Developers are managing 100x more code now than they did in 2010

Developers are managing 100x more code now than they did in 2010

Developers manage more code, in more languages, for more platforms than ever.

Sourcegraph, a company specializing in universal code search, polled more than 500 North American software developers to identify issues in code complexity and management. Its general findings are probably no surprise to most Ars readers—software has gotten bigger, more complex, and much more important in the past ten years—but the sheer scope can be surprising.

Before diving into the data, it’s important to understand the angle the survey is coming from. Sourcegraph’s own business model is enabling code search at an enterprise scale—which means not just grep -r‘ing your way through a directory, but simultaneously searching across a potentially vast array of repositories, both local and cloud, and with support for just about any language you can think of.

This sort of universal, parallel search—for example, you might query `repo:^github\.com/sourcegraph/ f:dockerfile apt-get|apk` to find all instances of Docker files installing Debian packages in a set of Github repositories—becomes increasingly important as both the scale and technological diversity of a project grows.

Sourcegraph refers to a sort of critical mass of this technological complexity as Big Code, and the developer survey—contracted through third-party Dimensional Research—attempts to get a handle on the scale and scope of that growth.

More code than ever

About half of the developers surveyed report that they manage over 100 times more code than they did in 2010.

When we interviewed Sourcegraph CEO Quinn Slack, he led the talk with this chart. It’s no surprise that the volume of code a typical organization or developer manages has grown in the last ten years—but many people outside the industry might not realize just how much. More than half of the developers surveyed report a growth (as measured in mebibytes) of more than a hundredfold.

Some of this code growth can be explained by increasingly complex code, but much of it comes from an increase in the diversity of platforms and tools used. Modern development—particularly Web development—generally means amalgams of many different platforms, libraries, and dependencies. The developers surveyed reported increases in the number of supported architectures, devices, languages, repositories, and more.

Most companies are tech companies now

In 2020, it’s difficult not to be a technology company.

Another chart we found interesting was specific to developers at companies that have not traditionally been considered technology companies—such as insurance, retail, and even food and beverage companies. Of the developers surveyed, 91 percent say their non-technology company functions more like a technology company than it did ten years ago. This won’t surprise anyone who has noticed firms like Walmart Labs sponsoring open source technology conferences and delivering presentations.

The full survey results are available for download in PDF form.

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