Rule of 5 : Better machines for Developers

I have just invented the "Rule of 5" when it comes to justifying a computer upgrade for a developer.

5 compiles an hour (when you’re actually developing code (like you love to do) and not in some meeting).
Each compile saves 55 seconds**.
5 hours of development on average a day.  (Hopefully more, but bear with me, I’m trying to use a "5" here.)
5 days a week.

That is ~115 minutes/week of savings.  ~2 hours a week of savings.

Throw into the equation a developer hourly cost of  some kind of middle ground amount of $50 (and another "5" of course!).

~$95.50 per week of savings per developer.  Each new $1000 machine pay for itself in ~10.5 weeks.

Don’t forget about the morale factor, which is priceless.


** 55 seconds compile time savings is an estimate of course. 
But I actually conducted a real-world test on a solution I am working on right now.
I’d suggest taking a code base you currently have and perform a simple test.
When you build with Msbuild, you only need the code and not the Visual Studio IDE.

Test #1
No Previous Build. (no sln.cache file)
    E6300 time : 00:01:10.23  ( 1 minute 10 seconds )
    Q6400 time : 00:00:14.21  ( 14 seconds )

Test #2
Subsequent Build. (sln.cache file exists)
    E6300 time : 00:00:51.43  ( 51 seconds )
    Q6400 time : 00:00:07.55  ( 7 seconds )

Time savings:
No Previous Build. (no sln.cache file)
        56 seconds savings.
Subsequent Build. (sln.cache file exists)
        44 seconds.

Test machines were an older 1.86 Dual Core E6300 vs a 2.4 Quad Core Q6600.  Keep in mind this is an older Quad Core CPU.
My personal recommendation (based in price point at the time of writing this in 4th quarter 2010) is the i7-9
50 quad-core.

CPU Benchmarks:

Intel Core i7 950 @ 3.07GHz == 6,275
Intel Core2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.40GHz == 2,975
Intel Core2 Duo E6300 @ 1.86GHz == 1,113

Why didn’t I test with a i7-950?  That’s the point, I don’t have one!!

Give your developers more Cores !
A.  Because the code can compile faster.
B.  Because most production machines have (at the very least) 4 CPU’s/Cores.

Because of advances in Parallel Computing, the minimal core number requirement is 2.
However, the number of CPU’s should be closer to the production servers.
Recommendation.  4 Cores is recommended because most modern production servers have at least 4 CPU’s.
(The connection here is that with Parallel Computing, developers will be able to actually take advantage of extra processors/cores.

In fact, Microsoft has invented a new namespace in DotNet Framework 4.0 to allow easier coding against this model.
System.Threading.Tasks Namespace

__Visual Studio IDE as it relates to the build process (faster builds = more efficient developer)
Visual Studio 2008 and 2010 can take advantage of systems that have multiple processors, or multiple-core processors. A separate build process is created for each available processor. For example, if the system has four processors, then four build processes are created. MSBuild can process these builds simultaneously, and therefore overall build time is reduced. However, parallel building introduces some changes in how build processes occur. This topic discusses those changes.

Fourth Quarter 2010 : Machine Recommendation (Leveraging Frugality vs Performance)
    • Genuine Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
    • Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-9
50 quad-core (or i7-930 quad-core but the newegg difference is only $10 (at the time of writing)
    • 6GB DDR3-1333MHz SDRAM
    • 1TB RAID 0 (2 x 500GB SATA HDDs)
    • 1GB ATI Radeon HD.  A version that supports dual monitors.

Why the i7-950?  There is usually a pretty clear cut "jump" that takes you out of "very, very good and reasonable" to "super great and a lot more expensive".
Just start walking "down" until you get to around $300 or under.  the i7-950 (at the time of writing) was the one sitting at the top of the best of the reasonable.  There are processors above the i7-950 that are at the $570 to $1600 range.  Youch!  Of course, by the time I click "publish" that list will become out of date, so you just gotta walk the list until you see the clear cut "very, very good and reasonable" winner.

Supporting URLS:
9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?
Writing code in a compiled language is one of the last things that still can’t be done instantly on a garden variety home computer. If your compilation process takes more than a few seconds, getting the latest and greatest computer is going to save you time.
Debugging GUI code with a single monitor system is painful if not impossible. If you’re writing GUI code, two monitors will make things much easier.

(A personal note about the above comments, people who use Word/Excel don’t need the superpower, they’ll do fine with something more mainstream.
Code Compile == More Horsepower)

(The other personal note, Joel On Software makes for some good all around How-To-Develop software well.)
Every programmer shall have two monitors
Every programmer shall have a fast PC
Every programmer shall have their choice of mouse and keyboard
Every programmer shall have a comfortable chair
Every programmer shall have a fast internet connection
Every programmer shall have quiet working conditions

//Quote from codinghorror article//
It’s unbelievable to me that a company would pay a developer $60-$100k in salary, yet cripple him or her with terrible working conditions and crusty hand-me-down hardware. This makes no business sense whatsoever. And yet I see it all the time. It’s shocking how many companies still don’t provide software developers with the essential things they need to succeed.
//End Quote//

And don’t forget about the dual monitors!

"Survey after survey shows that whether you measure your productivity in facts researched, alien spaceships vaporized, or articles written, adding an extra monitor will give your output a considerable boost 20 percent to 30 percent, according to a survey by Jon Peddie Research."
Microsoft researchers haven’t perfected the genie, but they’ve found a tool that can increase your productivity by 9 to 50 percent and make your work day easier.
The researchers conducted user studies that proved the effectiveness of adding a second or even third monitor to your workstation, creating a wide-screen effect.

Minimum Suggestion: Dual 20" (or 20.5") Monitors.
Suggestion: Dual 22" (23" or 24") monitors.

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1 Response to Rule of 5 : Better machines for Developers

  1. Sloan says:

    The justification document that I helped worked on (which contained alot of the above blog material) made an impact!! i7-960 machines have been approved for the entire development team, along with 2(x) 23" monitors.Merry Christmas to us!Thank you managers!

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