Software, Sandboxes, and the Back Office
Sandbox. Another everyday noun stepping out in different stripes, especially amongst Software People.
Here it is as a verb, from a recent batch of notes: “When you’re sandboxing, you’re allowing people to fail without killing anything.”
And as an adjective: “It’s more of a sandbox-y thing than a bag of tools.”
On the surface, the notion of a “software sandbox” is perhaps obvious. It’s a place where developers can try out their code, using the same raw resources as a production environment, but without causing anything in production to break.
Why the sandbox is of increasing importance in broadband technology circles is perhaps less obvious. To get the head around it, point toward open source software, as a staple in the transition to all-IP (Internet Protocol) everything.
Let’s say we all agree that a) it’s a software world anymore. And that b) next-gen competitors who grew up on broadband just move faster. Lastly, that OTT competitors move faster, in part because they live on open source software, and make it easy for developers to try stuff out.
In other words, they sandbox.
Let’s further say we agree with the one about “if you can’t beat’em, join’em.”
So far, in the realm of what we used to call “cable,” most sandboxing happens at the interactions of “old” and “new,” also known as “now” and “next,” and especially with back office stuff. For instance, maybe you want to experiment with how people navigate video. One option: Build some kind of software-based emulator, so that developers can work within a semi-real environment.
Another option: Create a sandbox that links developers into the live elements of the back office that really do link to video navigation — the billing system, the conditional access/encryption components, the provisioning experience, as three of several examples. Developers can develop away, without damaging anything happening live, in the back office.
As for whether the software sandbox ever encounters gifts akin to what cats leave in sandboxes? In practice, developers usually get their own sandboxes, electronically cordoned off from anybody else writing code. Which is good, because there’s not any actual sand.
This column originally appeared in the Platforms section of Multichannel News.