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COTS+ brings better components to market, faster

Members of the design team should work closely with the test team to build an appropriate test suite to economically address the risk associated with the design modifications. This type of device is likely to be developed and fabricated to meet the specific project requirements. Note that "new" may also mean a first-time product offering by a well-known vendor, or that a vendor is entering the market for the first time. The device's design is likely based on a pre-existing design or technology base, but its physical, electrical, electronic, and functional characteristics have been significantly altered to meet the specific project requirements.

Examples might include custom ramp controllers, special telemetry adapters, and traffic controllers in an all new cabinet or configuration. It is assumed that the design has not been installed and proven in other installations or that this may be the first deployment for this product. Standard product or commercial-off-the shelf COTS software has a design that is proven and stable.

Leveraging COTS-Based Test Platforms for Next-Generation ATE Systems

The general deployment history and industry experience has been positive and those references contacted that are currently using the same product in the same or a similar environment find that it is generally reliable and has met the functionality and performance listed in the published literature. It may be a custom, semi-custom or a developer's standard software product, but it has been fully designed, coded, deployed, and proven elsewhere prior to being proposed for this specific project.

It is assumed that the user is able to "use" or "see" a demonstration of the product and is able to contact current users of the product for feedback on its operation and reliability. Operating systems, relational databases, and geographical information systems software are examples of standard products. ATMS software from some vendors may also fall under this category as well. It is assumed that the modifications are relatively minor in nature, although all differences should be carefully reviewed to determine the extent of the differences and whether the basic design or architecture was affected.

Examples of minor changes include modifying the color and text font style on a GUI control screen or changing the description of an event printed by the system.

Sometimes the nature of the change can appear minor but have significant effects on the entire system. For example, consider a change to the maximum number of DMS messages that can be stored in the database. Increasing that message limit may be considered a major change since it could impact the message database design and structure, message storage allocation, and performance times for retrieving messages. On the other hand, reducing that limit may only affect the limit test on the message index.

In all of these cases, in order to be classified as a modified standard product, the base product must meet the criteria for a standard product as described above. The type of testing that this class of products should be subjected to will vary depending on the nature of the modifications. Changes to communication channel configurations to add a new channel type or a device on an existing channel may necessitate a repeat of the communication interface testing; functional changes such as new GUI display features e. This class of software is a new design or a highly customized standard product developed to meet the specific project requirements.

Note that this may also be a new product offering by a well-known applications software developer or ITS device vendor, or a new vendor who decides to supply this software product for the first time. The vendor is likely to work from an existing design or technology base, but will be significantly altering the functional design and operation features to meet the specific project requirements.

Examples might include: custom map display software to show traffic management devices and incident locations that the user can interactively select to manage, special routing, porting to a new platform, large screen display and distribution of graphics and surveillance video, and incident and congestion detection and management algorithms. It is assumed that the design has not been developed or deployed and proven in other installations or that this may be the first deployment for a new product.

For software, agencies are cautioned that the distinction between "modified" and "new" can be cloudy. Many integrators have claimed that this is a "simple port" to re-implementation with a few changes, only to find that man years had to be devoted to the changes and testing program that resulted in the modified software. The risk to project schedule and cost increases when utilizing custom or new products in a system. There are more "unknowns" associated with custom and new products simply because they have not been proven in an actual application or operational environment, or there is no extensive track record to indicate either a positive or negative outcome for their use or effectiveness.

What's unknown is the product's performance under the full range of expected operating and environmental conditions and its reliability and maintainability. While testing can reduce these unknowns to acceptable levels, that testing may prove to be prohibitively expensive or disproportionately time consuming. Accepting a custom or new product without appropriate testing can also result in added project costs and implementation delays when these products must be re-designed or replaced.

These unknowns are real and translate directly into project cost and schedule risk. It is imperative that the design and test teams work together to produce test suites that economically address the risk associated with the new or custom designs. When planning the project, risk areas should be identified early and contingency plans should be formulated to address the risks proportionately.

Risk assessments should be performed that qualitatively assess the probability of the risk and the costs associated with implementing remediation measures. The remediation measures can include a wide range of measures including increased testing cycles, additional oversight and review meetings, more frequent coordination meetings, etc. Industrial development of software systems needs to be guided by recognized engineering principles. Commercial-off-the-shelf COTS components enable the systematic and cost-effective reuse of prefabricated tested parts, a characteristic approach of mature engineering disciplines.

This reuse necessitates a thorough test of these components to make sure that each works as specified in a real context. Beydeda and Gruhn invited leading researchers in the area of component testing to contribute to this monograph, which covers all related aspects from testing components in a context-independent manner through testing components in the context of a specific system to testing complete systems built from different components. Overall this monograph offers researchers, graduate students and advanced professionals a unique and comprehensive overview of the state of the art in testing COTS components and COTS-based systems.

Sami Beydeda is a research associate at the computer science department of the University of Leipzig, Germany. His research interests include quality assurance of software components and component-based systems. He was responsible for several software development project in industry, in the financial sector in particular, and for research projects at the Universities of Dortmund and Leipzig.

Volker Gruhn is a full professor at the computer science department of the University of Leipzig, Germany. Constraints may include the design of the product or come from the project itself. COTS projects require the identification of risks. The RBS interaction with WBS and CBS see Exhibit 1 necessitates the understanding of assumptions and constraints to enable vendors and customers to make better judgment calls for the best fit solutions. In considering and analyzing COTS and COTS integration risks, the largest factors are: selecting inappropriate COTS components or solutions, looking at the downstream integration problems, developing adequate built-in checkpoints, and defining success measures prior to implementation Jilani, , p Quality planning defines quality metrics for what will be measured and how it will be measured.

Error capture and diagnostic management routines are essential for IT projects. Built-in quality prevents errors from happening. Sufficient but not excessive error management allows for recovery and corrective options. There may be internal failure costs, which include scrap, rework, and repair. These sunk costs can often be attributed to processes ineffectively managed due to planning, integration, quality metrics, or handoff. Testing everything is virtually impossible for COTS projects and it can be extremely challenging dealing with various levels of testing: in-house environment, diverse technologies, interfaces, integrated glue code or tailored code, as well as customization and configuration.

Commercial off-the-shelf

Agile testing brings testing in as early on as the detail design phase and continues through each iteration. The client checkpoint at the end of the iteration reflects what has been done, learned, and needed for the next iteration.

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Frequent and effective testing increases the cost in the short term but reduces the cost of poor quality at handoff. Waiting for end game testing does not allow the team enough time to act on defects found at the end. Wysocki, , pp — COTS testing requires collecting intelligence, prioritizing objectives, understanding resources, and going for maximum impact.

Collecting intelligence entails identifying and documenting the transaction dialogues test scripts mapped to one or more system requirements and deciding which ones are the most important, and then, as time allows, go for the less important dialogues Bechtold, , p These COTS dialogues should be parts of the product backlog and their dependencies should be considered during iteration planning and should be prioritized along with the work items selected for the iteration.

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Some dialogues may need to be more comprehensive than others depending on the business case scenario. As the transaction dialogues are identified, it is important to analyze and determine the user groups that invoke the dialogue and the average number of times per minute, day, month, and year that the dialogue would occur.

Test dialogue matrices help run the appropriate tests for designated dialogues in priority order and for sets of tests. Test plans need to be reviewed for revision, and unscripted exploratory testing may also give better coverage under certain scenarios. Quality assurance requires that objectives and standards are in place and also that a test plan be tailored to the unique needs of the project and establishes traceability to track progress.

The test plan needs to consider the available test resources both human and automated. The objective should be the highest priority dialogues, risk reduction, and user benefit based on the available resources.

Quality control selects what to control and compares results with standards for corrective action and delivering the maximum benefit. There is nothing more frustrating for testing resources than to find out that their testing effort was a time sink, because the developers did not have the environment set up appropriately.

Delivering the maximum benefit is the purpose of the client checkpoint. As seen in Exhibit 8, the checkpoints for integration testing between the vendor team and in-house team must align. The client checkpoint is the joint review with the client of what has been done for the iteration and where serious questions need to be answered for integration and how to close the gap for a solution.

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Any functionality or features of integration that need to be addressed and prioritized can then be integrated into the next or future iteration. There may be a silent rollout in which the integrated solution is rolled out for production use by a few customers and then a formal announcement is made later.

A silent rollout is often the case in which preliminary data need to be built up prior to other groups of customers entering their data. A pilot rollout is a more incremental rollout by designated groups, possibly by units or regions. An Agile rollout occurs when integration and useable solutions are rolled out to production after client checkpoint approval, as features are available when they can start providing value back to the organization.

Regardless of the type of rollout, each project team member, operations team member, and customer must understand their roles and responsibilities for production support. Rollout also requires a training plan.

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Training needs to occur prior to usage in production. Project handoff of the COTS solution should include handing over the knowledge base and any other information needed for support and management of the system. This includes the warranty requirements and the release management and the operational level agreement.

The operational level agreement is vital for post implementation support, upgrades in-house and vendor clarifying who is responsible for what, and for handling the integration test dialogues.

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Value added COTS solutions are complex and require integration of milestone activities.