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Software Maintainability - What It Means and How to Achieve It

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3 Author(s)
A. F. Rosene ; GTE Products Corp., 360 First Avenue; Needham Heights, Massachusetts 02194 USA. ; J. E. Connolly ; K. M. Bracy

The terms reliability and maintainability are often misunderstood in the software field since software does not `break' or `wear out' in the physical sense; it either works in a given environment or it does not. This means that the program is either right or wrong in the environment. However, it does not follow that a program that is right is reliable or maintainable. For the purposes of this paper a program is maintainable if it meets the following two conditions: ¿ There is a high probability of determining the cause of a problem in a timely manner the first time it occurs, and ¿ There is a high probability of being able to modify the program without causing an error in some other part of the program. There are three important topics in developing a program which fulfills the above criteria: documentation, standards, and system architecture. This paper discusses the third topic since it is the real key to the development of maintainable software. A particular architecture of structured modular design using controlled communication between modules is presented together with its relationship to maintainability and reliability. The benefits of this approach are: ¿ High isolation between modules. ¿ Communication visibility and monitoring. ¿ Error location. ¿ Overload control. ¿ Simplified control program. ¿ Transparency to multicomputer configurations. A method is presented for calculating maintainability parameters related to this architecture, and examples of these calculations are given and interpreted.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Reliability  (Volume:R-30 ,  Issue: 3 )