Software Engineering is critical in shaping how we interact with technology in today’s fast-paced digital environment. While the term is often thrown around casually, proper software engineering is a disciplined approach to developing software systems. At Orthogone, we are deeply committed to applying engineering principles in software development, be it for cloud-based smart displays or complex industrial applications. This article delves into the core fundamentals of software engineering, discussing its processes, methods, and tools.
What is Software Engineering?
Before diving into its fundamentals, let’s define what Software Engineering is. It’s an engineering discipline that involves the application of principles of computer science and mathematical analysis to the design, development, testing, and evaluation of software applications and systems. In essence, software engineering aims to create innovative, robust, efficient, and easy-to-maintain software that meets the needs of clients and users. You can learn more about our approach to software engineering here.
The Software Development Process
The first step in any software engineering project is Requirements Analysis. This is the phase where engineers meet with clients or stakeholders to understand what the software needs to achieve. The outcome of this phase is a formal specification that serves as a blueprint for the following stages.
Design and Software Architecture
The next step is Design and Architecture. This involves deciding how the software will be built, including selecting algorithms, data structures, and software design patterns. In this phase, the software’s overarching system is created.
Implementation, often called coding or development, is where the design is brought to life. Software engineers write code following the design specifications, adhering to coding standards and guidelines.
Methods and Methodologies
Various methodologies guide the software engineering process. Two popular approaches are Waterfall and Agile. Waterfall is a linear and sequential approach where each phase must be completed before the next begins. Conversely, Agile is more iterative, allowing for more flexibility and client involvement during development.
Essential Tools for Software Engineers
Version control systems like Git help engineers manage changes in the codebase, making it easier to collaborate and track revisions.
When working on large projects with many people involved, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed without the right tools. That’s why build systems like CMake or Maven are important, as they ensure that the software build isn’t limited to one specific machine or developer. Static code analyzers like Clang-Tidy, PMD, and SonarQube can also help identify common bug patterns. Finally, document generators such as Javadoc, Doxygen, and Sphinx are valuable resources for generating design documentation from source code, making it easier to access important information and documentation.
Build systems will also be layered in the case of very large projects such as applications requiring embedded Linux. In that case, multiple applications using various build systems (CMake, Make, Python Setup, etc.) can be aggregated by a larger build system such as Yocto. Using these tools ensures a reliable application configuration and build pipeline, allowing faster robust software development. Finally, Docker is often used in conjunction with these build systems to ensure that the application is reliable regarding technical debt and can be easily distributed.
Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD)
On top of build systems, automation servers like Jenkins (or the various pipelines offered by the likes of GitHub or Azure DevOps) allow the continuous integration of features and fixes with insurance of stability. Projects that require an even greater scale can use these tools to do continuous delivery, which can deliver tested software straight to production in an automated way.
Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)
IDEs such as Visual Studio or Eclipse provide a cohesive set of tools for writing, testing, and debugging code.
Various tools are available to assist in testing software reliability and ensuring that it´s bugs-free. These include test frameworks like JUnit for Java, PyTest for Python, and googletest for C/C++, as well as test automation frameworks such as Playwright, Cypress, or Selenium. For monitoring on-premise deployment, you can use Grafana, Prometheus, or hosted services such as Datadog, AWS CloudWatch, Azure Monitor Logs, and Google Cloud Logging. Depending on the project, a combination of tools can be used for HIL (Hardware In the Loop) testing.
Real-world Application: Cloud-Based Smart Displays
Consider our work on cloud-based smart displays to witness how these fundamentals come together in a real-world application. From rigorous requirements analysis to iterative development using Agile methodologies, this project exemplifies the disciplined approach to software engineering that Orthogone champions.
Understanding the fundamentals of Software Engineering is crucial for anyone involved in software development. The field is not just about coding; it’s about applying systematic engineering principles to produce reliable, efficient software that meets user needs. Whether you’re developing a simple mobile application or a complex cloud-based system, a solid grasp of these fundamentals is indispensable.