Category: Ultra Large Scale Systems

The Department of Defense (DoD) has become deeply and fundamentally reliant on software. As a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC), the SEI is chartered to work with the DoD to meet the challenges of designing, producing, assuring, and evolving software-reliant systems in an affordable and dependable manner. This blog post--the first in a multi-part series--outlines key elements of the forthcoming SEI Strategic Research Plan that addresses these challenges through research and acquisition support and collaboration with DoD, other federal agencies, industry, and academia.

A search on the term "software architecture" on the web as it existed in 1992 yielded 88,700 results. In May, during a panel providing a 20-year retrospective on software architecture hosted at the SEI Architecture Technology User Network (SATURN) conference, moderator Rick Kazman noted that on the day of the panel discussion--May 9, 2012-- that same search yielded 2,380,000 results. This 30-fold increase stems from various factors, including the steady growth in system complexity, the increased awareness of the importance of software architecture on system quality attributes, and the quality and impact of efforts by the SEI and other groups conducting research and transition activities on software architecture. This blog posting--the first in a series--provides a lightly edited transcription of the presentation of the first panelist, Linda Northrop, director of the SEI's Research, Technology, & System Solutions (RTSS) Programat the SEI, who provided an overview of the evolution of software architecture work at the SEI during the past twenty years.

The extent of software in Department of Defense (DoD) systems has increased by more than an order of magnitude every decade. This is not just because there are more systems with more software; a similar growth pattern has been exhibited within individual, long-lived military systems. In recognition of this growing software role, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E, now ASD(R&E)) requested the National Research Council (NRC) to undertake a study of defense software producibility, with the purpose of identifying the principal challenges and developing recommendations regarding both improvement to practice and priorities for research.

The SEI has long advocated software architecture documentation as a software engineering best practice. This type of documentation is not particularly revolutionary or different from standard practices in other engineering disciplines. For example, who would build a skyscraper without having an architect draw up plans first? The specific value of software architecture documentation, however, has never been established empirically. This blog describes a research project we are conducting to measure and understand the value of software architecture documentation on complex software-reliant systems.