Validation of Ultra-High Dependability for Software-based Systems
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.
KeywordsPrior Belief Software Reliability Design Fault Reliability Growth Probabilistic Risk Assessment
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