The Ada Resource Association
2005 ARA Ada Usage Survey Results Reveal Robust Ada Market
Ada Market Entails at Least a $5.6 Billion Investment, Say Ada Resource Association-Sponsored Survey Respondees
BELMONT, MASS. [Sept. 12, 2005]--The Ada market is healthy, with a total investment of at least $5.6 billion in Europe and North America, according to an industry survey sponsored by the Ada Resource Association (ARA). The ARA, an international nonprofit organization, maintains the Ada Information Clearinghouse and comprises principal suppliers of Ada development environments and tools: AdaCore, IBM Rational Software, Praxis Critical Systems, and SofCheck.
The survey asked about both current Ada usage and familiarity with or plans for Ada 2005. Altogether, 188 responses were returned on the ARA website during May and early June this year, and additional data were derived from individual interviews. The survey was completed by software developers from North America, Australia, Korea, and almost every country in Europe.
The main results on Ada usage, presented at the Ada Europe conference in York, England, in June, can be summarized as follows:
  • Around 322 million lines of Ada code (LOAC) are in software that is either still in development or has been completed, representing a reported (and conservatively-estimated) value of around $5.6 billion.
  • The prices for these systems also cover a wide range. At one extreme, several projects undertaken by volunteers or hobbyists showed zero as their cost. And at the other end of the spectrum, a response for one of the major system developments reported a cost of $2 billion.
  • The projects represent a variety of applications and stages of development. (In the table below, the percentages add up to more than 100% since some respondents checked off more than one category, such as "fielded" and "maintenance"):
Project type
Embedded systems: 44 21%
Command & Control: 32 17%
Other Types: 32 17%
Tools: 30 16%
Simulation Projects: 30 16%
Graphics: 21 11%
Libraries: 11 6%
IT Projects: 7 4%
Project Stage
Planning: 8 4%
Development: 78 41%
Complete: 31 16%
Fielded: 54 29%
Maintenance: 56 30%
Other stage: 13 7%

Outside the Defense/Aerospace Box

Although Ada's traditional stronghold has been in the defense/aerospace industry, the responses to the survey show that the language has a much broader appeal. This is likely due to Ada's intrinsic merit in helping produce reliable software, and to the availability of quality Ada compilers and tools. Some of the more interesting application areas include:
  • Accounting
  • Banking & Finances
  • Bible Studies
  • Book Title Image Matching
  • Commercial Imaging
  • Court Workflow
  • Currency Trading
  • Database Tools
  • DNA Analysis
  • Electronic Voting Machine
  • Industrial Control
  • Interlingual Machine Translator
  • Internet Security
  • Medical Devices & Testing
  • Neuroscience Research
  • Photonic Materials Research
  • Security Assessment
  • Semiconductor Factory
  • Small Office Applications
  • Spellcheck
  • Telecommunications
  • Tension Structure Analysis
  • Warehouse Management/Control

Understanding and Using the New Ada Standard Features

Besides asking about ongoing projects, the survey collected data about respondents' acquaintance with, and usage plans for, features that are being added to the upcoming Ada standard. The survey offered six possible answers for each feature, from "Unaware" and "Do not understand" to "Frequently use." The following specific features were listed: "limited with"; interfaces; scheduling improvements; the container library; nested extensions; prefixed views; directories/environment/ calendar packages; enhanced anonymous access types; limited aggregates and functions; overriding indicators; Ravenscar; expanded Unicode support. A roughly one line description was given of each.
Since tutorial or rationale material on Ada 2005 has only recently been made available to the general Ada community, and since most of the information available has been instead very technical, a high degree of familiarity with the new features would have been somewhat surprising. The actual results -- on average, about 34% of the respondents said that they either were unaware of a feature, didn't understand it, or didn't answer the question -- is probably better than expected and reflects a high degree of interest in the new language

New Ada Standard Features Likely to be Used

The best understood new features were the containers library and the other new packages, while the least understood feature was overriding indicators. The description in the question didn't explain their use, unlike most of the other features, which might have explained respondents' confusion.
Those features that respondents said they would never use proved to be highly specialized. Further, if a feature was understood, it would tend to be used: on average, more than 80% of the users who understood a feature said that they would use it at least occasionally. An interesting counterexample was the Ravenscar Profile: 32% of the respondents that understood that feature said that they would never use it. This may seem surprising, since the Ravenscar profile is generally regarded as one of Ada's major strengths for high-integrity applications. But most of the survey's respondents are working on systems that, although requiring high reliability, are not safety-critical. The developers can thus use the full Ada language rather than a specialized subset.
The feature most likely to be used, by developers who indicated an understanding of the feature, is the new standard packages (for directories /environment variables/calendar), followed by the containers library, prefixed views, and overriding indicators.
In reviewing the survey data, Randy Brukardt, editor of the new ISO Ada standard and long-time member of the Ada Rapporteur Group (ARG), observed: "All-in-all, I would say these results validate the ARG's effort in choosing how to update the language. The survey responses showed a higher degree of familiarity with the features than we had expected, and it is especially interesting that the new libraries are perceived as the most useful addition. With the forthcoming Rationale and other articles, the Ada community will be able to learn more about what the new standard will offer."
For those who did not get an opportunity to fill it out, the survey is still available. Updates from new surveys and individual interviews will be posted in the future in a news article and to the Ada News group, which you can sign up for by emailing and putting "Subscribe announce" in the subject line. For more details, please see
# # #