Week9_02_sw_ageing.pdf

Week9_02_sw_ageing.pdf - Software Aging Invited Plenary...

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Software Aging Invited Plenary Talk David Lorge Parnas Communications Research Laboratory Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4K1 ABSTRACT Programs, like people, get old. We can ‘t prevent aging, but we can understand its causes, take steps to limits its effects, temporarily reverse some of the damage it has caused, and prepare for the day when the software is no longer viable. A sign that the Software Engineering profession has matured will be that we lose our preoccupation with the jirst release and focus on the long term health of our products. Researchers and practitioners must change their perception of the problems of software development. Only then will Sojlware Engineering deserve to be called Engineering. 1 What nonsense! I can easily imagine the reaction of some computer scientists to the title of this paper. “Software is a mathematical product; mathematics doesn’t decay with time. If a theorem was correct 200 years ago, it will be correct tomorrow. If a program is correct today, it will be correct 100 years from now. If it is wrong 100 years from now, it must have been wrong when it was written. It makes no sense to talk about software aging.” Like many such statements, the imagined quote is true but not really relevant. Software products do ex- hibit a phenomenon that closely resembles human ag- ing. Old software has begun to cripple its once-proud owners; many products are now viewed as a burden- some legacy from the past. A steadily increasing amount of effort is going into the support of these older products. Like human aging, software aging is inevitable, but like human aging, there are things that we can do to slow down the process and, sometimes, even reverse its effects. Software aging is not a new phenomenon, but it is gaining in significance because of the growing eco- nomic importance of software and the fact that in- creasingly, software is a major part of the “capital” of many high-tech firms. Man y old software products have become essential cogs in the machinery of our society. The aging of these products is impeding the further development of the systems that include them. The authors and owners of new software products often look at aging software with disdain. They be- lieve that, if the product had been designed using to- day’s techniques, it wouldn’t be causing problems. Such remarks remind me of a young jogger scoffing at an 86 year old man (who, unknown to the jogger, was a champion swimmer into his 50’s) and saying that he should have had more exercise in his youth. Just as we will all (if we are lucky) get old, software aging can, and will occur in all successful products, We must recognise that it will happen to our products and prepare for it. When old age arrives, we must be prepared to deal with it.
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