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SEI Publishes Report on Software Challenge of the Future

Press Release

PITTSBURGH, PA, July 10, 2006—The Carnegie Mellon®  Software Engineering Institute (SEI) today announced publication of Ultra-Large-Scale  Systems: The Software Challenge of the Future (ISBN 0-9786956-0-7). Available  on the Web at, the report  is the product of a 12-month study of ultra-large-scale (ULS) systems software  that the SEI conducted on behalf of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of  the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology).

The study brought together software experts and experts from  outside the field of software engineering from a variety of institutions and  organizations in response to a question posed by the U.S. Army to the SEI, a  federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Department  of Defense: “Given the issues with today’s software engineering,  how can we build the systems of the future that are likely to have billions  of lines of code?” Although a billion lines of code was the initial challenge,  increased code size brings with it increased scale in many dimensions, posing  challenges that strain current software foundations. The report details a broad,  multi-disciplinary research agenda for developing the ultra-large-scale systems  of the future.

Software, says Claude M. Bolton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of  the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology), is the chief enabler of an  Army transformation that emphasizes information superiority. “Software  makes possible increased situational awareness by providing sensors into networks  that allow commanders and soldiers to see first, act first, and act decisively,”  he says.

But the Army’s demands for software are rapidly outpacing  its ability to manage software acquisition. “We need better tools to meet  future challenges,” says Bolton, “and neither industry nor government  is working on how to do things light-years faster and cheaper. How can future  systems be built reliably if we can’t even get today’s systems right?”

“The DoD has a goal of information dominance,” says  Linda M. Northrop, who led the study for the SEI. “Achieving this goal  depends on the availability of increasingly complex systems characterized by  thousands of platforms, sensors, decision nodes, weapons, and users, connected  through heterogeneous wired and wireless networks. These systems will be ULS  systems. Although they will comprise far more than just software,” says  Northrop, “it is software that fundamentally will make possible the achievement  of the DoD’s goal.

“Yet software is the least well understood and the most  problematic element of our largest systems today. Our current understanding  of software and our software development practices will not meet the demands  of the future. To make significant progress in the size and complexity of systems  that can be built and deployed successfully, we require a culture shift. In  this report, we identify the kinds of research that will effect such a culture  shift. The United States needs a program that will fund this software research  required to sustain ongoing transformations in national defense and global interdependence.  The report provides the starting point for the path ahead.”

The principal team of authors who wrote the report consists  of Peter Feiler, John Goodenough, Rick Linger, Tom Longstaff, Rick Kazman, Mark  Klein, Linda Northrop, and Kurt Wallnau from the SEI, along with Richard P.  Gabriel, Sun Microsystems, Inc.; Douglas Schmidt, Vanderbilt University; and  Kevin Sullivan, University of Virginia.

About the Software  Engineering Institute
The Software Engineering Institute (SEI) is a U.S. Department of Defense federally  funded research and development center operated by Carnegie Mellon University.  The SEI helps organizations make measured improvements in their software engineering  capabilities by providing technical leadership to advance the practice of software  engineering. For more information, visit the SEI Web site at