Narender Yadav / July 24, 2018
The devil is in the details – nothing could be truer in the world of software development. As applications of today become increasingly complex, engineering the right systems software which includes the operating system (OS) programs and services, the device drivers, settings, file libraries and other ancillary components and configurations that service the application, become critical contributors of application success. Systems programming also lies at the heart of high-performing applications and ensures that the core of the application is strong to survive in this performance-driven world.
In one of our previous blog, we covered the subtle nuances of systems programming, its complexities, and its importance. In this blog, we take a look at the key things to evaluate when you are in the search of a systems programming partner.
The coming of new age applications has ushered us into the new age of systems programming as well. Just being Linux-driven is not enough anymore. Your systems programmer should have the capability to work not only on Linux but also on a variety of other advanced OSes like FreeBSD, and ESX among, others. Along with this, having experience in design, development, and implementation of network and storage drivers becomes an added benefit as it helps in correct evaluations of the networking and storage requirements of the applications. Given that systems programming is close to the hardware, the team should also be highly experienced with robust implementation capabilities.
While traditionally, systems programming was written in assembly language, today’s systems programming partners have to have the capability to work with high-level languages, C, and C++. Knowledge of Embedded C++ comes in handy, especially while working with I/O Kit drivers of macOS.
Systems programming might look like the unglamorous cousin of application development. However, contrary to popular belief, the software experts working on this aspect of programming have to employ innovative development approaches to design customized operating systems and custom device drivers. These solutions have to be secure, reliable and have to deliver a high level of assurance regarding the security of the system.
Your systems programming partners must be detail-oriented as they have to remain alert towards identifying security holes. They also have to ensure that they proactively stay updated for new releases of patches from system vendors, study vulnerability details and the possible impacts on the system and the associated environments closely, and then decide the timelines to apply those patches.
Systems programming can be complicated as the programmers are the ones who have to manage memory, devices, lifecycle, integrations, OSes, communications, and the like individually, without any algorithm support. Additionally, they have to deal with the absence of the abstraction layer in systems. This further complicates the programming process. With limited programming facilities at their disposal, these programmers not only have to be masters in coding but also have to be skilled in identifying, addressing, and implementing debugging requirements using special debugging tools. They also have to ensure that there are built-in backup and recovery tools in place in the Operating System to have a reliable backup process in place. While building these systems, the programmers have to also have a strong testing focus to address vulnerabilities that could impact an application. Having a dedicated focus on testing the scripts used is also essential to ensure a strong system that can capably provide all the desired services to the computer hardware.
Your systems programming partner should also display strong analytical capabilities. Their team of experts should be able to identify if a piece of code can be ported to another platform without largely rewriting it. They should be able to assess if the functionalities implemented are in the kernel or in separate binaries, identify variables to efficiently developing programs that can run in resource-constrained environments etc. As debugging is hard to do, they must have the expertise to identify what is wrong with the system in the least possible time, leveraging the limited resources they have in hand. Along with this, they also have to possess the analytical mind to identify ways to improve the speed and performance of the systems software in this challenging environment to ensure that the application can meet the business goals.
Systems programming is the key support that high-performing applications need. It helps in enhancing and extending the functions of the OS and ensures the efficient management and utilization of all hardware resources. It won’t be off the mark to say that systems programming is the backbone of good application development. As applications and information infrastructures become more complex each day, make sure that your systems programming partner helps you stay ahead of the curve by helping you develop a strong foundation for your software application. And now you know what to look for in your systems programming partner!