, replace, create, or remove them without disrupting the underlying "ship." Challenging decisions revolve around determining the container's contents, often called the "software domain."

  • Data

    Everything revolves around data. How data is stored often shapes software's construction and long-term evolution, making storage a critical decision for any product. In today's landscape, numerous tools and concepts such as "Delta Lake," "Apache Hive," "Iceberg," "Apache Hudi," and more exist, making data storage decisions appear daunting. Firms may favor the latest cloud-based storage solutions when a straightforward, unbiased approach can suffice and offer future adaptability.

    The foundation of most "Big Data" solutions is storing data in its rawest form, regardless of the various labels and terms applied. All other considerations involve data processing and formatting to simplify and expedite its use by smaller software components.

  • Integrations and APIs

    The ability for other systems to access your application's features holds as much importance as the features themselves, with well-defined APIs serving as the cornerstone in most software ecosystems. In many cases, APIs are established before the software is completed. This practice guides critical decisions within the development process and steers developers toward specific architectural patterns. The analogy of constructing a building can be used here. Contractors see the need for accessible entryways, then position doorknobs at reachable heights and ensure doors are wide enough. The same principle applies to software - anticipating its use shapes design choices, as users prefer well-structured pathways over hurdles and tight squeezes.

  • Automation

    Automation is already playing a major role in reshaping the future of work. However, viewing "automation" as a continually evolving tool rather than a magical solution or an ultimate answer to all challenges is important. Present-day automation takes various forms to relieve individuals of the repetitive tasks and processes they currently handle. One form is "no code/low code" automation, in which a user interface enables a person to build custom workflows from a list of available actions and events. CRM systems commonly use this type of automation framework. Another flavor is Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a methodology in which digital workers perform tasks by following a process without any human intervention. SS&C Blue Prism is a leader in RPA technology, capable of deploying digital workers to replace repetitive tasks at scale, ultimately freeing advisors to engage in more strategic, value-added work.

  • Artificial Intelligence

    In today's technology discussions, AI is an inevitable topic. While numerous uncertainties surround AI's role in software development, one certainty remains: it will undoubtedly reshape the current landscape. AI is already heavily employed in well-defined areas, such as interpreting and detecting intent in communications and solving complex problems that traditionally required countless human testing iterations. Even code generation has gained prominence in modern development environments, expediting day-to-day tasks. Simplifying software's foundational components increases the likelihood of AI replacing or constructing those blocks.

Software development is a dynamic and intricate field where numerous components and concepts come together to create innovative solutions. As we've explored the significance of these elements, it becomes clear they are driving the evolution of software systems. Staying open to emerging technologies is key to shaping the future of software development. 

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