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What’s “Networked Programming” all about?

November 15, 2008

When I’m asked what type of work I do, I often seem to grab for the just the right terms to describe it. But it’s a blind spot for me, I guess. I have been writing network protocol software and networked applications for over 25 years, am considered a network programming expert, and have co-authored three books on the subject, but am not real big on buzzwords. When I mention I write software to make networks more useful, people assume it’s a web type of thing.

Actually, I do networked applications and systems involving pretty much anything except the web. When I started doing this, I actually used serial lines and modems. DECnet, ring-net, and I helped implement the TCP/IP stack (twice) back when you needed US DoD permission to connect to the Internet. Although TCP/IP (and it’s assorted related protocols) drive the Internet today, TCP/IP is used in many applications that don’t touch “the Net”. Medical devices, automobiles, cell phones, industrial processes… practically anything involving more than one computer that needs to talk is what I put in the category of “networked application.”

Some people think it odd that I can specialize in such an area. After all, once you get some piece of software running in one computer, it’s pretty straight-forward to talk to another right? Aren’t there standards for that sort of thing? Well, yes there are. And the nice thing about them is that there are so many to choose from. And that’s just in the “plumbing” – once you put a network between two pieces of your system, the number of issues to be aware of and be able to work with explodes. Timing, byte orders, rogue data attacks, accidental complexities… the list goes on and on. And that’s where I come in – my job is to keep these issues from derailing projects, their schedules, and the jobs that depend on them. I love this stuff…

So the major purpose of this blog is to discuss issues related to networked programming and how to do it better. I hope you’ll join in and share your experiences too.

And if you are a buzzword-literate person and have a moment, do you have a better term for this than “networked applications”?