Software Engineering-Formal methods—THE ROAD AHEAD

Although formal, mathematically based specification techniques are not as yet used widely in the industry, they do offer substantial advantages over less formal techniques. Liskov and Bersins  summarize these in the following way:

Formal specifications can be studied mathematically while informal specifications cannot. For example, a correct program can be proved to meet its specifications, or two alternative sets of specifications can be proved equivalent . . . Certain forms of incompleteness or inconsistency can be detected automatically.

In addition, formal specification removes ambiguity and encourages greater rigor in the early stages of the software engineering process.

But problems remain. Formal specification focuses primarily on function and data. Timing, control, and behavioral aspects of a problem are more difficult to represent .In addition, some elements of a problem (e.g., human/machine interfaces) are better specified using graphical techniques or prototypes. Finally, specification using formal methods is more difficult to learn than methods such as structured analysis and represents a significant "culture shock" for some software practitioners. For this reason, it is likely that formal, mathematical specification techniques will form the foundation for a future generation of CASE tools. When and if this occurs, mathematically based specification may be adopted by a wider segment of the software engineering community.
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