Towards the Engineering of Modular Software for Increased Predictability
We focus in this talk on two main methods used in academia and industry to optimize/evaluate software: worst-case and average-case analysis. These methods can be used in a variety of contexts for optimization purposes. For instance in a Real-Time context, to efficiently budget resources, and in embedded systems, for optimizing power consumption.
A crucial property for the predictability of software is modularity, i.e. the capacity to predict the behaviour of software from the behaviour of its components. It is shown that the worst-case measure typically does not allow for exact modularity. Current Real-Time approaches to static worst-case analysis are discussed in this light. On the other hand, we show that the average-case measure does possess inherent modularity. We show how this modularity can be exploited, based on a redesign of standard data structuring operations, to track the distribution of the data states throughout a computation. This approach in turn has enabled the specification of the novel programming language MOQA, implemented in Java 5.0, and its associated timing tool DISTRI-TRACK. MOQA (MOdular Quantitative Analysis), essentially a suite of data structure operations for modular design, is guaranteed to be modular w.r.t. the average-case time measure. This is not the case for general purpose programming languages and in particular for current languages geared towards automated average-case analysis.
The approach links several, thus far largely separate, areas together, including Semantics, Complexity, Analysis of Algorithms and Real-Time Language design. The corresponding unified foundation for algorithmic analysis has led to the solution of bottle-neck problems in automated average-case timing (open problems on dynamic algorithms, first investigated by Knuth) and has given rise to novel algorithms.
The talk focuses on the intuitions underlying the approach and should be accessible to anyone with a standard undergraduate background in the Analysis of Algorithms. The talk touches on some core issues which will be discussed in the book A Modular Calculus for the Average Cost of Data Structuring, to appear with Springer.