Second International Conference on COTS-Based Software Systems



Bill Anderson

This library item is related to the following area(s) of work:

Performance and Dependability

This article was originally published in News at SEI on: June 1, 2003

Held in Ottawa, Canada’s beautiful capital, the International Conference on Commercial Off-the-Shelf-Based Software Systems (ICCBSS) provided a forum for attendees to exchange ideas about current best practices and promising research directions for creating and maintaining systems that incorporate commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software products.

Brian Lillico, a director for the Canadian Public Works and Government Services, summarized his team’s impressions. “[Our] team especially enjoyed seminars where project leaders spoke about their project experiences and some of their lessons learned. Overall, we think [ICCBSS is] on the right track and does address the growing need for this type of information. I look forward to attending the 2004 session.”

ICCBSS, pronounced “ice cubes” even before this year’s subzero temperatures in Canada’s winter wonderland, is truly international in scope:

  • Presentations from Europe, Australia, and the Americas highlighted the state of the practice and introduced research in techniques for managing and engineering COTS-based systems.
  • More than 100 practitioners from all over the world attended, representing government, military, commercial, and academic interests.
  • ICCBSS is jointly sponsored by the National Research Council Canada, the Software Engineering Institute, the USC Center for Software Engineering, and the European Software Institute.

The conference was opened by Dr. Victor Basili, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland and executive director of the Fraunhofer Center. He provided a proposal for formalizing knowledge about COTS-based system development. Dr. Basili described a refinement of the definition of COTS to distinguish “easy” from “hard” COTS products. He introduced the concept of patterns of COTS-based systems to support more rigorous analysis of the impact of COTS products upon system development.

Presenters were selected on the basis of refereed papers published by Springer Verlag as Volume 2580 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science. These papers addressed COTS quality, architecture, and project-management topics including:

  • ISO/IEC-based quality models and classification techniques, protective wrappers (software that integrates a COTS product into a system to provide some quality protection), and an evaluation framework that allows detailed software evaluation while protecting the vendor’s intellectual property rights
  • definition and substantiation of architecture conflicts that produce interoperability problems, a decision model to facilitate communication, recommendations for designing secure systems, practical experience in integrating COTS in safety-critical systems, and techniques for embedding executable specifications in software-component interfaces
  • mechanisms to help organizations avoid inadequate practices and monitor project performance, modifications to COTS-based-systems cost models to address security concerns, and techniques used to help small manufacturing enterprises apply COTS solutions

One excellent paper1 reported on an experimental application of i*, an agent-based approach for selecting multiple, interdependent software components to meet complex system requirements.

Of particular interest to participants was a panel discussion in which representatives from Oracle, Peoplesoft, and Opentext challenged the community to become better customers, realize that COTS vendors are not custom-system developers, and leverage COTS software by being open to process modification.

Half-day tutorials enabled participants to examine topics in greater detail:

  • functional fit analysis techniques to select the best solution and determine the degree of enhancement work required to meet customer requirements
  • U.S. Air Force use of an engineering and management process to select, field, and support COTS products, other existing components, or custom components in complex environments
  • matching component capability to system need through the application of marketing principles and practices

In the closing keynote, Dr. Robert Balzer, chief technical officer at Teknowledge Corporation, challenged software developers to be more creative in leveraging commercial offerings to their advantage. He demonstrated an integration architecture that used commonly available COTS products to meet specific end-user needs.

The conference provided a lively forum for exchanging experiences, ideas, and formal research. COTS practitioners put new challenges in front of the research community, from acquisition and economic models to development, integration and testing techniques. COTS researchers proposed new techniques and tools that are ready for practical application. These challenges and emerging pragmatic solutions will be explored at the Third ICCBSS, “Matching Solutions to Problems,” which will be held in Redondo Beach, CA, Feb. 1-4, 2004.

The conference encourages your participation through conference attendance and submission of papers, presentations, tutorials, panels, or posters. Further information, including information about how to order the proceedings of past and upcoming conferences, is available at the conference Web site.

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