September 12, 2016
Event Sponsor:
The Department of Computer Science

Goergen Institute for Data Science Seminar Series

The Death of Software As We Knew It



There is accelerating synergy between the business imperatives to shift quickly and requirements to use (and drive) software technology to enable that agility. This virtuous cycle is manifesting itself and accelerating across multiple industries. Many of those industries are literally reshaping themselves to take advantage of software based agile methods.

After 40+ years in the IT industry (mostly in software), I find the current environment to be the most disruptive I have ever experienced. A number of forces are coming together to create significant shifts in every aspect of technology and resulting business models. The forces are not new but we seem to have reached a tipping point (inflection point) by bringing many of them together in unique and complimentary ways to disrupt not only the IT industry but ANY industry dependent on information and automation. This talk will try to isolate and discuss the technical factors as well as broach the economic and organizational principles involved. We will show how some timeless social rules derived from economists such as Coase's Nature of the Firm and from the domain of software engineering like Conway's law can help us better understand what’s happening. We will use examples, some classic and known, but mostly from my own experience in running large software businesses in the broader context of IBM. We will not focus on ‘hyperbole’ around trends (big data, clouds, blockchains, cognitive systems) but instead try to address core issues in software architecture and economic forces that are coming together to drive what we see as long-term shifts in ways industries are using open standards, global communication, massive real-time information, shifts in software architecture and development to reshape themselves and their supply chains (ecosystems). Specifically, we will address the role of evolving ‘sense and respond’ loops that shape new businesses and the mirroring impact on new, so called, micro-service architectures creating synergy by leveraging the massive amounts of information being generated on the internet to reshape the way organizational decisions are made, ecosystems built, supply chains are constructed and standards evolved. I will use the examples to show how getting this ‘partially’ right will not help. Furthermore, getting all the factors in place is clearly necessary but not sufficient for success. Most ‘classic’ or legacy businesses are not ready for this shift and will struggle if not outright fail because of it. I will illustrate this empirically with my own experiences on the technical and business side. We will also discuss possible experiments to shift from anecdotal evidence into more formal insights.


Danny Sabbah recently retired as General Manager and CTO of IBM Cloud. He previously served as General Manager for IBM Rational and as CTO for IBM Software Group. He oversaw more than 22,000 developers across 57 research and development centers, and lead the evolution of IBM’s middleware technology and architecture. Dr. Sabbah is one of the first graduates of the University of Rochester Department of Computer Science, having received his PhD in 1982 for his thesis, “A Connectionist Approach to Visual Recognition”.


WHEN: 12:00 PM