Creating software to last 100 years
April 20, 2015
by Mark Ollig

Imagine computer software programs from today, operating harmoniously with computing devices and data networks being used 100 years from now.

Sound impossible?

Well, hang on, folks; plans are in the works for creating such software.

One branch of our government is working on creating long-lasting, self-adapting computer software programs, capable of remaining “robust and functional” for at least 100 years.

The US military’s research and developments Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is taking the initiative in creating new technologies to support adjustable and seemingly “future proof” software.

DARPA recently began a new research program, called Building Resource Adaptive Software Systems (BRASS).

BRASS is investigating how to eliminate the time-consuming, and repeated updating and upgrading of military software systems; all while maintaining network security.

Advances will be required to develop “new linguistic abstractions, formal methods, and resource-aware program analyses to discover and specify program transformations, as well as systems designed to monitor changes in the surrounding networked digital ecosystem,” according to a news release on DARPA’s website.

A new, forward-looking software programming platform would have extraordinary flexibility, security, and longevity.

BRASS will work towards the effortless maintainability of this new software; allowing it to seamlessly adjust itself to any new computing operating conditions.

Software not updated for adapting to new operating conditions may weaken the networks’ cyber-secure infrastructure, and degrade its ability to reliably maintain its digital information content.

“Ensuring applications continue to function correctly and efficiently in the face of a changing operational environment is a formidable challenge,” said Suresh Jagannathan, DARPA program manager.

BRASS is undertaking what it calls “an entirely new clean-slate approach to software design, composition and adaption.”

The goal is the creation of a software platform which is survivable, adaptive, and long-lived.

This new software system will incorporate scalability; it needs to take into account hardware or other software changes, in order to operate at maximum efficiency.

One can only imagine the highly structured, procedure-solving algorithmic programs and protocols, the code developers will come up with for maintaining the reliability, adaptability, and security of a software platform with an intended lifespan of 100 years.

DARPA’s 51-page BRASS solicitation research proposal (pdf file) from April 7, describes in detail, their desire for the “tools” needed for constructing “long-lived, survivable, and scalable adaptive software systems.”

You can view this document file at: http://tinyurl.com/nnf77dm.

After reading through the proposal, it seems to me this is a request for developers to engineer a brand-new software ecosystem.

The research and development challenges will be enormous for implementing such a paradigm software platform.

I imagine it will take many years for it to be fully developed.

This new software design will interact with other software and hardware; learning how to adapt its “behavior,” if you will; co-existing and operating in congruence with the software programs and hardware devices it encounters in the future.

DARPA provided an artist’s concept image of what this 100-year software system might look like, as it adapts to resource changes: http://tinyurl.com/kxhbnu9.

We are all witness to the lightning speed at which technology is advancing.

Will data handled and processed by the military, government agencies, and us, be someday networked over an “advanced Internet” via an intelligent, autonomous, self-supporting, hyper-complex software platform with a 100-year lifespan?

Stay tuned.

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