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The slides for the keynotes are available in the archives.

The Power of Modularity: The Financial Consequences of Computer and Code Architecture

Prof. Carliss Baldwin (Harvard Business School)


Wednesday 8:40-10:10

In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, computer designers created a series of “option-rich modular design architectures” in both hardware and software. But a pure design is, strictly speaking, only an idea. Unless the design is reified—made real, brought into reality—it cannot affect the physical world and cannot be used or consumed. In order to affect the world and be valued, a design idea must be first completed and then made into something. Those actions in turn require human effort and human organization.

Designs need the economy for several purposes:

  • to implement design processes so that the designs can be completed;
  • to carry out design instructions so that the designs can be realized;
  • to transfer artifacts to users who value them; and
  • to get designers and producers paid for their efforts.

Designs influence the economy by creating perceptions of financial value. These perceptions in turn motivate investment and the creation of new economic institutions. Option-rich and modular architectures are extremely effective conduits of value, but their evolution may be difficult to control.  In this talk, I will adopt the “designs’ point of view” in order to understand the economic institutions and mechanisms by which new designs and new artifacts come into existence.


Professor Baldwin is the William L. White Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. With Kim B. Clark, she is involved in a multi-year project to study the process of design and its impact on the structure of the computer industry. She and Clark have authored Design Rules: The Power of Modularity, the first of a projected two volumes on this topic. Volume 2, in progress, will focus on Patterns of Competition. A specialist in corporate finance and real option theory, Baldwin received a bachelor's degree in economics from MIT and MBA and DBA degrees from Harvard Business School. She is presently active in Harvard’s Ph.D program in Information, Technology and Management, a program jointly sponsored by the Business School and the Division of Engineering and Applied Science of the university.


Design Beyond Human Abilities

Dr. Richard P. Gabriel (Sun Microsystems Laboratories)

Thusday 8:30-10:00

For 50 years we've been developing a science and practice of software based on understandings and explorations of software systems of modest size-centering on systems of a few tens of thousands of lines of code but extending up to about 50 million lines. Scale makes a difference: scale of time and of size. The prospect of ultra large scale software systems—systems with perhaps trillions of lines of code encompassing millions of processors, ranging from sensors the size of dust to the largest servers, with much of it with real-time requirements-will change everything. Imagine, if you can, how such systems will be made. Can they truly be said to be designed at all? The realities of such systems will force us to re-examine the very foundations of computing and software engineering; our concepts of abstraction, modularity, information hiding, pure static typing, and many other things will need to be refined, expanded, or reformulated. Consider, further, that such systems in normal circumstances cannot be routinely reinstalled nor globally rebooted, and when used in life-critical situations, they must not stop. Data must be readable and usable for decades, even as standards and hardware changes.

This talk will examine the nature of such systems, especially how they are designed, built, and what is needed to keep them running. We'll take both a philosophical and technical look at some of the aspects of ultra large scale software that make us need to revise our foundations and what those revisions will be like.


Dr. Gabriel is a Distinguished Engineer and principal investigator of a small research group at Sun Microsystems Laboratories looking at the architecture, design, and implementation of extraordinarily large, self-sustaining systems. He is the award-winning author of four books and a poetry chapbook. He lives in California.

Edited by the AOSD Conference Committee.  Send comments to: