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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cleanroom software engineering

Cleanroom software engineering is a formal approach to software development that can lead to software that has remarkably high quality. It uses box structure specification (or formal methods) for analysis and design modeling and emphasizes correctness verification, rather than testing, as the primary mechanism for finding and removing errors. Statistical use testing is applied to develop the failure rate information necessary to certify the reliability of delivered software.

The cleanroom approach begins with analysis and design models that use a box structure representation. A "box" encapsulates the system at a specific level of abstraction. Black boxes are used to represent the externally observable behavior of a system. State boxes encapsulate state data and operations. A clear box is used to model the procedural design that is implied by the data and operations of a state box.

Correctness verification is applied once the box structure design is complete. The procedural design for a software component is partitioned into a series of sub-functions. To prove the correctness of the sub-functions, exit conditions are defined for each sub-function and a set of sub-proofs is applied. If each exit is condition is satisfied, the design must be correct.

Once correctness verification is complete, statistical use testing commences. Unlike conventional testing, cleanroom software engineering does not emphasize unit or integration testing. Rather, the software is tested by defining a set of usage scenarios, determining the probability of use for each scenario, and then defining random tests that conform to the probabilities. The error records that result are combined with sampling, component, and certification models to enable mathematical computation of projected reliability for the software component.

The cleanroom philosophy is a rigorous approach to software engineering. It is a software process model that emphasizes mathematical verification of correctness and certification of software reliability. The bottom line is extremely low failure rates that would be difficult or impossible to achieve using less formal methods.

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