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Dependability - Wikipedia
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- Summary | Software for Dependable Systems: Sufficient Evidence? | The National Academies Press?
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Ebook: Engineering Dependable Software Systems
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Those claiming dependability for their software should therefore make available the details of their claims, criteria, and evidence. To assess the credibility of such details effectively, an evaluator should be able to calibrate not only the technical claims and evidence but also the organization that produced them, because the integrity of the evidence chain is vital and cannot easily be assessed without supporting data.
This suggests that in some cases data of a more general nature should be made available, including the qualifications of the personnel involved in the development; the track record of the organization in providing dependable software; and the process by which the software was developed. The willingness of a supplier to provide such data, and the clarity and integrity of the data that the supplier provides, will be a strong indication of its attitude to dependability.
Where there is a need to deploy software that satisfies a particular dependability claim, it should always be explicit who is accountable for any failure to achieve it. Such accountability can be made explicit in the purchase contract, or as part of certification of the software, or as part of a professional licensing scheme, or in other ways. Since no single solution will suit all the circumstances in which certifiably dependable software systems are deployed, accountability regimes should be tailored to particular circumstances.
At present, it is common for software developers to disclaim, so far as possible, all liability for defects in their products, to a greater extent than customers and society expect from manufacturers in other industries. Determining the appropriate scale of remedies, however, was beyond the scope of this study and would require a careful analysis of benefits and costs, taking into account not only the legal issues but also the state of software engineering, the various submarkets for software, the economic impact, and the effect on innovation.
Improvements in software development are needed to keep pace with societal demands for software. Avoidable software failures have already been responsible for loss of life and for major economic losses. The quality of software produced by the industry is extremely variable, and there is inadequate oversight in several critical areas.
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More pervasive deployment of software in the civic infrastructure may lead to catastrophic failures unless improvements are made. Software has the potential to bring dramatic benefits to society, but it will not be possible to realize these benefits—especially in critical applications—unless software becomes more dependable. More data are needed about software failures and the efficacy of development approaches.
Assessment of the state of the software industry, the risks posed by software, and progress made is currently hampered by the lack of a coherent source of information about software failures. Make the most of effective software development technologies and formal methods. A variety of modern technologies—in particular, safe programming languages, static analysis analysis of software and source code done without actually executing the program , and formal methods—are likely to reduce the cost and difficulty of producing dependable software. Follow proven principles for software development.
Take a systems perspective. Here the dependability of software is viewed not in terms of intrinsic properties such as the incidence of bugs in the code but rather in terms of the system as a whole, including interactions among people, process, and technology.
Exploit simplicity. If dependability is to be achieved at reasonable cost, simplicity should become a key goal, and developers and customers must be willing to accept the compromises it entails. Make a dependability case for a given system and context: evidence, explicitness, and expertise. A software system should be regarded as dependable only if sufficient evidence of its explicitly articulated properties is presented to substantiate the dependability claim.
This approach gives considerable leeway to developers to use whatever practices are best suited to the problem at hand. In practice the challenges of developing dependable software are sufficiently great that developers will need considerable expertise, and they will have to justify any deviations from best practices. Demand more transparency, so that customers and users can make more informed judgments about dependability.
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Customers and users can make informed judgments when choosing suppliers and products only if the claims, criteria, and evidence for dependability are transparent. Make use of but do not rely solely on process and testing. Testing will be an essential component of a dependability case, but will not in general suffice, because even the largest test suites typically used will not exercise enough paths to provide evidence that the software is correct nor will it have sufficient statistical significance for the levels of confidence usually desired.
Rigorous process is essential for preserving the chain of dependability evidence but is not per se evidence of dependability. Base certification on inspection and analysis of the dependability claim and the evidence offered in its support.