DARPA wants software that adapts, lasts over 100 years

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Artist’s concept of software system components dynamically adapting to resource changes within an operational IT system.

Credit: DARPA

DARPA: Ensuring apps run in the face of a fluctuating operational environment is a formidable challenge

Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said announced a new program aimed at building software systems that can adapt and survive more than a century years on the job.

The program, called Building Resource Adaptive Software Systems, or BRASS is expected to lead to significant improvements in software resilience, reliability and maintainability by developing the computational and algorithmic requirements necessary for software systems and data to remain robust in excess of 100 years.

The program looks to address the issues of high costs and frustration with current software systems which continue to grow in complexity and require users to become accustomed to constant update cycles.

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“BRASS advances will necessitate integration of new linguistic abstractions, scalable and compositional formal methods, and resource-aware program analyses to discover and specify application intent; program transformations triggered to adapt applications to salient resource changes; and, new systems designs to monitor ecosystem behavior.

Towards this end, BRASS seeks new, clean-slate approaches to enable automated discovery of relationships between computations and the resources they utilize, along with techniques to safely and dynamically incorporate optimized, tailored algorithms and implementations constructed in response to ecosystem changes,” DARPA stated.

“Technology inevitably evolves, but very often corresponding changes in libraries, data formats, protocols, input characteristics and models of components in a software ecosystem undermine the behavior of applications,” said Suresh Jagannathan, DARPA program manager in a statement.

Ensuring applications continue to function correctly and efficiently in the face of a changing operational environment is a formidable challenge. Failure to respond to these changes can result in technically inferior and potentially vulnerable systems. Equally concerning, the lack of automated upgrade mechanisms to restructure and transform applications leads to high software maintenance costs and premature obsolescence of otherwise functionally sound software,” Jagannathan stated.

Consequently, the inability to seamlessly adapt to new operating conditions negatively impacts economic productivity, hampers the development of resilient and secure cyber-infrastructure, raises the long-term risk that access to important digital content will be lost as the software that generates and interprets that content becomes outdated, and complicates the construction of autonomous mission-critical programs, Jagannathan said.

DARPA says the BRASS program will be divided into three 16-month phases. A Platform Demonstration Workshop will signal the end of each phase and will provide an opportunity to evaluate the objectives of the program. BRASS has several objectives, including:

  • Reduce the time to repair vulnerabilities and port useful functionality in complex systems from human time to machine time;
  • Allow various syntactic and semantic forms of adaptation to be applied over large code bases;
  • Enable adaption to be generally applicable for a significant fraction of the code base comprising an application and the underlying ecosystem;
  • Sufficiently reduce analytics and runtime monitoring overhead to enable adaptive solutions to be effective in continuously operational, deployed environments.

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