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Software For Dependable Systems: Sufficient Evidence?
with evidence from analysis. In addition, the case will inevitably involve appeals to the process by which the software was developed—for example, to argue that the software deployed in the field is the same software that was subjected to analysis or testing.
Expertise. Expertise—in software development, in the domain under consideration, and in the broader systems context, among other things—is necessary to achieve dependable systems. Flexibility is an important advantage of the proposed approach; in particular the developer is not required to follow any particular process or use any particular method or technology. This flexibility provides experts the freedom to employ new techniques and to tailor the approach to their application and domain. However, the requirement to produce evidence is extremely demanding and likely to stretch today’s best practices to their limit. It will therefore be essential that the developers are familiar with best practices and diverge from them only with good reason. Expertise and skill will be needed to effectively utilize the flexibility the approach provides and discern which best practices are appropriate for the system under consideration and how to apply them. This chapter contains a short catalog of best practices, judged by the committee to be those that are most important for dependability.
These notions—to be explicit, to demand and produce evidence, and to marshall expertise—are, in one sense, entirely traditional and uncontroversial. Modern engineering of physical artifacts marshals evidence for product quality by measuring items against explicit criteria, and licensing is often required in an attempt to ensure expertise. Applying these notions to software, however, is not straightforward, and many of the assumptions that underlie statistical process control (which has governed the design of production lines since the 1920s) do not hold for software. Some of the ways in software systems differ from more traditional engineering projects include the following:
Criteria. The criteria for physical artifacts are often simpler, often comprising no more than a failure or breakage rate for the artifact as a whole. Because of the complexity of software and its interdependence on the environment in which it operates, explicit and precise articulation of claims is both more challenging and more important than for traditional engineering.
Feasibility of testing. For physical artifacts, limited testing provides compelling evidence of quality, with the continuity of physical phenomena allowing widespread inferences to be drawn from only a few sample points. In contrast, limited testing of software can rarely provide compelling evidence of behavior under all conditions.
Process/product correlation. The fundamental premise of statistical