Hardware vs. Software Development

Software Development

Software Development:

Teams develop a software product for use by customers.

Hardware development

Hardware Development:

Teams develop the design for a product, to be used in manufacturing the product.

Similarities between Hardware and Software Development

  • They have behavior: Users interact with the products in various ways, products interact with other products, and products produce outputs given inputs
  • They have functional (user-facing) and non-functional (non-user-facing) requirements
  • They are complex: Any representation of product specifications invariably leads to a tree structure, as major features are decomposed into finer-grained features

Differences between Hardware and Software Development

  • Software is easier to change than hardware. The cost of change is much higher for hardware than for software
  • Software products evolve through multiple releases by adding new features and re-writing existing logic to support the new features. Hardware products consist of physical components that cannot be “refactored” after manufacturing, and cannot add new capabilities that require hardware changes
  • Designs for new hardware is often based upon earlier-generation products, but commonly rely on next-generation components not yet present
  • Hardware designs are constrained by the need to incorporate standard parts
  • Specialized hardware components can have much longer lead times for acquisition than is true for software
  • Hardware design is driven by architectural decisions. More of the architectural work must be done up front compared to software products
  • The cost of development for software products is relatively flat over time. However, the cost of hardware development rises rapidly towards the end of the development cycle. Testing software commonly requires developing thousands of test cases. Hardware testing involves far fewer tests
  • Software testing is done by specialized Quality Assurance (QA) engineers, while hardware testing is commonly done by the engineers who are creating the product
  • Hardware must be designed and tested to work over a range of time and environmental conditions, which is not the case for software