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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

April - 2011 - issue > Technology

What Developers Should Or Should Not Do

Anil Pochiraju
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Anil Pochiraju
Recently I was in a conversation where someone seriously suggested that Web Application Acceleration and WAN Optimization should be the job of developers, since they are in the code and creating the network traffic. At first I was taken aback by this suggestion. I was a manager of a small team of developers and admins when Web Application Firewalls first started to be bandied about (though I don’t think they had the fancy name then), and went through this entire discussion then. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d revisit it on the much grander scale mentioned. But that does bring up the question. What is best left in the hands of app developers and what is not?

Not so long ago, a friend of mine who repaired complex systems for a retail chain was laid off and his job eliminated. Even though he could prove that he saved the company a lot money, it was no longer seen as cost effective to maintain a test bench and the tools necessary to fix complex computer systems. It is just too easy to buy extended warranty plans or replace gear before it is worn out to warrant paying someone to do that job anymore. That may change again in the future, but I honestly do not know many enterprises that keep bread-board level repair staff around these days. Why? Because the specialty of making and repairing breadboards is centralized in a place where that is all they do, making it much more cost-effective than every enterprise keeping someone on staff for the eventuality of a breakdown. Even knowing that you will have unexpected failures, you will have them whether you have someone handy to repair them or have to call a service in to repair them.

There is a similarity here. The things that a developer can do well are vast, because we do not really have vertical market developers. Oh there are a few, and some places want experience in their vertical, but there’s no schooling to be a utility company developer or financial services developer, there’s schooling to write software, and the problem domain you are taught to write it for is “everything”. You differentiate based upon languages or operating systems in college, but not on vertical market. And that is both a plus and a negative.

Developers are not security experts, they are software development experts. They are not Web App Acceleration experts, nor are the WAN optimization experts. They are development experts who are very good at turning ideas into applications. Some are specialized closer to the metal, others are specialized at more business development. Some like my self have done a bit of it all. But only those working for companies that make WAN Optimization, Web App Acceleration, or Security solutions are specialists in their respective areas. There are a few Web App Acceleration developers in the wild, and a few Security developers in the wild, but most have gone to the place where they can utilize their specialty full-time; shops that make these products.

And that is reason number one why it is not something developers should be doing. At a minimal level, not making fifteen trips across the network when two will do it, or checking for buffer overflows and SQL insertion attacks before deploying code? Certainly but overarching security or Web App Optimization? No. They won’t be as good at is as a dedicated staff, and they won’t update it as often as a dedicated staff.

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