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The 2010 VDC Survey

December 27, 2010

Jack Ganssle-December 27, 2010

VDC completed their 2010 Embedded System Engineering Survey a few months ago and sent me some highlights. The results are, as ever, interesting. Here are some notable data points.

Wither outsourcing? Half of the engineers who responded to the survey expect no change in their use of outsourcing. 57% do no outsourcing at all. And about a third expect to send more work overseas in the coming year. 10% think their companies will do less outsourcing.

One factoid that conforms to popular conceptions is that the majority of engineering work that gets outsourced is development and test. Design, planning, and requirements gathering are all areas that tend to stay in-house.

The old joke “Bob, you were so good on this project that, well, we’re sticking you on maintenance!” is still valid. 37% reported that their projects are indeed keeping old products alive.

Many practitioners recommend having one test person for each software type. But that’s theory. In practice there’s half a tester per firmware developer. And there are twice as many writing code than designing hardware.

Multicore is a bust. 9% report using multicore chips, which closely mirrors the ratio of folks working in telecom. Since cell phones commonly use multicore (though typically not the SMP that gets so much press ink) I suspect the bulk of the projects in this category are mobile phones.

In selecting an RTOS the most important criteria is cost. Reliability and stability are substantially less important. Either that’s an awful comment on this industry, or it means there’s a tacit assumption that the OS will be of very high quality. I sure hope it’s the latter. The security of the RTOS is, strangely, important to practically no one. I’m sure that will change.

Just under half of all embedded projects use a TCP/IP stack! That correlates with the number of people reporting the use of an MPU rather than an MCU. I can’t wait for a DDOS attack against my toaster.

The average salary is $70k, which is probably pretty skewed by the 25% of respondents from developing nations.

Finally, despite unending bleak economic news, engineers are reasonably optimistic about the engineering job market, with only 8% thinking the prospects are worse than last year.

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at jack@ganssle.com. His website is www.ganssle.com.

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