Partnership led by IBM Haifa Research will enable the development of self-healing software systems

August 17, 2006 -- Haifa, Israel - IBM Haifa researchers recently hosted the first meeting to launch SHADOWS, the European Commission's 5 Million Euro research project to promote the design of self-healing software systems. IBM Research in Haifa, Israel will lead nine European academic and industrial institutions to address the problem of growing software complexity and its detrimental impact on software reliability. The SHADOWS project introduces a new model-based paradigm for the development of self-healing software systems capable of automatically diagnosing and repairing the root cause of failures and performance problems, and prevent them from reappearing.

The growing complexity of software and the ubiquity of highly connected environments place a new responsibility on software developers. Although software testing, reviews and other protective measures are being applied to catch bugs in software applications, hard-to-find programming errors are still making their way past the testing phase and into the field. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the scenarios for which software must be tested are becoming virtually infinite.

"In order to continue benefiting from the advances and innovations becoming available in the IT landscape, software developers and architects must begin to design software—from its inception—to incorporate internal safeguards that can both identify and repair problems," explains Dr. Yaron Wolfsthal, head of the Reliable Systems Technologies in the Haifa Lab, where the SHADOWS initiative was conceived. "In short, the need for a new generation of self-healing software is continuously growing and requires focused R&D to meet societal and business needs."


Self-Healing Approach to Designing Complex Software Systems

SHADOWS, a project funded by the European Union's 6th Framework Program, will integrate several new technologies into a coherent framework, making the power of self-healing system design and management accessible to software developers, system administrators, and users of IT systems everywhere. The project's unified framework, based on leading open standards such as Eclipse and CIM (Common Information Model), will provide a single self-healing methodology and architecture. These will enable the treatment of performance and functional problems—during both design time and run-time.

"SHADOWS is a truly multi-disciplinary approach that combines tools and methodologies from a number of different areas of expertise," notes Dr. Onn Shehory, SHADOWS project manager. With these deliverables, the project is expected to achieve a 20% reduction in problems due to concurrent programming bugs and significant improvements in system design productivity, system robustness, maintainability and quality, and the ability to provide reliable services. Such improvements should, in turn, significantly augment the competitiveness of the European software industry.

During the system design phase, developers will integrate 'hooks' into the system design to help monitor performance and functionality during run time. SHADOWS will build a model of how the system should behave correctly and use this model to validate the system's behavior, identify specific problems and then make changes to the code or system parameters to improve its performance.

The project's official kickoff in Haifa, Israel gave the consortium partners an opportunity to meet each other, discuss the SHADOWS architecture, algorithms and interfaces, and solidify their collaboration. The IBM Research Laboratory in Haifa (HRL) will lead the project, and will be joined by a diverse representation of players in the software arena, including: Philips Electronics of the Netherlands, Comverse Ltd of Israel, Universita degli studi di Milano-Bicocca of Italy, the University of Potsdam in Germany, the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic, ARTISYS in the Czech Republic, Net Technologies Ltd. of Greece, and Scapa Technologies Ltd. of the United Kingdom.

SHADOWS will implement a host of tools that leverage the Eclipse/TPTP and DMTF/CIM standards to support the intelligent recovery from problems identified. The project has already garnered much interest from the IBM Tivoli and Server Technology groups, along with attention from the Eclipse foundation and the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), the leading standards organization in the area of system management.

"By introducing pioneering technologies that enable the systematic self-healing of classes of failures that are not solved by other approaches, SHADOWS will enable software systems to grow and achieve their potential—without being hampered by their inherent complexity," concludes Yaron Wolfsthal. "IBM's global expertise, advanced multi-disciplinary research, and IT leadership makes it ideally positioned to drive this vital effort."

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