Beyond MakeFles - Building large-scale C projects

by Michael Shal, The PTR Group , TechOnline India - September 29, 2011

This article will focus on one simple topic: how make and related build systems inhibit development in large-scale C projects. In this context, “large-scale” is in the 10,000 to 100,000 file range; enough for an entire embedded system. The primary issue with these build systems is that they do not scale well.

(Are you tired of waiting for “make” to find the one C file that you changed? Do you want to take advantage of your multi-core system to compile in parallel but are afraid that the build won’t be reliable? Do you perform a “clean build” before checking in because you don’t trust your build system? You’re not alone. Learn from Mike Shal, who is teaching a class (ESC-200) at the Embedded Systems Conference about why “make” fails its basic promise of a working and scalable build system, why the prevailing wisdom found in “Recursive Make Considered Harmful” is wrong, and what you can do about it.)

Introduction

This article will focus on one simple topic: how make and related build systems inhibit development in large-scale C projects. In this context, “large-scale” is in the 10,000 to 100,000 file range; enough for an entire embedded system. The primary issue with these build systems is that they do not scale well. This makes the development cycle slower and slower as the project gets larger and larger, resulting in wasted developer time. Unfortunately this problem cannot be solved merely by throwing more hardware at it. We need to perform a thorough investigation into why these build systems do not scale, and what can be done to fix it.

During this investigation we will look at some of the history of build systems, the performance of current build systems, and even peak under the hood to see why they perform the way they do. The inevitable conclusion of this investigation is that make, and any build system based on its principles, must not be used for development.

 

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