3rd International Conference on COTS-Based Software Systems



Bill Anderson

This library item is related to the following area(s) of work:

Performance and Dependability

This article was originally published in News at SEI on: December 1, 2003

ICCBSS draws international participation with conferences held in the US, Canada, and Europe. ICCBSS 2004 received paper submissions from 17 countries around the world.

The 2004 International Conference on COTS-Based Software Systems (ICCBSS) continued to make significant contributions to the growing field of COTS (commercial off-the-shelf)-based system practice and research. A maturation of the state of the practice was seen in a shift of conference emphasis from selecting a COTS product to engineering and managing the development and sustainment of complex COTS-based systems. Issues as diverse as requirements definition, legal concerns, architectures, safety-critical applications, predictive cost models, interoperability, and security broadened the scope of this year’s conference from a focus on COTS products to considerations of system-wide engineering. Rick Hefner, director of process initiatives at Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, said of the conference, “In the past decade, the software community has moved beyond the simplistic view of COTS as a silver-bullet solution to a deeper examination of the critical success factors surrounding COTS usage. More than any other single conference, ICCBSS provides the opportunity to interact with the researchers and practitioners who are defining the state of the practice.”

Dr. Rose Gamble of the University of Tulsa was a paper jury panelist, and she commented, “The quality of the presentations [and] the papers I reviewed was superior to previous years.” Dr. Gamble’s own research on migrating application integrations was a prime example. She reported on her studies of the detailed system changes required to migrate a system from a publish/subscribe COTS middleware architecture to a request/reply architecture, identifying some of the artifacts required to accomplish such a migration successfully. Such sustainment strategies enable a system to adapt to changing technologies and take advantage of COTS market improvements.

Two well-attended workshops produced lively interaction on tools and techniques for incorporating COTS products into software systems and building a framework for COTS terminology. Participants commented on the high level of interactive discussion and the continuity from conference to conference as issues raised in previous years were explored in detail during this year’s workshops. In his closing remarks, Dr. Barry Boehm, of the University of Southern California and this year’s program chair, pointed out that ICCBSS is unique in its extended presentation format, allowing this audience participation to continue throughout the conference.

A number of presentations dealt with COTS legal issues. Ignacio Delgado González from Martin & Lawson, Spain, spoke about introducing COTS products into the European Union. The European Software Institute’s David Morera’s detailed checklist of legal issues when acquiring COTS products, and this author’s comments on the challenges of working with shrink-wrapped licenses, illustrate that the legalities associated with COTS-based system acquisition and sustainment are vital to the long-term success of these systems. Turnkey vendors may rely on third-party embedded products without adequate provisions for maintenance of those packages. Warranties, remedies, infringement, and title types are just a few of the areas that need to be well understood when using COTS software. 

Use of COTS products in safety-critical systems presents new and significant challenges to certification efforts, integration, and cost estimation. Dr. Tim Kelly of the University of York, UK, spoke elegantly on the topic. He presented an approach to alleviate these difficulties by providing a safety-informed decision on COTS selection. Kelly stated that the “biggest challenges facing spacecraft ground systems developers [are those being faced every day while] architecting mission-critical systems using COTS components.” A panel discussion with expert participation from the Boeing Company, the U.S. DoD Joint Program Office, Integral Systems, Aerospace Corp., and Braxton Technologies provided another venue to explore the use of COTS products in critical environments.

Dr. Douglas C. Schmidt, Vanderbilt University, presented an informative keynote on advances in COTS middleware for distributed real-time and embedded systems, providing examples of military and commercial applications that ranged from shipboard resource management to automated stock trading. He concluded his presentation by describing the recent successes of the Bold Stroke Avionics Mission Computing and a real-time retargeting system’s infusion of standards-based COTS products, both of which leveraged advances in the quality of service-enabled middleware, distributed resource modeling, and pattern languages.

In the words of Joseph Farrelly, CIO of Aventis Pharma, “Being competent at developing software was once a priority—now you buy that off the shelf, maybe 85% of the time. It’s not about developing the best technology anymore. It’s about mastering project management in the implementation of technology.”1 The breadth and depth of the material presented at ICCBSS 2004 made a considerable contribution to filling this need.

You can participate in this exchange by attending upcoming conferences and by submitting papers, presentations, tutorials, panels, or posters; ICCBSS 2005 will be held in Bilbao, Spain, February 7-11. Further information, including the entire program and information about how to order the proceedings, is available at the conference Web site at www.iccbss.org.

1 Carr, David F. “Integration Successes and Flops: The Baseline Magazine Perspective,” ICCBSS 2004.

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