< Contents ERCIM News No. 60, January 2005

Strategic IST-FET/NSF Workshop 'Engineering Software-Intensive Systems'

ERCIM has just published a report on the workshop 'Engineering Software-Intensive Systems' as part of the strategic workshop series under the auspices of the European Union (Information Society Technologies - Future and Emerging Technologies action) and the US National Science Foundation, 'Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering' division.

The strategic research workshop on 'Engineering Software-Intensive Systems' was organised in Edinburgh, Scotland, 23-24 May 2004, with the objective to present and discuss future R&D directions, challenges, and visions in the emerging area of software-intensive systems. About 20 leading experts from Europe, the United States and Australia participated in the workshop and identified research issues and challenges.

Software has become a key feature of a rapidly growing range of products and services from all sectors of economic activity. Software-intensive systems include large-scale heterogeneous systems, embedded systems for automotive applications, telecommunications, wireless ad hoc systems, business applications with an emphasis on web services etc. Our daily lives depend on complex software-intensive systems, from banking to communications to transportation to medicine. In the near future, software-intensive systems will exhibit adaptive and anticipatory behaviour; they will process knowledge and not only data, and change their structure dynamically.

Software-intensive systems will act as global computers in highly dynamic environments and will be based on and integrated with service-oriented and pervasive computing. However, actual practice shows that the techniques for engineering software-intensive systems suffer from many severe deficiencies in quality and methodological shortcomings:

  • pragmatic modeling languages and techniques have no clean scientific foundations which inhibits the construction of powerful analysis and development tools
  • formal approaches are not well-integrated with pragmatic methods and do not scale up to complex software-intensive systems
  • aspects such as change, adaptation, heterogeneity, quality of service, security, trust, and highly dynamic and unpredictable environments, are important for software-intensive systems, but are not well supported by actual engineering methods.

Given the above, the grand challenge is to develop practically useful and theoretically well-founded principles, methods and tools for engineering high-quality software-intensive systems. Mastering the complexity of software-intensive systems requires a combined effort for foundational research and new engineering techniques that are based on mathematically well-founded theories and approaches. The new methods should support the whole system life cycle including requirements, design, implementation, maintenance, reconfiguration and adaptation. Research is required for:

  • developing innovative engineering support for software-intensive systems to ensure required levels of quality and trust
  • putting change and adaptation at all levels of system development
  • developing a science of software-intensive systems
  • bridging the gap between pragmatic development techniques and foundational validation and verification methods.

More information on this workshop, its main findings and the list of participants can be found at:

The workshop is one of ten workshops organised or co-organised by ERCIM in Europe and the United States since 2001 to identify key research challenges and opportunities in information technologies. Other workshops covered the following topics:

  • Bionics - Bio-Inspired Information Technologies
  • Future Information Processing Technologies
  • Semantic Web
  • R&D Strategy for a Dependable Information Society
  • Middleware for Mobile Systems
  • Digital Human Ontologies
  • Interdependencies
  • The Disappearing Computer
  • Unconventional Programming Paradigms.

EU-NSF strategic workshops:
Workshop report 'Engineering Software-Intensive Systems':

Please contact:
Remi Ronchaud, ERCIM office,
Tel: +33 4 9238 5010