Delphi Success Story

I recently discovered a couple of posts on the Embarcadero website and have unashamedly reproduced them here for my own recollection. The first is a case-study on Image-Line Software which produces FL Studio, the second is on Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg, the world’s largest model railway.

Image-Line Software

Image-Line Software is a Belgian based creator of FL Studio, one of the most popular Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) available on the market for creating music. FL Studio is installed more than 30,000 times per day (more than 10 million installations a year) by users in more than 200 countries, including power users such as Avicii, Martin Garrix, Afrojack, and Mike Oldfield.

“For native development, Delphi is my first choice.”

– Jean-Marie Cannie, CTO and Founder

Challenge

The FL Studio project contains more than 2.5 million lines of code and more than 300 assembler functions for the digital signal processor. Currently the company has 15 employees working in product development.

Jean-Marie Cannie, CTO and Founder of Image-Line Software, says prior to entering the music industry, he had a long history working with Turbo Pascal. “It was the base development tool we used to develop stock market software before moving into arcade games which led into music sequencing.”

The Solution

When Image-Line transitioned from video to music, Cannie decided to switch to Delphi from Embarcadero as its software development platform of choice. “Delphi is very important for us as a development tool because it allows us to do inline assembly and link function to the code directly. With classic development tools, that process is much clumsier. However with Delphi you can just add a button and double click; it speeds up coding and allows us to work in the language we know best.”

fl2

“Delphi is very important for us as a development tool because it allows us to do inline assembly and link function to the code directly.”

– Jean-Marie Cannie, CTO and Founder

Results

With Delphi, compilation and prototyping are faster and easier, Cannie says. “Delphi is really nice for us, because if you need native speed like we do, then the only other option is C++. Having worked with both, I find Delphi to be much more productive and easy to work with. For native development, Delphi is my first choice.”

Another important feature for Cannie is the pre-compiled libraries. “With Delphi, every unit is pre-compiled. If you change only one block that contains a line of code, it will run within seconds versus the one-and-a-half minutes it would take with C++. That’s a very unique feature to Delphi.”

One of the most significant developments for Cannie is Delphi’s 64-bit compiler and the native support for OS X. “That’s very helpful since a significant proportion of music producers are using Macs these days. We ran the first test version in early July and expect to have something for our audience within six months. Having a product that runs natively on both Windows and OS X, without customers having to jump through hoops, has the potential to grow our customer base significantly and will be a welcome friend for those Windows users who switched to Mac and are missing out on their Lifetime Free Updates. That’s a major breakthrough for us.”

While mobile isn’t a major area of focus for Image-Line, Cannie says they are investigating future development work for iOS devices using Delphi. “These tools offer many benefits that will help bring even more benefits to our customers.”

“Having a product that runs natively on both Windows and OS X without customers having to jump through hoops has the potential to grow our customer base significantly.”

– Jean-Marie Cannie, CTO and Founder

Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg

Located on the river Elbe near Hamburg’s historic warehouse district (Speicherstadt), is the world’s largest model railroad – Miniatur Wunderland. Hamburg’s number one tourist attraction, it brings in 1.3 million visitors from all over the world. Some 760,000 working hours were spent creating this unique miniature world that extends to 1.5 acres of total area. In addition to sophisticated technology, Miniatur Wunderland is particularly distinguished by its high level of detail; 260,000 figurines driving trains, cars, ships and even flying airplanes. Miniatur Wunderland also boasts a breathtaking miniature cosmos unlike anything else in the world. As Hamburg’s number one tourist destination along with Speicherstadt, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Delphi is the most popular development tool at our office

– Daniel Wolf, Software Developer

With Delphi as the primary development tool, we can cover all the diverse requirements at Wonderland.

– Daniel Wolf, Software Developer

The Challenge

The project of the twin brothers Gerrit and Frederik Braun, as well as Stephan Hertz, began more than ten years ago. From a technical standpoint, aside from the demand for semi-permanent availability of systems, the main challenge is to synchronize the various plant components and subsystems. The trains, cars, airplanes, ships, and 385,000+ lights all must be in harmony. For example, it’s necessary to synchronize the movement of the cars with the traffic light, turn on the street lights at night, light the homes, and manage the cosmos.

The Solution

Since the beginning Miniatur Wunderland’s broad software landscape has been developed with Delphi, it now stretches almost three-quarters of a million lines of code. Again, an integral part of the architecture is the precise collaboration of the various subsystems.

The vehicle control system plans and monitors vehicle, aircraft, and ship routes. The system even dispatches fire trucks that are given priority over other vehicles as they go. Cars are controlled by a “controlled coincidence,” which ensures they use different routes creating a realistic traffic pattern.

miwula-delphi2

The light control, which also controls the cosmos lights in addition to all installation and vehicle lights, provides impressive daytime and nighttime scenes. Different areas are perfectly synchronized so that the lights are turned on for vehicles and houses when twilight begins. As in the real world, not all lights go on at the same time, but instead gradually and randomly. The inhabitants of the miniature world don’t all go to bed at the same time either, thus lights are turned off accordingly.

The “Railware” train control, which was not developed in-house, is nevertheless a Delphi program. It controls all train traffic ensuring all trains run on time. The intense interplay between hardware and software is especially challenging, as Railware depends on detailed feedback from the system (i.e. train location). Software is the only way to achieve collision-free route planning and train control, especially on a tight schedule.

The command distributor (“The Brain”) ensures synchronization of the various systems. For example, it ensures that all software systems have the same Wunderland time (every 15 minutes the miniature world runs through a complete day-night cycle). The instructions distributor operates using a self-developed, ultra-compact binary protocol, which sends information with the least possible time delay. It not only copes with single-system failures, but also brings them back to the current state after a failure.

The display panel for Knuffingen Airport is synchronized with the vehicle control system of the airport, and reliably informs passengers about the next departures and arrivals.

The Jumbotron at HSV stadium is essential for every football fan. “Lotto King Karl,” who sings before every game is displayed on the jumbotron in a miniature format by a Delphi program.

All these and other programs run together in the so-called “control room,” from which technicians can view the entire system and react to events. The IT infrastructure was deliberately decentralized in order to guard against failures. Although rare, but unavoidable, hardware defects disrupt only a single system section, or even just a sub-section.

In addition to what has been mentioned, there is also a toolbox of smaller, highly specialized tools, that help guests better enjoy Miniatur Wunderland.

The checkout, reservation, and ticketing systems manage the gift shop, restaurant, booking, and ticketing. Parts of the systems are synchronized with the online presence, for example, in making reservations or ticket sales via the Internet.

Even a climate control system ensures that guests neither freeze nor sweat during their visit. Humidity is also especailly important at Miniatur Wunderland because the model’s foundational plates can expand or contract with fluctuating humidity.

Conclusion

For more than 15 years, Delphi has been a reliable development tool. It’s safe and constant, yet always provides for new possibilities. Using Delphi we have been able to managed existing operations and also adapt to completely new requirements. Going forward we have a lot of plans for Miniatur Wunderland, and we are confident that Delphi will continue to get the job done and be our tool of choice.

We need a high degree of reliability for operations at Wunderland. That’s been our experience using Delphi over the last 15 years.

– Daniel Wolf, Software Developer

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