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From: Les Chambers < >

Date: Mon, 26 Jan 2015 21:19:46 +1000

Guys

Re: >> This argument came up again yesterday in a standards-committee meeting.

The System Safety Mailing List

systemsafety_at_xxxxxx

The System Safety Mailing List

systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Received on Mon Jan 26 2015 - 12:20:05 CET

Date: Mon, 26 Jan 2015 21:19:46 +1000

Guys

Re: >> This argument came up again yesterday in a standards-committee meeting.

My understanding is that mathematical proofs for the reliability of an
integrated hardware/software system have a lot in common with nuclear
fusion. Ask any physicist and they'll tell you it's 30 years away. And in 30
years you'll get the same answer.

I'm not against healthy debate and basic research in this area but, the
thought that this subject is being discussed in standards committee meetings
gives me the horrors. Tell me this is not true!

One of the most useful and highly productive applications of these standards is attaching them to contracts. It is then incumbent on the supplier to comply and on the purchaser to validate compliance. Just the act of compliance has markedly improved the system development maturity of many organisations I have worked with. The downside of all this is the tendency of some standards bodies to throw in a normative reference to a process or method someone read about in a textbook, that is either totally impractical or so expensive to implement that supplier and purchaser can spend years negotiating them out of the contract. And these arguments can turn ugly. I once witnessed one contractor waiting till close to the delivery date, admitting to total non-compliance and bullying the prime contractor into ditching the compliance requirement. This was a no-brainer for the prime. Arguing the point would have held up the commissioning of a 13,000,000,000 dollar project.

So, until someone has written The Dummies Guide To Proof Of Reliability Of Software And Electronic Systems - something that can be implemented by a third year engineering undergraduate, please restrain your youthful enthusiasm and think about the flow-on effects of what you are doing.

Just checking:

My understanding of 61508's take on reliability software that implements a
safety function is: if you follow processes x, y and z we will allow you to
deploy your software in a hardware environment that is rated at probability
of failure on demand A. We will not allow you to boast that your software is
that reliable, we will just allow you to deploy. Believe me, just getting
that message across to engineers, whose meaning of life does not emerge from
probability and statistics, is a major ask.
Question/ is this still the intent of the standard?

One could argue that this approach is also spurious. As others have pointed out, the hardware environments into which we deploy our software these days are often so complex you are hard pressed to calculate hardware reliability. Then if you consider systems thinking, the emergent properties of an integrated hardware and software system are likely to throw up failure modes that were not considered in either the hardware or the software designs.

So, I sincerely hope someone is working on Plan B for validation of the safety functions implemented with such systems.

Les

-----Original Message-----

From: systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx
[mailto:systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx
Peter Bernard Ladkin

Sent: Friday, January 23, 2015 4:43 PM

To: systemsafety_at_xxxxxx
Subject: Re: [SystemSafety] Statistical Assessment of SW ......

On 2015-01-21 14:15 , jean-louis Boulanger wrote:

*> For software it's not possible to have statistical evidence.*

*> the failure is 1 (yes the software have fault and failure appear)*

This argument came up again yesterday in a standards-committee meeting. It
is usually attributed to

third party "engineers with whom I work", because nobody quite seems to
claim they hold the view

themselves when I'm in the room :-) ....

So it might be worthwhile to adduce the proof - again. It's real short.

Suppose you have a piece of SW S which is deterministic. And S is also not
perfect, so it outputs

right answers on some inputs and wrong answers on others. And S reverts to
an initial state with no

memory of its previous behavior each time it produces its output.

Suppose the distribution of inputs to S has a stochastic character. That is,
the input I is a random

variable. Then the output outS(I), which is a function of the input I, also
has stochastic

character. A deterministic transformation of a random variable is itself a
random variable.

Let us transform outS(I) further, deterministically. Define
CorrS(I) = 1 if outS(I) is correct

CorrS(I) = 0 if outS(I) is incorrect

Then again CorrS(I) has also a stochastic nature and is a random variable.

Thus, if the input to a piece of SW has stochastic nature, then so does the
correctness behavior of

the SW.

**QED.
**
The only reasonable objection to this argument which I have heard is to
dispute whether inputs have

a stochastic nature.

So, say you build a railway locomotive control system. The piece of track
the locomotive runs on has

a fixed architecture, so the argument would run that the behavior of the
locomotive is more or less

determined within certain parameters (whether signal X is red or green) and
does not have a

stochastic nature. But various parameters such as the condition of the
track, the nature of the load

on the locomotive, and other environmental conditions such as wind speed and
weather (icy track, or

dry track, and when icy where the ice is) make it practically all but
impossible to predict the

inputs to the control system. Besides, at design time the design does not
involve designing to the

specific route the locomotive will run on. The designer is ignorant of the
application. So the

inputs to the control system as known at design time have a stochastic
nature if you are a Bayesian.

I would like to remark here, again, on a couple of incoherences in IEC 61508
and "derivative"

standards.

Something which executes a safety function must consist of both HW and SW,
because SW alone cannot

take action. A HW-SW element which executes a safety function is assigned a
reliability goal, which

is mostly encapsulated in the SIL. These reliability goals are the safety
requirements. A

reliability goal is expressed in terms of probability of function failure
per demand, or per unit

time. Suppose that the correct functioning of the HW-SW element E is
functionally dependent on the

correct functioning of its SW S (which for most actuators it is). The
standard requires one

demonstrates that the reliability is attained (that the safety requirement
is fulfilled).

How this is actually done must be something like the following.

We assume as above that the element E deterministically transforms its
inputs. We define the

function CorrE as above. Given a distribution of inputs Distr(I), then the
probability that E

functions correctly is given by

(Integral over Distr(I) of the function CorrE(I)) divided by (Integral over
Distr(I) of the constant

1).

Notice that the probability of correct functioning, the safety requirement
as laid down by IEC

61508, is dependent on Distr(I). Change Distr(I) and one can usually expect
the probability to

change. (For example, let Distr(I) be the Dirac Delta function on one
incorrect input. Then the

probability that E functions correctly is 0.)

Yet in IEC 61508, and everywhere else, Distr(I) is not mentioned. Not once.

This is incoherent.

One could fix it, maybe, by just assuming the uniform distribution on all
inputs, by default. Or the

normal distribution. There may be reasons for this, but it is worth pointing
out that Distr(I) in

real applications is almost never uniform or normal. If there is a
distribution D for which it can

be argued that the real-world input distribution "almost always approximates
D" then one could

choose D as the default instead.

The second incoherence is as follows. If the SW does not attain the safety
requirement, then E does

not attain the safety requirement, under a certain plausible assumption,
namely that if CorrS(I) =

0, then CorrE(I) is almost always 0. (That is, the HW may sometimes
fortuitously compensate for

incorrect SW behavior, but mostly not.) Then in order for E to fulfil the
safety requirement, it

must be the case that

(Integral over Distr(I) of the function CorrS(I)) divided by (Integral over
Distr(I) of the constant

1) GEQ (Integral over Distr(I) of the function CorrE(I)) divided by
(Integral over Distr(I) of the

constant 1)- epsilon

(epsilon is there to instantiate the "almost" part of the assumption).

So, since the safety requirement on E has a probabilistic calculation as a
component, so must the

inherited safety requirement on S.

Yet there is no requirement in IEC 61508 to substantiate that inherited
safety requirement on S. The

only condition on software safety requirements is the techniques which are
recommended to be used

during development of S.

In particular, if you don't think that the execution of SW can have a
stochastic nature, such as

Jean-Louis, you are thereby committed to the view that IEC 61508 and its
derivates are inherently

incoherent. It must be a difficult world to live in ......

**PBL
**
Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, Faculty of Technology, University of Bielefeld,
33594 Bielefeld, Germany

Je suis Charlie

Tel+msg +49 (0)521 880 7319 www.rvs.uni-bielefeld.de

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The System Safety Mailing List

systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Received on Mon Jan 26 2015 - 12:20:05 CET

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