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Statistical Software Engineering
generating test cases so that one can state, with a very high probability, that one has checked most of the important paths of the software. This kind of methodology has been used with probabilistic algorithms in protocol testing, where the structure of the program can be described in great detail. (A protocol is a very precise description of the interface between two diverse systems.) Lee and Yanakakis (1992) have proposed algorithms whereby one is guaranteed, with a high degree of probability, that all the states of the protocols are checked. The difficulty with this approach is that the number of states becomes large very quickly, and except for a small part of the system under test, it is not clear that such a technique would be practical (under current computing technology). These ideas have been mathematically formalized in the vibrant area of theorem checking and proving (Blum et al., 1990). The key idea is to take transforms of programs such that the results are invariant under these transforms if the software is correct. Thus, any variation in the results suggests possible faults in the software. Blum et al. (1989) and Lipton (1989), among others, have developed a number of algorithms to give probabilistic bounds on the correctness of software based on the number of different transformations.
In all of the several approaches to testing discussed above, the number of test cases can be extraordinarily large. Because of the cost of testing and the need to supply software in a reasonable period of time, it is necessary to formulate rules about when to stop testing. Herein lies another set of interesting problems in sequential analysis and statistical decision theory. As pointed out by Dalal and Mallows (1988, 1990, 1992), Singpurwalla (1991), and others, the key issue is to explicitly incorporate the economic trade-off between the decision to stop testing (and absorb the cost of fixing subsequent field faults) and the decision to continue testing (and incur ongoing costs to find and fix faults before release of a software product). Since the testing process is not deterministic, the fault-finding process is modeled by a stochastic reliability model (see Chapter 4 for further discussion). The opportune moment for release is decided using sequential decision theory. The rules are simple to implement and have been used in a number of projects. This framework has been extended to the problem of buying software with some sort of probabilistic guarantee on the number of faults remaining (Dalal and Mallows, 1992). Another extension with practical importance (Dalal and McIntosh, 1994) deals with the issue of a system under test not having been completely delivered at the start of testing. This situation is a common occurrence for large systems, where in order to meet scheduling milestones, testing begins immediately on modules and sets of modules as they are completed.