Re: [SystemSafety] Fault, Failure and Reliability Again (short)

From: Matthew Squair < >
Date: Wed, 4 Mar 2015 18:14:02 +1100


Michael,

Nope, it was a software fault. The fault was introduced by a modification to improve capability, the effect was identified from field feedback, advise to operators was issued (albeit not very helpful) and a fix was dispatched but didn't get there until the day after the failure.

The tech background is that the registers were 24 bit bounding the accuracy of converting the integer time register to floating point and thereby giving you a propagation error. Normally this doesn't matter because you are working with t_next relative to t_now so there's negligible error.

The modification called a new algorithm to provide greater range gate accuracy, but when it was patched in the coder's unfortunately missed one instance. So we have a situation where the old value subtracted from the new value and there's now an error which is proportional to both track velocity and system up time. Run the situation for long enough say 16-20 hours and the values diverge sufficiently to cause a system failure (e.g. track loss).

There's a GAO report GAO/IMTEC-92-26 on the incident, there's also a Defence Science Board task force 2005 report on Patriot performance 20301-3140.

On Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 4:24 PM, Michael J. Pont <M.Pont_at_xxxxxx

> Matthew,
>
>
>
> Clock drift is (in my view) a hardware issue – the software didn’t change.
>
>
>
> (The impact of EMI, for example, may even change the software instructions
> – but this too is a hardware issue.)
>
>
>
> Michael.
>
>
>
> Michael J. Pont
>
> SafeTTy Systems Ltd
>
>
>
> *From:* systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx > systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx > Squair
> *Sent:* 04 March 2015 02:43
> *To:* Nick Tudor; systemsafety_at_xxxxxx > *Subject:* Re: [SystemSafety] Fault, Failure and Reliability Again (short)
>
>
>
> An example of software cycle (time) driven failure.
>
>
>
> The Patriot missile systems suffered from clock drift. Despite that, for
> an expected operational use of less than X hours, performance was quite
> adequate. During operations the operator's ran the system well past the
> critical X hour and the clock drift shifted the radars range gate
> sufficiently to ensure failure.
>
>
>
> So failure was in this instance driven by time not inputs.
>
>
>
>
>
> On Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 8:50 AM, Nick Tudor <njt_at_xxxxxx >
> Hi Peter
>
>
>
> I have had some further thoughts wrt the reliability argument you present
> in the blog and have done previously. Your proposition is as follows, I
> believe:
>
>
>
> "Software S exhibits reliability R when subject to input distribution D."
>
>
>
> Software in this statement can be replaced with 'system' or 'structure'
> and I would believe it would hold because the hardware defect is subject to
> an input distribution and it may or may not fail. However, there is a
> crucial factor omitted from the above argument which does not hold for
> software: time.
>
>
>
> For example, a wing has a huge input range (in the continuous domain) and
> any defect may not necessarily cause a failure. It can, of course, fail if
> subject to stress outside design range and this test is done my
> manufacturers to ensure that the design is resistant to acceptable limits
> to internal design weaknesses and material defects. Meanwhile, back to
> operations. Over *time*, the same distribution may exacerbate the defect
> to the point where a failure occurs. The same input range therefore did
> not *always* cause a failure, just after sufficient build up of stress
> (or whatever) over *time* allowed the defect to become a fault. We can
> measure this and attribute a mean *time* between failures. The other way
> of thinking about this is that we know that the system (electronics as well
> as structures), in the given environment will fail at some point.
>
>
>
> For software, the time based element is irrelevant as, if the
> circumstances required to hit the bug occur, it manifests itself as
> unexpected behaviour at the system level and it will occur *every* time.
> There is no wear out mechanism for software (as noted by Michael’s
> earlier). The distribution D will always cause a system failure at the
> specific point of the defect in the software; the software does not fail,
> the system does. It therefore makes no sense to talk about reliability of
> software because of the irrelevance of the time based aspect. The other
> way of thinking about this is if the specific circumstances that would
> cause the defect do not occur, then the software will *always* work as
> expected.
>
>
>
> The riposte to this might be to argue that the reliability of software can
> therefore be calculated as the probability of a set of circumstances in
> distribution D that would cause the software defect to have a system
> effect. However, as you don’t know what the defect is (you would have
> removed it, if you knew of it) , it’s effect nor the set of circumstances,
> the value of this exercise is somewhat a guess and hence of dubious
> measurable value.
>
>
>
> It may also be possible to talk about the reliability of defect detection
> techniques and hence make some claim about the subsequent defect freedom of
> software. For instance, there are bug hunting tools that claim to find
> certain classes of bugs. These tools rarely claim to have found all bugs
> of a certain class, all of the time. So one might be able to claim that
> there are less bugs. But all that has done has changed from one unknown
> level of buginess to another (probably lower, but ….) level of buginess.
> So, again, this is of dubious measurable value.
>
>
>
> What can be said, I think, is that every defect removal technique has a
> set of assumptions that have to be validated (by humans) and that therefore
> there is a level of uncertainty. The technique itself, review, analysis
> (static or otherwise) or test has a limit and the boundaries of
> acceptability are set in standards such as DO-178 where a level of activity
> is agreed to be undertaken based on a set of Objectives that have to be met
> in order to support a System Design Assurance Level (DAL). In this way,
> the reliability question is readily, acceptably and evidently addressed.
>
>
>
> Regards
>
>
> Nick Tudor
>
> Tudor Associates Ltd
>
> Mobile: +44(0)7412 074654
>
> www.tudorassoc.com
>
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>
>
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>
>
> On 3 March 2015 at 07:11, Peter Bernard Ladkin <
> ladkin_at_xxxxxx >
> I had some private discussion with someone here who claims software cannot
> fail. I first heard this
> trope a quarter century ago, and I am informed indirectly by another
> colleague that it is still rife
> in certain critical-engineering areas. I address it this morning in a blog
> post at
>
> http://www.abnormaldistribution.org/2015/03/03/fault-failure-reliability-again/
>
> 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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> --
>
> *Matthew Squair*
>
> MIEAust CPEng
>
>
>
> Mob: +61 488770655
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> Email: MattSquair_at_xxxxxx >
> Website: www.criticaluncertainties.com <http://criticaluncertainties.com/>
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-- 
*Matthew Squair*
MIEAust CPEng

Mob: +61 488770655
Email: MattSquair_at_xxxxxx
Website: www.criticaluncertainties.com <http://criticaluncertainties.com/>



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