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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How to determine the Operating System support for your product - Part 7

In the previous post in this series (Operating System support for your software application - Part 6), I focused on the different roles and responsibility of stakeholders in the team, primarily the Product Management, the QE, and the developers. The Product Manager has to take the decision taking into account the various pros and cons of such a move, and also while evaluating revenue impact; the QE and development team would do their contribution to this discussion keeping in mind the impact on their effort, and any technical factors that could also influence the decision. In this post, I will talk more about the dependency and also briefly touch on the 32 bit or 64 bit discussion.
For some years now, there has been an ongoing discussion about the need to move applications onto a 64 bit architecture and stop support for 64 bit architecture. Most people will not understand this discussion, and the reason why it is a top item of discussion for many teams. In near layman's terms, when you state that your application is now 64 bit, it would mean that it can take inherent advantage of the benefits posed by the new wave of 64 bit operating systems, being able to allocate more memory, and numerous other technical advantages. Also, most Operating Systems that are now available are 64 bit. So why not go ahead and convert your application to 64 bit ? Well, converting your codebase to offer native 64 bit support is a project by itself, requiring a large amount of development and testing time. For teams that have limited resources, making such choices is not easy (and most teams cannot claim to have unlimited resources). In addition, you also need to realize that you would no longer be properly supporting consumers who still have 32 bit operating systems (and where the hardware has been supporting 64 bit for a long time now), so this is a decision that needs to be taken.
The other aspect of this post is in terms of the various components that your application would use. In today's world of software development, it is hard to think of a large software that the development team has totally written. Consider that your product is a large video manipulation application. Even though a lot of the workflows will be written by your team, the functionality of a number of sub-areas are better handled by using external components (which could be built by other teams within the company, or by other companies which specialize in such areas). For example, if you are looking at an application that allows users to organize, edit and manipulate videos, you would need support for the different video formats, you would need access to different encoders and decoders, you would need components for creating DVD's or Blue Ray discs as part of the end process. In all such cases, it is far more efficient and effective to use specialized software rather than trying to replicate all of them.
And this is where you dependency starts to dictate matters for you in terms of the operating system support. The external components that you use are created by companies that in turn have to take the same decision for operating system support as you do, and they would also have a large number of customers, based on whom they need to take decisions. It is entirely possible that you would end up in a scenario where some key component that you are using is dropping support for an operating system, and given its criticality in your own application, you are forced to also stop support for the same operating system.

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