Data is eating the software that is eating the world

No one doubts that software engineering shapes every last facet of our 21st century existence. Given his vested interest in companies whose fortunes were built on software engineering, it was no surprise when Marc Andreessen declared that “software is eating the world.”

But what does that actually mean, and, just as important, does it still apply, if it ever did? These questions came to me recently when I reread Andreessen’s op-ed piece and noticed that he equated “software” with “programming.” Just as significant, he equated “eating” with industry takeovers by “Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurial technology companies” and then rattled through the usual honor roll of Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Google, and the like. What they, and others cited by Andreessen, have in common is that they built global-scale business models on the backs of programmers who bang out the code that drives web, mobile, social, cloud, and other 24/7 online channels.

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Microsoft explores ‘safe’ manual memory management in .Net

Microsoft Research has been experimenting with integrating safe manual memory management with garbage collection (GC) in the .Net runtime. The goal is to give developers both the convenience and safety of automated memory management and the opportunity to improve performance by freeing objects from memory manually.

The effort, called Project Snowflake, is the subject of a paper published this week by Microsoft Research and co-authors from the University of Cambridge and Princeton University. With Snowflake, programmers could choose between allocating objects in the GC heap or the manual heap. Snowflake combines the open source .Net runtime with a facility to manage memory manually without compromising performance or safety. Existing applications run unmodified using the GC heap, with no performance degradation.

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