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The Latest Research in Software Engineering and Cybersecurity

Aircraft and other safety-critical systems increasingly rely on software to provide their functionality. The exponential growth of software in safety-critical systems has pushed the cost for building aircraft to the limit of affordability. Given this increase, the current practice of build-then-test is no longer feasible. This blog posting describes recent work at the SEI to improve the quality of software-reliant systems through an approach known as the Reliability Validation and Improvement Frameworkthat will lead to early defect discovery and incremental end-to-end validation.

The ubiquity of mobile devices provides new opportunities to warn people of emergencies and imminent threats using location-aware technologies. The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system, formerly known as the Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS), is the newest addition to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), which allows authorities to broadcast emergency alerts to cell phone customers with WEA-enabled devices in an area affected by a disaster or a major emergency. This blog posting describes how the Software Engineering Institute's (SEI) work on architecture, integration, network security, and project management is assisting in implementing the WEA system, so it can handle a large number of alert originators and provide an effective nationwide wireless emergency warning system.

Building a complex weapon system in today's environment may involve many subsystems--propulsion, hydraulics, power, controls, radar, structures, navigation, computers, and communications. Design of these systems requires the expertise of engineers in particular disciplines, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, metallurgical engineering, and many others. But some activities of system development are interdisciplinary, including requirements development, trade studies, and architecture design, to name a few. These tasks do not fit neatly into the traditional engineering disciplines, and require the attention of engineering staff with broader skills and backgrounds. This need for breadth and experience is often met by systems engineers. Unfortunately, system engineering is often not valued among all stakeholders in the Department of Defense (DoD), and is often the first group of activities to be eliminated when a program is faced with budget constraints. This blog post highlights recent researchaimed at demonstrating the value of systems engineering to program managers in the DoD and elsewhere.

In the first blog entry of this two part series on common testing problems, I addressed the fact that testing is less effective, less efficient, and more expensive than it should be. This second posting of a two-part serieshighlights results of an analysis that documents problems that commonly occur during testing. Specifically, this series of posts identifies and describes 77 testing problems organized into 14 categories; lists potential symptoms by which each can be recognized; potential negative consequences, and potential causes; and makes recommendations for preventing them or mitigating their effects.

Software and systems architects face many challenges when designing life- and safety-critical systems, such as the altitude and control systems of a satellite, the auto pilot system of a car, or the injection system of a medical infusion pump. Architects in software and systems answer to an expanding group of stakeholders and often must balance the need to design a stable system with time-to-market constraints. Moreover, no matter what programming language architects choose, they cannot design a complete system without an appropriate tool environment that targets user requirements. A promising tool environment is the Architecture Analysis and Design Language (AADL), which is a modeling notation that employs both textual and graphical representations. This post, the second in a series on AADL, provides an overview of existing AADL tools and highlights the experience of researchers and practitioners who are developing and applying AADL tools to production projects.

As part of an ongoing effort to keep you informed about our latest work, I would like to let you know about some recently published SEI technical reports and notes. These reports highlight the latest work of SEI technologists in quantifying expert judgment, insider threat, detecting and preventing data exfiltration, and developing a common vocabulary for malware analysts. This post includes a listing of each report, author(s), and links where the published reports can be accessed on the SEI website.

In 2009, a popular blogger published a post entitled "SOA is Dead," which generated extensive commentary among those who work in the field of service-oriented architecture (SOA). Many practitioners in this field completely misinterpreted the post; some read the title and just assumed that the content referenced the demise of SOA. Quite the opposite, the post was inviting people to stop thinking about SOA as a set of technologies and start embracing SOA as an approach for designing, developing, and managing distributed systems that goes beyond just the technology. Unfortunately, even though SOA is still alive and widely adopted, a belief still persists that SOA can be purchased off the shelf. This post highlights recent research aimed at clarifying this misperception for architects, as well as identifying the elements that constitute a service-oriented system and the relationships between these elements.