Software Complexity, Lines of Code and Digital Derby

on Jan 27, 09 • by Brendan Harrison • with 4 Comments

Many of us have seen the # of lines of code (LOC) stats that get thrown around as a metric for illustrating how complex software development has become: The U.S. Army’s Future Combat System is estimated at 60 million lines of code (MLOC) The software that runs the Boeing 787 is almost 7 MLOC, triple ...

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Many of us have seen the # of lines of code (LOC) stats that get thrown around as a metric for illustrating how complex software development has become:

  • The U.S. Army’s Future Combat System is estimated at 60 million lines of code (MLOC)
  • The software that runs the Boeing 787 is almost 7 MLOC, triple that of the 777
  • GM says future cars will have >100 MLOC (that sounds high, but hey, <insert GM joke here>)

So, yes there’s a lot of code out there, it’s growing, and it’s getting more complex. It’s tough to put these numbers into perspective… Jack Ganssle has a clever column that does just that:

  • A million lines of code printed out would be 18,000 pages
  • A million lines of code will typically have 100,000 bugs pre-test
  • A million lines of code costs $20m to $40m

I won’t try to compete with Jack on the stats front since that column speaks for itself, and it’s not just the mission/safety critical systems that are trying to deal with the challenges of more code, more complexity, and less time (as in time-to-market). The consumer market is no different. Guess how much code is in the Xbox HD DVD Player? Not the whole system, just the player? 4.7 MLOC. Heck, you could fly an airplane with all that code (hopefully most of it can also be re-used on a non-obsolete disc format). Just as a point of comparison to today’s gaming systems, ask yourself how many software engineers worked on this “game system”:

Yes, I had to throw Digital Derby under the bus didn’t I? Not because I don’t have fond memories of playing this game that was about the size of carry-on luggage. In fact, I played it until the poor little conveyor belt just stopped working and I put up with the, ahem, limitations in the technology. I was actually quite patient (more patient than I am now with technology) and gave my little Digital Derby second and third chances to work properly.

More code, more complexity, impatient customers, and very little margin for error – these are the trends that are driving tool and process automation across the board in the SDLC.

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4 Responses to Software Complexity, Lines of Code and Digital Derby

  1. Hey! Can I ask what’s this template you are using in your blog? thanks.

  2. Hey there.. I have a similar website… How do you control the spam? I get a ton like every day, and it takes so much time to delete it all..

  3. Interesting stats, particularly the number of pages per million lines of code and the cost. It’s mind boggling and staggering.

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