Friday, September 13, 2019

Stages in Software Development | Complete life cycle

Writing software can be a very complex and time-consuming task, involving a whole team of software engineers and other specialists. As a result, many methods and practices, which make the life of programmers easier, have emerged. All they have in common is that the development of each software the product goes through several different stages:


  1. Gathering the requirements for the product and creating a task; 
  2. - Planning and preparing the architecture and design;
  3. Implementation (includes the writing of program code);
  4.  - Product trials (testing);
  5.  - Deployment and exploitation;
  6.  - Support
Implementation, testing, deployment, and support are mostly accomplished using programming.



 Gathering the Requirements

In the beginning, only the idea for a certain product exists. It includes a list of requirements, which define actions by the user and the computer. In the general case, these actions make already existing activities easier – calculating salaries, calculating ballistic trajectories or searching for the shortest route on Google maps are some examples. In many cases, the software implements a previously nonexistent functionality such as automation of a certain activity.


 The requirements for the product are usually defined in the form of documentation, written in English or any other language. There is no programming done at this stage. The requirements are defined by experts, who are familiar with the problems in a certain field. They can also write them up in such a way that they are easy to understand by the programmers. In the general case, these experts are not programming specialists, and they are called business analysts.

Planning and Preparing the Architecture and Design

After all the requirements have been gathered comes the planning stage. At this stage, a technical plan for the implementation of the project is created, describing the platforms, technologies and the initial architecture (design) of the program. This step includes a fair amount of creative work, which is done by software engineers with a lot of experience. They are sometimes called software architects. According to the requirements, the following parts are chosen:

  • The type of the application – for an example console application, desktop application (GUI, Graphical User Interface application), client-server application, Web application, Rich Internet Application (RIA), mobile application, peer-to-peer application or other;
  • The architecture of the software – for example, single layer, double layer, triple-layer, multi-layer or SOA architecture;
  • The programming language most suitable for the implementation – for example C#, Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, JavaScript or C++, or a combination of different languages;
  • The technologies that will be used: platform (Microsoft .NET, Java EE, LAMP or another), database server (Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, NoSQL database or another), technologies for the user interface (Flash, JavaServer Faces, Eclipse RCP, ASP.NET, Windows Forms, Silverlight, WPF or another), technologies for the data access (for example Hibernate, JPA or ADO.NET Entity Framework), reporting technologies (SQL Server Reporting Services, Jasper Reports or another) and many other combinations of technologies that will be used for the implementation of the various parts of the software system.
  • The development frameworks that will simplify the development, e.g. ASP.NET MVC (for .NET), Knockout.js (for JavaScript), Rails (for Ruby), Django (for Python) and many others.
  • The number and skills of the people who will be part of the development team (big and serious projects are done by large and experienced teams of developers);
  •  The development plan – separating the functionality in stages, resources and deadlines for each stage.
  • Others (size of the team, locality of the team, methods of communication etc.).
Although there are many rules facilitating the correct analysis and planning, a fair amount of intuition and insight is required at this stage. This step predetermines the further advancement of the development process. There is no programming done at this stage, only preparation.

Implementation

The stage, most closely connected with programming, is the implementation stage. At this phase, the program (application) is implemented (written) according to the given task, design and architecture. Programmers participate by writing the program (source) code. The other stages can either be short or completely skipped when creating a small project, but the implementation always presents; otherwise, the process is not software development. This book is dedicated mainly to describing the skills used during implementation – creating a programmer’s mindset and building the knowledge to use all the resources provided by the C# language and the .NET platform, in order to create software applications. 

Product Testing

Product testing is a very important stage of software development. Its purpose is to make sure that all the requirements are strictly followed and covered. This process can be implemented manually, but the preferred way to do it is by automated tests. These tests are small programs, which automate the trials as much as possible. There are parts of the functionality that are very hard to automate, which is why product trials include automated as well as manual procedures to ensure the quality of the code.

The testing (trials) process is implemented by quality assurance engineers (QAs). They work closely with the programmers to find and correct errors (bugs) in the software. At this stage, it is a priority to find defects in the code and almost no new code is written. Many defects and errors are usually found during the testing stage and the program is sent back to the implantation stage. These two stages are very closely tied and it is common for a software product to switch between them many times before it covers all the requirements and is ready for the deployment and usage stages.

Deployment and Operation 

Deployment is the process which puts a given software product into exploitation. If the product is complex and serves many people, this process can be the slowest and most expensive one. For smaller programs, this is a relatively quick and painless process. In the most common case, a special program, called an installer, is developed. It ensures the quick and easy installation of the product. If the product is to be deployed at a large corporation with tens of thousands of copies, additional supporting software is developed just for the deployment. After the deployment is successfully completed, the product is ready for operation. The next step is to train employees to use it.

An example would be the deployment of a new version of Microsoft Windows in the state administration. This includes the installation and configuration of the software as well as training employees how to use it.

The deployment is usually done by the team who has worked on the software or by trained deployment specialists. They can be system administrators, database administrators (DBA), system engineers, specialized consultants, and others. At this stage, almost no new code is written but the existing code is tweaked and configured until it covers all the specific requirements for a successful deployment. 

Technical Support

During the exploitation process, it is inevitable that problems will appear. They may be caused by many factors – errors in the software, incorrect usage or faulty configuration, but most problems occur when the users change their requirements. As a result of these problems, the software loses its abilities to solve the business task it was created for. This requires additional involvement by the developers and the support experts. The support process usually continues throughout the whole life-cycle of the software product, regardless of how good it is.

The support is carried out by the development team and by specially trained support experts. Depending on the changes made, many different people may be involved in the process – business analysts, architects, programmers, QA engineers, administrators, and others.

For example, if we take a look at a software program that calculates salaries, it will need to be updated every time the tax legislation, which concerns the serviced accounting process is changed. The support team’s intervention will be needed if, for example, the hardware of the end-user is changed because the software will have to be installed and configured again.

Documentation

The documentation stage is not a separate stage but accompanies all the other stages. Documentation is an important part of software development and aims to pass knowledge between the different participants in the development and support of a software product. Information is passed along between different stages as well as within a single stage. The development documentation is usually created by the developers (architects, programmers, QA engineers, and others) and represents a combination of documents.

Software Development Is More than Just Coding

As we saw, software development is much more than just coding (writing code), and it includes a number of other processes such as requirements analysis, design, planning, testing, and support, which require a wide variety of specialists called software engineers. Programming is just a small, but a very essential part of software development.

Our First C# Program

Before we continue with an in-depth description of the C# language and the .NET platform, let’s take a look at a simple example, illustrating how a program written in C# looks like:
 class HelloCSharp { static void Main(string[] args) { System.Console.WriteLine("Hello C#!"); } } 

The only thing this program does is to print the message "Hello, C#!" on the default output. It is still early to execute it, which is why we will only take a look at its structure. Later we will describe in full how to compile and run a given program from the command prompt as well as from a development environment.


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