Archive: 2014-07

The role of software within systems has fundamentally changed over the past 50 years. Software's role has changed both on mission-critical DoD systems, such as fighter aircraft and surveillance equipment, and on commercial products, such as telephones and cars. Software has become not only the brain of most systems, but the backbone of their functionality. Acquisition processes must acknowledge this new reality and adapt. This blog posting, the second in a series about the relationship of software engineering (SwE) and systems engineering (SysE), shows how software technologies have come to dominate what formerly were hardware-based systems. This posting describes a case study: the story of software on satellites, whose lessons can be applied to many other kinds of software-reliant systems.

Many warfighters and first responders operate at what we call "the tactical edge," where users are constrained by limited communication connectivity, storage availability, processing power, and battery life. In these environments, onboard sensors are used to capture data on behalf of mobile applications to perform tasks such as face recognition, speech recognition, natural language translation, and situational awareness. These applications then rely on network interfaces to send the data to nearby servers or the cloud if local processing resources are inadequate. While software developers have traditionally used native mobile technologies to develop these applications, the approach has some drawbacks, such as limited portability. In contrast, HTML5 has been touted for its portability across mobile device platforms, as well an ability to access functionality without having to download and install applications. This blog post describes research aimed at evaluating the feasibility of using HTML5 to develop applications that can meet tactical edge requirements.

In earlier posts on big data, I have written about how long-held design approaches for software systems simply don't work as we build larger, scalable big data systems. Examples of design factors that must be addressed for success at scale include the need to handle the ever-present failures that occur at scale, assure the necessary levels of availability and responsiveness, and devise optimizations that drive down costs. Of course, the required application functionality and engineering constraints, such as schedule and budgets, directly impact the manner in which these factors manifest themselves in any specific big data system. In this post, the latest in my ongoing series on big data, I step back from specifics and describe four general principles that hold for any scalable, big data system. These principles can help architects continually validate major design decisions across development iterations, and hence provide a guide through the complex collection of design trade-offs all big data systems require.

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 secure coding, CERT Resilience Management Model, malicious-code reverse engineering, systems engineering, and incident management. This post includes a listing of each report, author(s), and links where the published reports can be accessed on the SEI website.