San Diego, CALIF. — Linda Rosencrance reports that Carnegie Mellon University, NASA, and 12 major IT companies plan to announce the formation of a computing consortium to promote and conduct research into the development of highly dependable software systems.
The 12 companies have agreed to work with NASA and Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon to develop the consortium, the goal of which will be to eliminate failures in critical computing systems. These systems would include those used in space missions, defense, health care, e-commerce, or any systems affecting human safety or well-being.
Duane Adams, Carnegie Mellon’s vice provost for research, said dependable software systems are systems that that do not crash and do not malfunction.
“These are systems that can function in an environment of unanticipated problems,” Adams said. “The whole problem of dependable software is an important one, but one that is not usually solved.”
For example, Adams said, these systems will be used in NASA’s mission-critical operations, where failure is not an option.
“Part of the problem is that many of these systems are used remotely and operate autonomously,” Adams said. “If you send a robot into space and it lands [on Mars, for example] and it doesn’t work, there’s no one to step in and fix it,” he said.
“Dependable systems are also important in the infrastructure of telecommunications systems,” Adams added. “And Yahoo and AOL can’t afford to have their systems crash and stay down [for a long period of time], nor can hospital monitoring systems.”
Adams said the challenge technologically for the consortium will be how to develop these systems at an affordable cost.
The consortium, part of Carnegie Mellon’s plans to establish a presence in Silicon Valley, will be housed on a satellite campus to be built in Moffett Field, Calif., the site of NASA’s 2,000-acre Ames Research Center. NASA officials could not immediately be reached for comment.