IBM, EU partner on open source projects

The two projects aim to make government run more smoothly and businesses make better use of web-based services.

IBM and the European Union are partnering on two projects that, in the end, aim to make government run more smoothly and businesses able to collaborate on web-based services.PINCETTE (which means "tweezers" in French) aims to be a new technology that will be able to hone in on even the smallest of software bugs in large networks that control the likes of electrical grids, water pipes and nuclear power plants.

Both will take advantage of and contribute to the open source community.

The project will be shared with the OSS community upon its completion, so it's not operating as a traditional open source project. Even so, the end result will be that others can make use of and contribute to improvements.

Besides hoping to make these critical systems run more efficiently, the technology could save governments (and taxpayers) a great deal of money. IBM said the costs for validating new software were estimated to run between 40 percent and 70 percent of the entire lifecycle cost of any system. One might imagine that once the source code gets out into the wild, the applications for it could be customized and refined incredibly and become quite useful particularly in the developing world.

"We know that upgrading an operating system – whether for system maintenance, hardware upgrades or new regulation compliance – can take days until all applications are up and running smoothly," said Dr. Hana Chockler, IBM scientist and coordinator of the PINCETTE consortium. "The research resulting from PINCETTE will usher in a new era where designers, developers and users of networked control systems can eliminate potential faults before they result in failure."

Three of the industry partners show real-life applications for the project: ABB, which develops the software that runs a large slice of Europe's power grid; VTT of Finland, which is developing software to run robots to monitor a future thermonuclear reactor; and IAI of Israel, which embeds software in cameras installed on drone aircraft that are used to detect forest fires, search for missing people (on land or in the sea or snow) and report on runway weather conditions.other project, the Artifact-Centric Service Interoperation (ACSI) consortium, is meant to "help businesses more easily take advantage of Internet-based services - or 'e-services' - to create collaborative business operations and achieve shared business goals."

The way PINCETTE should work is that it will test, diagnose and remove faults immediately from software. It also will be something like the Great Carnac, predicting how upgrades should affect networked systems, particularly how different versions of a software will work together until an upgrade is complete.

When upgrades are especially problematic, the technology will be designed to help developers to improve it for future upgrades and avoid those issues via error-tracers that determine what caused the problem.

The

Basically, it will enable smaller businesses to make use of various technologies without having have the technological expertise in-house. Much of it will be done using open-source software, to enable easier blending and mixing of technologies that previously would have had to be custom-built for a company's needs.

"Today, companies need to invest a considerable amount of time, expertise, and maintenance to develop ad hoc proprietary systems that coordinate these myriad e-services," explained Professor Guiseppe De Giacomo, University of Rome La Sapienza. "More often than not, these systems are application specific and do not have the flexibility to support variations that stem from different geographical regions or shifts in the marketplace, and are not able to scale up as the business grows."

Industries that should be able to take advantage of the cloud collaboration include energy, healthcare, supply chain logistics, heavy manufacturing and government, officials said.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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