Research: “On the Constituent Attributes of Software and Organizational Resilience”
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, vol. 38, no. 2, Maney Publishing, June 2013
Vincenzo De Florio – PATS research group, University of Antwerp & iMinds Research Institute, Middelheimlaan 1, 2020 Antwerpen, Belgium
Our societies are increasingly dependent on the services supplied by our computers and their software. Forthcoming new technology is only exacerbating this dependence by increasing the number, the performance, and the degree of autonomy and inter-connectivity of software-empowered computers and cyber-physical “things”, which translates into unprecedented scenarios of interdependence. As a consequence, guaranteeing the persistence-of-identity of individual and collective software systems and software-backed organisations becomes an increasingly important prerequisite towards sustaining the safety, security, and quality of the computer services supporting human societies. Resilience is the term used to refer to the ability of a system to retain its functional and non-functional identity. In the present article we conjecture that a better understanding of resilience may be reached by decomposing it into a number of ancillary constituent properties, the same way as a better insight in system dependability was obtained by breaking it down into safety, availability, reliability, and other sub-properties. Three of the main sub-properties of resilience proposed here refer respectively to the ability to perceive environmental changes; to understand the implications introduced by those changes; and to plan and enact adjustments intended to improve the system-environment fit. A fourth property characterises the way the above abilities manifest themselves in computer systems. The four properties are then analyzed in three families of case studies, each consisting of three software systems that embed different resilience methods. Our major conclusion is that reasoning in terms of our resilience sub-properties may help revealing the characteristics—and in particular the limitations—of classic methods and tools meant to achieve system and organisational resilience. We conclude by suggesting that our method may prelude to meta-resilient systems—systems, that is, able to adjust optimally their own resilience with respect to changing environmental conditions (Vincenzo De Florio).