Tuesday, July 7, 2009


As software dominates most discussions in the information technology business, one need to examine carefully where we are headed in software reliability. It is reasonable to ask about the nature of software faults and the remedy for them, either from a fault-tolerance perspective or, more generally, on a software dependability front. There are conferences on this topic and over 300 technical papers that discuss some of its aspects. However, as many industry specialists agree, software is one area in the information technology industry which continues to baffle the scientist from a dependability perspective. While hardware & technology have seen four orders of magnitude improvement in the past decade, software has probably marginally improved or, some will argue, gotten worse. One then wonders if research in this area is headed in the right directions.

Thus, it is vital to examine some of the fundamentals, e.g., "What is a software failure?" This question is usually assumed to be well understood. However, when one examines it closely, it is startling how little is truly understood regarding those faults that matter. This problem is appreciably better understood in hardware systems, or systems, have been better tracked over the years and there is a larger body of experience in failure modes & effects analysis. However, the counterpart in software is far less understood. It is further complicated by a lack of clarity as to what is a software failure.

Ram Chillarege
IEEE Transactions on Reliability, Vol. 45, No. 3, September, 1996.

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