Posted on: 2011-10-26 11:27:59.000
I think most successful software companies today have very small, tightly-knit teams that work on modules. Even something as huge as Windows had (according to a former employee) about seven people working directly on the kernel. The Linux kernel team is about the same size.
The Windows 7 team--probably the largest commercial software project ever in terms of lines of code-- was about 1,000 developers (according to this reference: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/e7/archive/2008/08/18/windows_5f00_7_5f00_team.aspx
That is further divided into 25 teams of 40 developers each. That's about the maximum size that Microsoft found that would work. There were a lot more people involved in design, but some would argue that there were TOO many, as accounted for here: http://moishelettvin.blogspot.com/2006/11/windows-shutdown-crapfest.html
For an example of software teams that were ridiculously huge and didn’t scale at all, look no further than Nokia. The company had <i>thousands</i> of developers working on various mobile OS projects (albeit not all on the same project) and kept adding more and more, and they couldn’t ever get a product out.