Microsoft's Man-Years Argument

Marc

Hunkered Down for the Duration
Staff member
Admin
#1
Read it. Quite good!

http://www.salon.com/tech/col/rose/2002/04/12/microsoft_man_months/index.html

"I'd be astonished," said Steven B. Lipner, Microsoft's director of security assurance, "if the open-source community has in total done as many man-years of computer security code reviews as we have done in the last two months."

What Lipner was saying, with that Microsoft swagger, was simple: Microsoft has rallied its massive army of smart developers under the banner of "Trustworthy Computing" and turned their overpowering force on its security problem -- the plague of Internet-borne viruses and worms that afflicts many of its products. The problem, like one of Microsoft's competitors, is doomed. No other force on earth -- certainly nothing as puny as a ragtag bunch of volunteer programmers contributing code fixes cooperatively -- could possibly match such might. Die, worms, before the wrath of Gates!

It sounds intimidating. Only, to anyone with a long memory in the software field, the term "man-years" should set off some alarms.  
 
Technically, Lipner is saying the following: Let X equal the number of individual Microsoft programmers reviewing its products' security, multiplied by the amount of time each has spent on the task. Let Y equal the number of open-source programmers reviewing their software's security, multiplied by the amount of time they have spent on the task. X is way greater than Y. All this rings with the kind of scary precision that cows nontechnical people when they hear it in engineers' voices.

The trouble is, the whole concept of measuring software productivity in "man-years" or "man-months" is profoundly discredited -- and not by some radical new theory of software development, but in what is probably the single most seminal work on software management: Frederick P. Brooks' "The Mythical Man-Month," first published in 1975, when Bill Gates was a stripling and personal computing a dream.

Today, with the software industry a linchpin of the global economy, we tend to think of open source as a radical new challenge to the Microsoft-style norm. So it's useful, in looking back at a classic like Brooks' "Mythical Man-Month," to be reminded that -- in the days before Gates and company built their empire on operating-system software -- open source was once considered simple common sense.

In Brooks' day, a program had no general value -- was not considered a true "programming product," in Brooks' words -- unless it could be "run, tested, repaired, and extended by anybody." (The italics are mine.) Such programming "products" require "thorough documentation, so that anyone may use it, fix it, and extend it." To Brooks, and many other software experts of his era, if the programmer hadn't enabled anyone to fix or extend his work, he hadn't finished his job.

Microsoft takes a different view -- always has. With its vast resources, Microsoft can afford more "man-years" than anyone else on earth. But can it rewrite principles of the software business first identified nearly 30 years ago?

The answer will become plain as the results of the "trustworthy computing" project emerge. If the torrent of security gaffes in Microsoft products vanishes, we can applaud Redmond's intrepid troops. But if we're still battling the spawn of the NIMDA and Code Red worms in a year or two, it's time to stop trusting Bill Gates for good.
 
Elsmar Forum Sponsor
G

Graeme

#2
You get what you measure

Marc,

Thanks for linking to such an excellent article!

The thing I immediately thought of is that what gets measured is what gets produced. At Micro$oft and too many other big corporations, what gets measured is more on the lines of conformance to deadlines and "use the tools we gave you, not the ones best for the job" rather than anything to do with product/service quality as seen by the customer.

(I also thought "gee! I'm not the only person who still has a copy of "The Mythical Man-Month" on his shelf!)

Open sharing of ideas always has great benefits for all of the participants, as is clearly exemplified here in The Cove! :D

Graeme
 

Marc

Hunkered Down for the Duration
Staff member
Admin
#3
What kills me is the rhetoric and BS. When you parse the verbiage and evaluate the facts it all falls apart. The 'promo' depends upon the ignorance of the 'masses'.

The same effect is seen in many companies - I've seen it many times working as a contract employee, as much as I hate to admit it...

I never read the book but heard of the theory and knew it was not confined to software.
 
Thread starter Similar threads Forum Replies Date
J Microsoft Smart Art Turtle Diagram Process Maps, Process Mapping and Turtle Diagrams 9
M Informational Microsoft Built a Bot to Match Patients to Clinical Trials Medical Device and FDA Regulations and Standards News 0
J Microsoft Teams to manage Internal Audit System? Internal Auditing 3
D Microsoft Excel database to Stand-alone software Calibration and Metrology Software and Hardware 3
QSM_Rick Controlling Multi-Tab Microsoft Excel Forms Excel .xls Spreadsheet Templates and Tools 5
A Free software similar to Microsoft Project - Any suggestion? APQP and PPAP 5
Marc ASQ Linkedin Group - Microsoft Sharepoint discussion - June 2017 Quality Assurance and Compliance Software Tools and Solutions 0
Marc Microsoft to rip up P2P Skype, killing native Mac, Linux native apps World News 0
Marc Microsoft just bought LinkedIn For $196/Share World News 9
I How to build a Microsoft Access MDB Database for Document Control Document Control Systems, Procedures, Forms and Templates 6
M Active X and latest update from Microsoft - Dec 2014 After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 4
N Microsoft Word - How to make high-light go away after text is put in Excel .xls Spreadsheet Templates and Tools 5
B How to validate Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet Calculations for the Cpk value Capability, Accuracy and Stability - Processes, Machines, etc. 9
O Chi Square Normality Test using Microsoft Excel Excel .xls Spreadsheet Templates and Tools 2
insect warfare IRS pays Microsoft for Windows XP support After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 2
Marc Microsoft to push out XP patch on March Patch Tuesday - 2014 After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 19
T Microsoft Access Database to create a Simple Calibration Certificate General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 6
V Alternative to Microsoft Office - Open Office vs. Google Docs After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 26
Jim Wynne Have you tried Microsoft Windows 8? After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 25
AnaMariaVR2 Guide to Microsoft Excel for Calculations, Statistics, and Plotting Data Excel .xls Spreadsheet Templates and Tools 11
M Microsoft Excel - Trouble with Auto-Entry of Dates Excel .xls Spreadsheet Templates and Tools 13
H 4.2.3 Document Control using Microsoft Sharepoint - Visibility of Draft Documents ISO 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 9004 Quality Management Systems Standards 3
L 21 CFR Part 11 Requirements - Microsoft Excel Add-on Functions 21 CFR Part 820 - US FDA Quality System Regulations (QSR) 6
Q Looking for Microsoft Dynamics AX Training Videos for Inspection Journals Manufacturing and Related Processes 1
J Conditional Formatting for Microsoft Excel Excel .xls Spreadsheet Templates and Tools 2
Colin Changing the Colour of a Date in Microsoft Excel Excel .xls Spreadsheet Templates and Tools 4
X Microsoft Excel 2003 Formula Restrictions Excel .xls Spreadsheet Templates and Tools 9
michellemmm Pagination in Microsoft Word Documents Document Control Systems, Procedures, Forms and Templates 21
H AS9101D Microsoft Word Format: Worth It? AS9100, IAQG, NADCAP and Aerospace related Standards and Requirements 2
P Creating a Traceability Database with Microsoft Access Document Control Systems, Procedures, Forms and Templates 7
Marc Microsoft Losing Big To Apple On Campus After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 18
P Magic with Microsoft (things that could not be explained) Funny Stuff - Jokes and Humour 8
Marc Apple Dethrones Microsoft As World's Biggest Tech Company After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 6
E Signature of Records - Microsoft Word forms Records and Data - Quality, Legal and Other Evidence 7
Claes Gefvenberg Microsoft Windows users: Which windows version are you using? March - April 2010 After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 37
S Microsoft OneNote - Is anyone using Microsoft OneNote Quality Assurance and Compliance Software Tools and Solutions 13
D Microsoft Word problems Document Control Systems, Procedures, Forms and Templates 11
M Microsoft Sharepoint as Document Control Software - FDA Validation Requirements Document Control Systems, Procedures, Forms and Templates 15
Marc The Hidden Cost of Using Microsoft Software After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 14
C Microsoft Access Database for In-Process Run Charts Quality Assurance and Compliance Software Tools and Solutions 4
Stijloor Microsoft's Ballmer: Windows 7 is nearly final After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 13
Coury Ferguson Bill Gates to step down from Microsoft After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 8
A Fullscope with Microsoft AX ERP System Manufacturing and Related Processes 1
B UK standards body taken to court over OOXML (Microsoft's Open office XML) Other ISO and International Standards and European Regulations 6
GStough Microsoft InfoPath - Anyone Ever Used This? Document Control Systems, Procedures, Forms and Templates 7
Stijloor Microsoft Offers to Buy Yahoo for $44.6 Billion World News 3
J Microsoft Access Integrated Database Question - PPAP Module Software Quality Assurance 13
L Pareto question Microsoft Excel Excel .xls Spreadsheet Templates and Tools 6
Jim Wynne Vista Deathwatch - Is the new Microsoft OS down for the count? World News 30
Jim Wynne Microsoft's answer to the iPhone? Funny Stuff - Jokes and Humour 9

Similar threads

Top Bottom