Performance vs. Maintenance

I’ve been writing software as a job for a few years now, and I think there is one common theme that seems to recur. There is never enough time to get everything done. The proper solution to this problem is one or a combination of three basic ideas: bring in more resources, come to a compromise, or increase productivity. The first two alternatives are not very appealing because businesses generally want to offer a good product and not spend a lot of money building it. Increasing productivity, therefore, seems to always be a good goal to keep in mind.

When writing software, one of the things we are all taught to do is pay attention to performance. We analyze algorithms, figure out their big-O complexity in terms of computing and memory usage and pick the best one. I always hated that part of school with a passion. Perhaps that makes me biased. I agree, however, that you need to keep performance in mind.

For me, performance has always been just that. Something on my mind, but not usually directly applied. I prefer to pay attention to elegance and the architecture that supports the code. I think, in general, if you pay attention to the architecture and keep things simple, the performance works itself out. You do have to think about performance, but don’t let it compromise the elegance of your code. Once the application is deployed and/or load tested (depending on the flexibility of redeployment), you can fix any performance problems, and sacrifice elegance if it comes down to it.

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