Validation of Ultra-High Dependability for Software-based Systems

By Lorenzo Strigini and Bev Littlewood; Communications of the ACM, Vol. 36, No. 11, November 1993, pp. 69-80

Modern society depends on computers for a number of critical tasks in which failure can have very high costs. As a consequence, high levels of dependability (reliability, safety, etc.) are required from such computers, including their software. Whenever a quantitative approach to risk is adopted, these requirements must be stated in quantitative terms, and a rigorous demonstration of their being attained is necessary. For software used in the most critical roles, such demonstrations are not usually supplied. The fact is that the dependability requirements often lie near the limit of the current state of the art, or beyond, in terms not only of the ability to satisfy them, but also, and more often, of the ability to demonstrate that they are satisfied in the individual operational products (validation). We discuss reasons why such demonstrations cannot usually be provided with the means available: reliability growth models, testing with stable reliability, structural dependability modelling, as well as more informal arguments based on good engineering practice. We state some rigorous arguments about the limits of what can be validated with each of such means. Combining evidence from these different sources would seem to raise the levels that can be validated; yet this improvement is not such as to solve the problem. It appears that engineering practice must take into account the fact that no solution exists, at present, for the validation of ultra-high dependability in systems relying on complex software.

The full text of this paper is available in .pdf and .ps format.

See also: "Validation of ultra-high dependability..." - 20 years on

The documents distributed by this server have been provided by the contributing authors as a means to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work on a noncommercial basis. Copyright and all rights therein are maintained by the authors or by other copyright holders, notwithstanding that they have offered their works here electronically. It is understood that all persons copying this information will adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. These works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

CSR Home | CSR Research Projects | CSR Publications | School of Informatics | City University

Page maintained by: Lorenzo Strigini