On October 29, 2018 a Boeing 737 Max aircraft operated by Lion Air in Indonesia crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Five months later, on March 10, 2019, a Boeing 737 Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines met an identical fate, crashing after takeoff and killing all 157 people on board.
In both cases, investigators found that the planes were brought down by problems with flight control software. Those problems grounded the entire global fleet of Boeing 737 Max aircraft, and as I’m writing this those planes remain grounded. The ongoing story of the Boeing 737 Max warrants revisiting a program from the Groundbreaker Podcast archives. That program, Combating Complexity: Fad, Fashion, and Failure in Software Development, was originally published on March 21, 2018.
The program was inspired by The Coming Software Apocalypse, an article written by James Somersan for the September 2017 edition of The Atlantic magazine. One of the sources for that article was Chris Newcombe, an architect now with Oracle. Chris is one of the panelists you’ll hear on that original podcast, along with Java Champion Adam Bien, Java Champion and Eventuate Founder Chris Richardson, and Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador Lucas Jellema, CTO of Amis Services.
(In alphabetical order)
"It really depends on the focus or the context. I would say that in enterprise software, code works well. The problem I see is more if you get newer ideas -- how to reshape the existing code quickly."
"The complexity may not be in the software, but in the translation of the real-world problem or requirement into software."
"If you're talking about control systems, with significant concurrency or affecting real-world equipment, like cars and planes and rockets or large-scale distribution systems, then we still have a way to go to solve the problem of true reliability."
“How successful are large software developments? Do they meet requirements on time? Obviously that's a complex issue around project management and people. But what's the success rate?"