It’s Not Software Engineering

Remember when the height of intellectual acumen, at least as measured in the vernacular, was rocket science? Today it’s more like software engineering, which at first might seem like a degradation since many of our software engineers spend their efforts on Facebook games and .99 apps.

Truth is, software gets us to space these days just as much as rocketry. And it certainly gets us more out of space. For instance, the recently landed Mars rover Curiosity is completely software-designed, software-launched, software-landed, and all of its functions are software-based.

Here on Earth, software controls just about everything in our lives, from the way we do our taxes to how we make purchases to the climate control in our houses and cars. And what it doesn’t, it will one day soon. But for more of a concrete example (i.e., one involving money that we can swap for our mouths), here’s a great example of the current value of software experts.

According to a recent article in Wired, the virtual server company VMware just bought Nicira, a technology startup focused on innovating large computer networks, for $1.26 billion. But the kicker here is that, according to its CEO Paul Maritz, they did it not primarily for Nicira’s intellectual property, but for its intellect property. According to the article,

Nicira employs about 100 people, and about 70 of those are software engineers. In bringing them onboard, VMware benefits not only from their virtual networking expertise but from their ties to the open source community. Maritz told us there are three data-center platforms poised to run the next generation of web services and businesses: VMware’s, Microsoft’s, and the open source OpenStack, which is backed by myriad big-name companies. After acquiring Nicira, VMWare now has a hand in two of the three.

So $1.26 billion for a klatch of top-tier software designers. Seems a bit pricey at first, but these are the men and women that are going to virtualize our world, creating a network platform flexible and fast enough to encourage exponential technological and social advancement.

It’s not rocket science, but it’s right up there.

Photo Credit: Michael Kappel