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IBM: we have simplified our software

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Steve Mills, IBM's head of software, says the company has made "significant" inroads in simplifying installation and management for customers.

IBM has changed the way it develops and manages its diverse set of product code bases, having bought 42 software companies - each with differing code bases - during the last 10 years, he said. IBM now re-uses 50 million lines of code to eliminate redundancy and to provide greater consistency for customers across products.

Mills made the claims yesterday in response to Donna Scott, Gartner veep and analyst, during Gartner's Symposium and IT/xpo 2005. In a discussion titled "conquering complexity in software and networking", Scott said some Gartner clients are troubled by the complexity of IBM's software. Mills was joined during the debate by Charles Giancarlo, Cisco's chief technology officer.

Under questioning from Scott, Mills confessed: "We recognize, we are the impediment" to simplified IT.

He said that one problem is the need to balance innovation around new features, which some customers want - but which threaten to further complicate the underlying code base - with the desire to consolidate the existing feature set.

"It's part of our DNA and part of what we do as a company," He said. "This is an endless struggle of how do we get the balance between delivering features for leading edge customers and providing scalability for the mass market."

He also blamed developers' "culture" for helping complicate application development. "Given enough time and resource, software engineers will re-invent the work of everyone who's gone before them... with pride."

Mills advised ISVs and customers to contain development by restricting the amount of resources available to programmers and the time they have to complete projects. Standards and open source mean that developers can re-use code and take advantage of componentized software, avoiding the need to re-invent.

"Re-use is an enormous advantage in the reduction of complexity and improving usability," he said. ®

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