The Road Ahead for SEI R&D in 2012

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By Douglas C. Schmidt
Chief Technology Officer

Douglas C. SchmidtAfter 47 weeks and 50 blog postings, the sands of time are quickly running out in 2011. Last week’s blog posting summarized key 2011 SEI R&D accomplishments in our four major areas of software engineering and cyber security: innovating software for competitive advantage, securing the cyber infrastructure, accelerating assured software delivery and sustainment for the mission, and advancing disciplined methods for engineering software. This week’s blog posting presents a preview of some upcoming blog postings you’ll read about in these areas during 2012.

Innovating Software for Competitive Advantage

The Value-Driven Incremental Development team is creating quantitative engineering techniques to support rapid delivery of high-value, high-quality software capabilities to the DoD. Their approach is based on quality attribute analysis models that guide incremental development so that DoD acquisition program offices will be able to get warfighters the features they need most, when they need them, while balancing speed-of-delivery, quality, value, and cost tradeoffs.

The Cyber-Physical Systems team is developing algorithms and verification techniques that enable the DoD to deliver reliable mission-critical capability cost-effectively by automating more of the development and assurance of cyber-physical embedded control systems. Their approach is based on new algorithms for precise and scalable functional analysis of real-time systems by exploiting scheduling constraints, as well as new resource reclamation algorithms for multi-threaded tasks in multi-core processors.

The Socio-Adaptive Systems team is establishing a new class of adaptive socio-technical systems wherein people, networks, and computer applications can locally decide how to respond when the demand for resources (network resources in this case) outstrips supply, while ensuring the best global use of whatever capacity is available. Their research combines the adaptability of human social institutions—in particular those based in market institutions—with automated network-resource optimization so that scarce tactical network capacity will automatically, continuously, and effectively be allocated to warfighters based on their needs.

The Edge-Enabled Tactical System team is improving the quality and relevance of information available to dismounted (edge) warfighters so the information they receive will be more consistent with and useful for their current missions. They are developing model-driven techniques and tools that will enable tactical units (e.g., squads of soldiers) to consume less battery power, computation, and bandwidth resources when performing their missions.

Securing the Cyber Infrastructure

The CERT Secure Coding Initiative is conducting research to reduce the number of software vulnerabilities to a level that can be mitigated in DoD operational environments. This work focuses on static and dynamic analysis tools, secure coding patterns, and scalable conformance testing techniques that help prevent coding errors or discover and eliminate security flaws during implementation and testing.

The CERT Insider Threat team is evaluating techniques for detecting known insider threats prior to attack, to assist the DoD in preventing future high-impact data loss. This work is leveraging the hundreds of cases in the CERT Insider Threat Database, simulation capacity in CERT’s Insider Threat Laboratory, and system dynamics models of insider crime to create the socio-technical architectural foundations to prevent this kind of damage now and into the future.

The CERT Coordination Center is developing methods and tools to reduce the cost to DoD suppliers and acquirers of improving software assurance and reliability during development and testing. Their aim is to enable these groups to identify software defects via dynamic blackbox “fuzz testing” in a manner identical to what an attacker would be able to perform, to remediate these vulnerabilities before the software is deployed operationally to the DoD.

The CERT Malicious Code team is developing tools to analyze obfuscated malware code to enable analysts to more quickly derive the insights required to protect and respond to intrusions of DoD and other government systems. Their approach uses semantic code analysis to de-obfuscate binary malware to a simple intermediate representation and then convert the intermediate representation back to readable binary that can be inspected by existing malware tools.

Accelerating Assured Software Delivery and Sustainment for the Mission

The Alternative Methods group is researching methods for increasing adoption of incremental development methods to accelerate delivery of software-related technical capabilities while reducing the cost, acquisition time and risk of major defense acquisition programs. Their approach focuses on developing a contingency model that identifies conditions and thresholds for when and how to use incremental development approaches in a DoD acquisition context. They are also documenting incremental development patterns and guidelines that chart the course for removing barriers to effective adoption of incremental and iterative approaches in the DoD.

The Acquisition Dynamics team is evaluating methods that mitigate the effects of misaligned acquisition program organizational incentives and adverse software-reliant acquisition structural dynamics by improving program decision-making. Their objective is to help DoD acquisition programs overcome some of the most severe counter-productive behaviors that stem from inherent social dilemmas by using known solutions drawn from fields such as behavioral economics, and thus deploy higher-quality systems to the field in a more timely and cost-effective manner.

Advancing Disciplined Methods for Engineering Software

The Software Engineering Measurement and Analysis group is developing methods and tools for modeling uncertainties for pre-milestone A cost estimates to minimize the occurrence of severe acquisition program cost overruns due to poor estimates.  Their approach involves synthesizing Bayesian belief network modeling and Monte Carlo simulation to model uncertainties among program change drivers, allow subjective inputs, visually depict influential relationships and outputs to aid team-based model development, and assist with the explicit description and documentation underlying an estimate.

Concluding Remarks

This concludes our blog postings for 2011.  It’s been my great pleasure and privilege to work with the technical staff at the SEI this year to better acquaint you with the SEI body of work. We’ve enjoyed reading your comments and hope that you’ve learned more about the R&D activities that we’re pursuing.  We wish all of you a happy holiday season and look forward to hearing from you in 2012.

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