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SEI Publishes Report on Software Challenge of the FuturePITTSBURGH, 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 www.sei.cmu.edu/uls, 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 http://www.sei.cmu.edu.
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