Metropolis: Buildings and Applications

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The Metropolis series of talks refers to a collection of presentations which examine cities and their evolution since being connected by the railroads and shows how Information Technology is undergoing the same transformations as IT shops are connected by the Internet. This second talk in the series examines the parallels between buildings in the city and applications in the IT shop. Buildings come in many shapes, forms, and uses. Some are built with major investments and the builders anticipate a long and vibrant lifetime for the building. Others are built for quick turnover and short lives. As buildings age, different aspects of the building have different lifetimes and amortizations. It is common to see the roof, siding, plumbing, or wiring redone a number of times before the building is discarded. We are also seeing an increasing trend towards buildings being designed for a class or category of occupant without knowing the specific occupant. You see this in retail malls, office buildings, and more. As time moves on, a larger percentage of buildings are designed for a generalized use and a smaller percentage customized for the buyer. Applications are following the same trend (although lagging the construction industry by a number of decades). We see major investments in some pieces of software and then surprisingly quick-and-dirty implementations of others. We see renovation of applications across releases with some aspects of the application remaining intact while other aspects may change many times over the lifetime of the code. Finally, we are gradually seeing the creation of patterns or classes of applications and supporting infrastructure to ease their development. This talk will cover a number of parallels between buildings and applications. We intend to show that the same forces that have shaped the building industry are shaping the development of applications. It is possible to look to the building industry to tell us where applications will be going.

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