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July 12, 2010

IBM Research Collaborates with European Union to Bolster Mission-Critical System Upgrades

By Rajani Baburajan, TMCnet Contributor

IBM Research announced a three-year collaboration with the European Union, industry and academic partners to create new technology called PINCETTE that bolsters the reliability of mission-critical system upgrades by detecting and eliminating errors before they result in system failure or complication.

PINCETTE has the ability to flag and eliminate even the smallest software bugs across large networks, according to company officials. The effort aims to reduce the costs associated with maintaining new system software by automating the often complicated analysis and testing processes.
According to IBM (News - Alert), total costs associated with validating new software are estimated between 40 percent and 70 percent of a system's life-cycle cost.
Daniel Kroenig of Oxford University says the goal behind PINCETTE is to simplify the task of ensuring complex systems run flawlessly through new automated capabilities that remove costly faults or errors with minimal human intervention.
One of IBM’s industry partners in the project, ABB, a developer of software that runs a major share of Europe's power grid operation, will begin applying these new tools and techniques to their own applications to boost their software upgrade reliability.
VTT, an industry partner in Finland, will apply PINCETTE methods to software that guarantees the correct functioning of robots that monitor the operation of a future thermo-nuclear reactor.
IAI, the industry partner in Israel, will use PINCETTE to ensure the reliable upgrade of embedded software of electro-optical equipment (cameras), installed on unmanned aircrafts (drones) used to detect forest fires, search for missing people in the ground, sea or snow, and report on runway weather conditions, the company said.
Developers and testers making changes to a software application use PINCETTE to easily test diagnose and remove faults the moment they occur, by using newly engineered techniques that apply a blend of static and dynamic analysis.
The PINCETTE project will produce theoretical advances as well as directly applicable toolsets to predict the effect of changes and upgrades to networked systems. PINCETTE will guide developers on how to improve the components. The feedback will be provided in the form of error-traces that help locate which changes violated the program's correctness or the suggested model for a replacement component that can be safely used instead of the failed component, IBM said.
The project gives special emphasis on ensuring the compatibility of different versions of software in a network and hence nodes with different versions need to co-exist and provide the required functionality. The key advantage of the PINCETTE project is that it will be based on a combination of testing and simulation techniques with formal methods, that is, with methods that use mathematical proofs that the system will behave as designed over a large set of operating conditions.
The European Union-funded consortium expects to achieve a positive increase in system reliability by at least 70 percent reduction in the number of functional errors, alongside drastic reductions in the time it takes to validate a single change or upgrade and ensure version compatibility.
PINCETTE will increase the level of confidence in the safety of upgrades, finally enabling certification for the systems and applications that will reduce the cost and time to market of upgrades by several orders of magnitude, the company thinks.
In April, IBM, also a pioneer in nanotechnology, announced that their scientists have created a 3D map of the earth so small that 1,000 of them could fit on one grain of salt, TMCnet reported. This breakthrough in nanotechnology will help in the development of nanosized objects in fields such as electronics, future chip technology, medicine, life sciences, and optoelectronics.

Rajani Baburajan is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Rajani's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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