The explosive growth of portable and wireless technology is a driver for similar growth in embedded software development. However, According to Global Embedded Software Market 2010-2014 report from TechNavio, the increasing requirement for flexibility and functionality could pose a challenge to the growth of this market.
Brian Hunt, COO for Parasoft explained that it wasn't too long ago that embedded devices existed on their own, but that is no longer the case. "Somehow, your device is connected to something else. So (the developer) might need to know which devices it will connect to. He might need to know about the security of the device. There are a lot more concerns the developer has to worry about."
As a result, more and more companies are popping up to provide a range of tools and services to aid developers in navigating the shoals of the embedded software frontier. On one end, you have established companies like Parasoft offering comprehensive, and possibly budget-busting levels of services, to start-ups like Electric Cloud, offering individual toolboxes.
Hunt stated that Parasoft are primarily involved with software-centric customers who might have a greater appreciation for how deep the challenge can get when dealing with safety-critical issues. Their technology breaks down the process into management and development. "The management piece breaks down the work and assigns it down to the developers who work on each piece and Parasoft collects the information from that point onward to determine if the code is well constructed." As a result, Parasoft customers have a high degree of confidence that their code complies with quality and safety guidelines.
The problem comes in when you are not a software-centric company.
The 2012 UBM Embedded Market Survey showed that, for the first time, QA engineers are becoming a significant portion of embedded software teams, and while the quality of debugging tools is still the top area for improvement, engineers seem to be getting more confident with what is available. However, the size of those teams is, in general, dropping all of which makes hitting schedules on time the greatest challenge for those teams.
According to Dax Farhang at Electric Cloud
, those pressures are even greater in hardware-centric companies who would rather not make a large investment in software QA, especially smaller companies that may be using resources around the world. Farhang stated that "homegrown" approaches are hard to manage, can be very slow, and often lack documentation that a distributed team can access. "Development teams need to address "back end" software production processes to save time, improve product quality and deliver software to market faster."
Electric Cloud provides three tools: ElectricCommander, Electric Accelerator and ElectricInsight that can integrate with any application in the development environment to automate (ElectricCommander) the process of building, testing, packaging and deploying code, accurately executing parallel builds across a cluster of inexpensive servers (ElectricAccelerator), and visualizing (ElectricInsight) job-level detail of software builds for visibility into the build and release structure for simplified reporting, troubleshooting and performance tuning.
A recent report from VDC (Automated Defect Prevention for Embedded Software Quality) said automated test tools are nothing new but the growth in software content, complexity and importance is unprecedented, "driving a wider range of organizations to adopt the technology as the efficacy and feasibility of traditional manual testing techniques has continued to diminish. The demonstrated correlation between the use of automated test tools and code base sizes clearly indicates that many engineering organizations already recognize the utility and value of automated test tools in assessing the quality of large code bases."
This appears to be a reality in the software world that is becoming more apparent in the hardware world. But the tools to make it easier to swallow are available.