Software design and development tools help systems integrators do more with less

Software design and development tools are helping systems designers come to grips with that age-old problem: how to do more with less. Shrinking military budgets and growing pressures to get reliable software code into applications quickly are among today's most prominent market drivers.

"There is an awareness that you have to do more with less," points out Jon Friedman, aerospace and defense industry marketing manager at The MathWorks Inc. in Natick, Mass. "The way you do more results with less resources is by using modern tools and modern technology."

Under these conditions one of the most urgent requests that software tools vendors receive from their customers is how to help comply with industry standards for safety-critical systems like commercial and military aircraft.

The chief requirement in the safety-critical realm these days is adhering to the DO-178C standard and its predecessor, DO-178B. Where in the past the use of DO-178 was a strong recommendation from government authorities like the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), today it's a solid requirement, Friedman says.

Moreover, other government authorities like the U.S. Department of Defense also are starting to recommend or require DO-178 for life- and mission-critical systems. This standard also is having an influence on other industries like medical and automotive, and eventually may have a significant influence in other industries, experts believe.

While DO-178B still is the controlling standard today, DO-178C has introduced new guidelines to software development. Today's software design and development tools can help companies write software code that adheres to the provisions of DO-178 from beginning to end.

"Now the trend is looking at the overall software development life cycle, from requirements, through verification, and deployment," says Jim McElroy, vice president of marketing at LDRA Software Technology in Atlanta.

The newest standard has provisions for the use and qualification of software tools that automate much of the actual coding process based on high-level models that map abstract requirements into executable lines of code.

Adherence to DO-178 is only a part of today's requirements for writing complex software. Software engineers need to write reliable code quickly, document the code with bi-directional traceability from requirements to deployment, as well as comply with standards. "How do we make software development more productive, reduce the software-development life cycle, and meet the standards," LDRA's McElroy says.

One tactic that many companies are considering to meet these objectives is standardizing on how they develop software, with a goal of setting a process in place to help engineers write high-quality software quickly, McElroy says.

Data code analysis tools, for example, can help developers understand software complexity, and ensure that members of software-development teams adhere to the same software-development process to write code that is maintainable, readable, clear, concise, and understandable.

"Anyone else on the team should be able to pick up my code and understand it," McElroy says. "Static analysis helps them do this, and adhere to a particular coding procedure and style."

Structural coverage analysis can help engineers measure the effectiveness of their testing process and ensure that their systems are adequately tested-on the host and on the target. Without this kind of testing on host and target, designers risk having compilers inserting errors into executable code. Object verification helps ensure that those errors are not inserted, McElroy says.

Not only are today's software design and development tools helping engineers write error-free efficient code, but also are helping systems integrators understand the overall complexity of their systems through extensive modeling.

"In naval ships, for example, there is an evolution to understanding power requirements, because modern ships essentially are floating power grids," Friedman says. "They all run electro-mechanically, and you need to understand how much load you can put on those things. With more and more C4ISR on these ships, they need to generate enough power and balance the loads."

Software tools are available from companies like The MathWorks that enable designers to model the power load on the ship. Rarely will every system be running at maximum power, so engineers are designing shipboard power systems to enable the vessels to run at peak efficiency.

System modeling through software also is helping designers make efficient use of so-called "big data," that typically gathers more data than systems can use.

Model-based design can capitalize on big data to create maintenance schedules based not just on conditions that actually cause system wear and failures, but also to look at correlating events that based on their patterns and past experience may indicate that maintenance and component replacement may need to happen soon.


AdaCore New York
Altera San Jose, Calif.
Atego San Diego
CIMdata Ann Arbor, Mich.
Coverity Inc. San Francisco, Calif.
Dassault Systemes Auburn Hills, Mich.
DDC-I Inc. Phoenix
ENSCO Avionics Endicott, N.Y.
GrammaTech Inc. Ithaca, N.Y.
Green Hills Software Santa Barbara, Calif.
Integrated Systems Inc. (ISI) Tysons Corner, Va.
LDRA Technology Inc. San Bruno, Calif.
Lynx Software San Jose, Calif.
The MathWorks Inc. Natick, Mass.
Mentor Graphics Wilsonville, Ore.
Omnify Software Andover, Mass.
Oracle Redwood Shores, Calif.
Parasoft Embedded, a division of Parasoft Corp. Monrovia, Calif.
Real-Time Innovations Sunnyvale, Calif.
SAP Labs U.S. Palo Alto, Calif.
SofTech Inc. Lowell, Mass.
Sparx Systems Creswick, Australia
Trideum Corp. Huntsville, Ala.
Wind River Alameda, Calif.
Xilinx Inc. San Jose, Calif.

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June 2015
Volume 26, Issue 6

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