How to Analyze and Visualize a Large, Interconnected Software System: A Study of Fedora 20 with Lessons for All


MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar SeriesDaniel Sturtevant

Daniel Sturtevant, Ph.D., CEO, Silverthread, Inc., and SDM Alumnus
David Allan, Director of Software Engineering, Silverthread, Inc.David Allan

Date: January 26, 2015

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About the Presentation

When working inside a system of enormous scale, people often understand only the part with which they are involved. As long as the whole system is sufficiently modular, people tend to believe they can construct reasonably reliable mental models of their component and how it interfaces with others. However, this is not always safe; research shows that hidden structures can interconnect components of a complex system at higher levels, causing organizational problems that are difficult to see, understand, and address.

Fedora 20 is composed of more than 2,500 interconnected software packages developed and managed by globally distributed teams. Estimates have placed the number of software developers who have contributed at over 100,000. In this webinar, Daniel Sturtevant and David Allan will present research that addresses the architectural complexity of the Fedora Linux operating system and software collection. They will discuss:

  • How to visualize the system at multiple levels (including the view from 60,000 feet) and gain meaningful insights about its hidden structure;
  • How to benchmark across the system to better understand its composition and variations in complexity and quality; and
  • How this approach might be applied to other software systems.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us.

About the Speaker

Daniel Sturtevant, Ph.D., is an SDM alumnus and graduate of the MIT Engineering Systems Division doctoral program. He holds a research post at Harvard Business School where he studies software architecture and the software development process. He is also the CEO of Silverthread, Inc., a firm that helps organizations gain insights into business risk, productivity, and complexity. Prior to cofounding Silverthread, Dr. Sturtevant spent many years in the software field where he built Linux-based supercomputers, conducted research and development in cyber warfare, and helped manage a companywide effort to drive modularity into the source-code for a family of software products.

David Allan is director of software engineering at Silverthread, Inc. He has been building scalable systems for 15 years, designing technology to solve real-world problems. He previously worked as a software development manager at Red Hat, developing Linux device drivers and managing operations for a hosted software provider. He holds a J.D. from the University of Utah and an A.B. in English from Kenyon College.

About the Series

The MIT System Design and Management Program Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.