Software, while ubiquitous in our life today, has often been relegated to the realm of techies while cool superheroes get to play with amazing gadgets—from the Batmobile to Wayne Enterprise’s fusion reactor—as exemplified by the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. Fans have been enjoying this type of action-packed superhero story for generations with many Batman and Robin catchphrases becoming common expressions—if only in jest. What is new is that the latest Batman movie highlights the importance of software and actually has Bruce Wayne showing his inner DevOps.
Software emerges as an essential theme in this movie with career criminal Selina Kyle acting as a maid to steal Bruce Wayne's fingerprints in exchange for a computer program that can erase her criminal past. We see software emerge as a tool that can effectively give this woman a new future, free from crime. The bad guys have their own software, with evil protagonist Bane and his men attacking Gotham’s stock exchange (which bears a striking resemblance to the New York Stock Exchange). Bane’s men use software to make trades in the market while holding the employees of the exchange at gunpoint. We soon learn that the software used by Bane's men made bad trades on Bruce Wayne's behalf, effectively leaving him in financial ruin. At some level, this movie bears an eerie connection to the Knight Capital trading disaster caused by a software error. Software clearly can be used for good or for evil, and so it is with software practices.
Technology guru Lucious Fox warns Bruce Wayne about a computer glitch that could potentially impact the autopilot of the brand new flying machine known as the “Bat.” Of course, Batman uses the Bat anyway, presumably without fixing the software. Naturally, the autopilot function figures in a key scene leaving the audience wondering whether Batman is alive or dead. We soon learn that not only did Bruce Wayne fix the software, but the software patch has his name recorded as the person who applied the patch. This movie clearly shows that some superheroes not only know how to fix software but are willing to follow proper IT controls as well.
Perhaps Knight Capital should have hired Batman to establish their DevOps function before it was too late. The Dark Knight (and Knight Capital) certainly show software practices have reached the level of being understood as pop culture and perhaps worthy of superhero status for all those who know how to build and release software.
Bob Aiello is a consultant, a technical editor for CM Crossroads, and the author of Configuration Management Best Practices: Practical Methods that Work in the Real World. Bob has served as the vice chair of the IEEE 828 Standards working group and is a member of the IEEE Software and Systems Engineering Standards Committee (S2ESC) management board.