Software Engineering-Modeling


We create functional models to gain a better understanding of the actual entity to be built. When the entity is a physical thing (a building, a plane, a machine), we can build a model that is identical in form and shape but smaller in scale. However, when the entity to be built is software, our model must take a different form. It must be capable of representing the information that software transforms, the functions (and subfunctions) that enable the transformation to occur, and the behavior of the system as the transformation is taking place.

The second and third operational analysis principles require that we build models of function and behavior.

Functional models. Software transforms information, and in order to accomplish this, it must perform at least three generic functions: input, processing, and output. When functional models of an application are created, the software engineer focuses on problem specific functions. The functional model begins with a single context level model (i.e., the name of the software to be built). Over a series of iterations, more and more functional detail is provided, until a thorough delineation of all system functionality is represented.

Behavioral models. Most software responds to events from the outside world. This stimulus/response characteristic forms the basis of the behavioral model. A computer program always exists in some state—an externally observable mode of behavior (e.g., waiting, computing, printing, polling) that is changed only when some event occurs. For example, software will remain in the wait state until (1) an internal clock indicates that some time interval has passed, (2) an external event (e.g., a mouse movement) causes an interrupt, or (3) an external system signals the software to act in some manner. A
behavioral model creates a representation of the states of the software and the events that cause a software to change state.

Models created during requirements analysis serve a number of important roles:

The model aids the analyst in understanding the information, function, and behavior of a system, thereby making the requirements analysis task easier and more systematic.
The model becomes the focal point for review and, therefore, the key to a determination of completeness, consistency, and accuracy of the specifications.
The model becomes the foundation for design, providing the designer with an essential representation of software that can be "mapped" into an implementation context.

The analysis methods  are actually modeling methods. Although the modeling method that is used is often a matter of personal (or organizational) preference, the modeling activity is fundamental to good analysis work.

Partitioning

Problems are often too large and complex to be understood as a whole. For this reason, we tend to partition (divide) such problems into parts that can be easily understood and establish interfaces between the parts so that overall function can be accomplished. The fourth operational analysis principle suggests that the information, functional, and behavioral domains of software can be partitioned.

In essence, partitioning decomposes a problem into its constituent parts. Conceptually, we establish a hierarchical representation of function or information and then partition the uppermost element by (1) exposing increasing detail by moving vertically in the hierarchy or (2) functionally decomposing the problem by moving horizontally in the hierarchy. To illustrate these partitioning approaches, let us reconsider the SafeHome security . The software allocation for SafeHome (derived as a consequence of system engineering and FAST activities) can be stated in the following paragraphs:

SafeHome software enables the homeowner to configure the security system when it is installed, monitors all sensors connected to the security system, and interacts with the homeowner through a keypad and function keys contained in the SafeHome control panel shown in figure
During installation, the SafeHome control panel is used to "program" and configure the system. Each sensor is assigned a number and type, a master password is programmed for arming and disarming the system, and telephone number(s) are input for dialing when a sensor event occurs.

When a sensor event is recognized, the software invokes an audible alarm attached to the system. After a delay time that is specified by the homeowner during system configuration activities, the software dials a telephone number of a monitoring service, provides information about the location, reporting the nature of the event that has been detected. The telephone number will be redialed every 20 seconds until telephone connection is obtained.

All interaction with SafeHome is managed by a user-interaction subsystem that reads input provided through the keypad and function keys, displays prompting messages on the LCD display, displays system status information on the LCD display. Keyboard interaction takes the following form . . .

The requirements for SafeHome software may be analyzed by partitioning the information, functional, and behavioral domains of the product. To illustrate, the functional domain of the problem will be partitioned. Figure aboved illustrates a horizontal decomposition of SafeHome software. The problem is partitioned by representing constituent SafeHome software functions, moving horizontally in the functional hierarchy.

Three major functions are noted on the first level of the hierarchy. The subfunctions associated with a major SafeHome function may be examined by exposing detail vertically in the hierarchy, as illustrated in figure below. Moving downward along a single path below the function monitor sensors, partitioning occurs vertically to show increasing levels of functional detail.

The partitioning approach that we have applied to SafeHome functions can also be applied to the information domain and behavioral domain as well. In fact, partitioning of information flow and system behavior  will provide additional insight into software requirements. As the problem is partitioned, interfaces between functions are derived. Data and control items that move across an interface should be restricted to inputs required to perform the stated function and outputs that are required by other functions or system elements.


Essential and Implementation Views

An essential view of software requirements presents the functions to be accomplished and information to be processed without regard to implementation details. For example, the essential view of the SafeHome function read sensor status does not concern itself with the physical form of the data or the type of sensor that is used. In fact, it could be argued that read status would be a more appropriate name for this function, since it disregards details about the input mechanism altogether. Similarly, an essential data model of the data item phone number (implied by the function dial phone number) can be represented at this stage without regard to the underlying data structure (if any) used to implement the data item. By focusing attention on the essence of the problem at early stages of requirements engineering, we leave our optionsopen to specify implementation details during later stages of requirements specification and software design.

The implementation view of software requirements presents the real world manifestation of processing functions and information structures. In some cases, a physical representation is developed as the first step in software design. However, most computer-based systems are specified in a manner that dictates accommodation of certain implementation details. A SafeHome input device is a perimeter sensor (not a watch dog, a human guard, or a booby trap). The sensor detects illegal entry by sensing a break in an electronic circuit. The general characteristics of the sensor should be noted as part of a software requirements specification. The analyst must recognize the constraints imposed by predefined system elements (the sensor) and consider the implementation view of function and information when such a view is appropriate.
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