Diving Into Dev: The Software Development Life Cycle

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What Is a Software Development Life Cycle?

You can look at our terms page to see how the SDLC is generally defined:

“The software development life cycle (SDLC) is a framework defining tasks performed at each step in the software development process. “

It's important to understand that as a software development life cycle has various stages or phases and models, it also has changed according to specific philosophies, which we’ll talk about later.

The key idea is that the software development life cycle defines how software is created and released to a production environment.

It's a central premise in the IT world, since software has become integral to so many of the things that we do each day, and to longer-term processes that direct both business and consumer activity. The software development life cycle determines how we receive all of those apps and desktop products and operating systems that we use to text, tweet and direct a myriad of new technologies.

With that said, a better understanding of the SDLC helps us to know what's happening behind the scenes, or as some would say, “how the sausage gets made.”

Behind every app or software product there is code. That code comes from humans. SDLC is a way to ensure that fallible humans create relatively infallible technology.

The software development life cycle can also vary a good deal.

“There are a variety of approaches to the doing the work, or what the specific software development lifecycle looks like, and that depends upon the organization as to the specific steps,” says John Quigley of Value Transformation, describing how the SDLC sets the stage for so many of the consumer conveniences we enjoy. “In modern life, there is software in many more products than you may think. Your alarm clock, most likely has a microcontroller inside that runs software. Your microwave has a microcontroller that receives inputs from the user and performs according to those commands. Your smartphone, your television and your car have software in them. Just as there are many applications, there are many variations in software products.”

One popular example is the modern automobile, which any mechanic will probably tell you has come to look a lot more like a fancy computer in the last decade or so.

“In your car, there are many microcontrollers that are running different software, that must be coordinated with other products on the car that also contain software, for example, the engine and the transmission,” Quigley says. “These things are connected to produce a software system sharing information from each component with the other through some serial communications and each component making an appropriate decision based upon the contents of that data.”

The software development life cycle governs all of this, by creating a deliberate road map for how each of these unique items will be built and delivered to the world. In this tutorial, you will learn more about how a SDLC works practically in a software design environment.

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Written by Justin Stoltzfus
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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.