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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: GR/J52693/01
Principal Investigator: Kramer, Professor J
Other Investigators:
Magee, Professor J Sloman, Professor M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
British Gas
Department: Computing
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 April 1994 Ends: 31 March 1997 Value (£): 153,479
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Networks & Distributed Systems
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Communications Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
To develop and investigate the utility of an architectural methodology and graphical support tool, the System Architects Assistant (SAA), for the design and engineering of distributed systems:1) for the definition of distributed system architecture as a hierarchically structured set of communicating components,2) for distributed system construction from a set of well defined components using this structural definition, and 3) for integration of analysis techniques exploiting composition of component properties.To evaluate its effectiveness through case studies and experiments.Progress:The aim is to develop a methodology and associated tool support for the integration of design, analysis, construction and evolution of distributed systems. System structure or architecture provides the unifying common view and framework on which to hang all of these activities. We are therefore engaged in developing a methodology which places system architecture at the centre, and are constructing an associated graphics based tool - the System Architects Assistant - to support architectural design and manipulation. The tool is so named as it is intended to support both the initial informal design decomposition from a specification of requirements and the subsequent rigorously checked composition when a set of specified/designed/implemented components are integrated to analyse and construct the desired distributed system. The techniques for design and construction are largely based on earlier work on structural (or architectural) configuration languages carried out by the investigators in the context of the Conic and REX environments for the development of distributed software. This research work generalises, integrates and makes accessible those concepts and techniques found to be most effective in those environments. In addition, we are extending their use to act as the integrating framework (or front end) through which different analysis methods/tools and different distributed systems platforms can be utilised. A prototype Assistant has been constructed and is currently being refined and evaluated. It is an interactive tool which supports design and construction of distributed applications in Regis, based on the Darwin configuration language. Facilities provided include the display of multiple integrated graphical and textual views, a flexible mechanism for recording design information and the automatic generation of program code and formatted reports from design diagrams. Software reuse is supported through the use of component libraries. In particular, the Assistant enables the designer to produce specific system structures from the definitions of generic software architectures. We intend to use the Assistant as a means to evaluate our constructive design approach to distributed systems and to investigate the issues involved in using such tools for assisted construction of distributed software. Furthermore, we intend to integrate work from a complementary grant (TRACTA) on behaviour analysis into the Architects Assistant so as to provide graphical and automated analysis of designs and systems. Finally, we plan to test the adequacy of the approach and to get early feedback on the effectiveness of the methodology and prototype tool, firstly by applying it to case studies supplied by industrial associates, and secondly by conducting some controlled productivity experiments using M.Eng. final year software engineering students.
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Organisation Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk