Software Architecture & Quality Attributes

Abstract:

Computer systems are used in many critical applications where a failure can have serious consequences (loss of lives or property). Developing systematic ways to relate the software quality attributes of a system to the system’s architecture provides a sound basis for making objective decisions about design trade-offs and enables engineers to make reasonably accurate predictions about a system’s attributes that are free from bias and hidden assumptions. The ultimate goal is the ability to quantitatively evaluate and trade off multiple software quality attributes to arrive at a better overall system. The purpose of this report is to take a small step in the direction of developing a unifying approach for reasoning about multiple software quality attributes. In this report, we define software quality, introduce a generic taxonomy of attributes, discuss the connections between the attributes, and discuss future work leading to an attribute-based methodology for evaluating software architectures.

Introduction:

Computer systems are used in many critical applications where a failure can have serious con- sequences (loss of lives or property). Critical applications have the following characteristics:
  • The applications have long life cycles (decades rather than years) and require evolutionary upgrades.
  • The applications require continuous or nearly non-stop operation.
  • The applications require interaction with hardware devices.
  • The applications assign paramount importance to quality attributes such as timeliness, reliability, safety, interoperability, etc.

Developing systematic ways to relate the software quality attributes of a system to the system’s architecture provides a sound basis for making objective decisions about design trade- offs and enables engineers to make reasonably accurate predictions about a system’s at- tributes that are free from bias and hidden assumptions. The ultimate goal is the ability to quantitatively evaluate and trade off multiple software quality attributes to arrive at a better overall system.

Software Quality Attributes:

Developers of critical systems are responsible for identifying the requirements of the application, developing software that implements the requirements, and for allocating appropriate resources (processors and communication networks). It is not enough to merely satisfy functional requirements. Critical systems in general must satisfy security, safety, dependability, performance, and other, similar requirements as well. Software quality is the degree to which software possesses a desired combination of attributes (e.g., reliability, interoperability) [IEEE 1061].

How Various Communities Have Addressed Quality Attributes:

There are different schools/opinions/traditions concerning the properties of critical systems and the best methods to develop them:
  • Performance — from the tradition of hard real-time systems and capacity planning
  • Dependability — from the tradition of ultra-reliable, fault-tolerant systems
  • Security — from the traditions of the government, banking and academic communities
  • Safety — from the tradition of hazard analysis and system safety engineering
Systems often fail to meet user needs (i.e., lack quality) when designers narrowly focus on meeting some requirements without considering the impact on other requirements or by taking them into account too late in the development process.

Software Quality Attribute Trade-offs:

Designers need to analyze trade-offs between multiple conflicting attributes to satisfy user requirements. The ultimate goal is the ability to quantitatively evaluate and trade off multiple quality attributes to arrive at a better overall system. We should not look for a single, universal metric, but rather for quantification of individual attributes and for trade-off between these different metrics, starting with a description of the software architecture.

Software Architecture Design Non-Functional Requirements:
  • Introduction (Functional Requirements): 
Non-functional requirements are different from functional requirements in many ways.
  • Functional Requirements:

    • Describe what a system should do.
    • Mostly come from the customer.
    • Can be described by a Use Case model and set of formal “shall” statements.
  • Non-Functional Requirements:

    • Are not related to individual use cases, but rather to system-wide attributes like performance.
    • Can be complete show-stoppers if not met. # Often conflict with each other, requiring trade-offs.
    • Are more architecture-dependent than functional requirements.
    • Are often determined by the architect and stakeholders within the organisation.
    • Can be described in terms of standard Quality Attributes.
  • Quality Attributes:
Usually, business considerations determine the qualities that must be accommodated in a system architecture.
Too often, functionality overrides maintainability, portability, scalability, and other factors determining the long-term success of a project.
Functionality and quality attributes are orthogonal, since a given functionality can be achieved by many different architectures.
Quality requirements depend on the system architecture more than on the functional requirements.
There are three main categories of quality attributes: 
  • System Qualities: availability, modifiability, performance, security, testability, usability, others.
  • Business Qualities: time to market, cost and benefit, product lifetime, target market, roll-out schedule, integration, others. 
  • Architectural Qualities: conceptual integrity, correctness and completeness.
A quality attribute scenario has six parts, shown in the schematic:
  • Source of Stimulus: the entity generating the stimulus. Could be an actor, an actuator, a sensor, and so on.
  • Stimulus: a condition arriving at a system. Includes faults, stated intentions by actors, and so on.
  • Environment: the conditions surrounding the stimulus. Might be normal operation, degraded operation, overload, and so on.
  • Artifact: the part or parts of the system stimulated.
  • Response: the response the system takes to the stimulus.
  • Response Measure: how the response can be measured and test.
  • System Quality Attributes:

    • Availability:
The availability attribute is concerned with system failures. Faults are problems that are corrected or masked by the system. Failures are uncorrected errors that are user-visible.
availability = [mean time to failure] / ([mean time to failure] + [mean time to repair])
    • Modifiability:
The modifiability quality is concerned with what can change, when are changes made, and who makes the changes.
    • Performance:
The performance quality is concerned with response times and similar measures for various events.
    • Security:

      • Non-repudiation
      • Confidentiality
      • Integrity
      • Assurance or authenticity
      • Availability (no denial of service)
      • Auditing
    • Testability:

The testability attribute is concerned with detecting failure modes. Typically, 40% of the cost of a large project is spent on testing. This means architectural support for testing that reduces test cost is time well spent. We need to control the internal state of and inputs to each unit, then observe the corresponding output of that unit.
    • Usability:

      • How easy it is to learn the features of the system
      • How efficiently the user can use the system
      • How well the system handles user errors
      • How well the system adapts to user needs
      • To what degree the system gives the user confidence in the correctness of its actions.
  • Business Quality Attributes:

    • Time to Market: architectural reuse affects development time.
    • Cost and Benefit: in-house architectural expertise is cheaper than outside expertise.
    • Projected Lifetime of the System: long-lived systems require architectures that are modifiable and scalable.
    • Targeted Market: architecture affects what platforms will be compatible and incompatible with the system.
    • Roll-out Schedule: if functionality is planned to increase over time, the architecture needs to be customisable and flexible.
    • Integration with Legacy Systems: the architecture of the legacy system being integrated will influence the overall system’s architecture.
  • Architectural Quality Attributes:

    • Conceptual Integrity is the underlying vision or theme unifying the components and their interactions. The architecture should do similar things in similar ways.
    • Correctness and Completeness is concerned with checking the architecture for errors and omissions.
    • Buildability is concerned with the organization’s capabilities to actually construct the architecture in question.

Ċ
李智,
Feb 17, 2011, 6:23 AM