What if engineers built a bridge without first calculating the structural analysis? What if the walls of a high-rise building were suddenly too small to hold up the roof? Why don't we have to ask ourselves such questions? Because bridges and other structures are not built on a trial-and-error basis - before construction, experts design the blueprints and calculate the structural analysis. Load tests are calculated in the computer before laying a single brick.
"Software development is not about whether supporting pillars crumble away. Nevertheless, parallels can be drawn between bridge building and software development," says computer science professor Ralf Reussner. Eight years ago, he noticed what software developers, unlike engineers, lacked at work: a tool that simulates the architecture of software before implementing it. "At the time, such a thing was not considered feasible in any meaningful way, because essential information about the software's flow was missing from the architecture," Reussner recalls. "But we understood that it was not the flow of the software that needed to be simulated, but the speed and reliability of the software." One of the major breakthroughs of his team at KIT and the FZI Research Center for Information Technology is to achieve this analysis effect using only the architecture. The result is the architecture simulator PALLADIO.
Named after one of the most famous and influential "professional architects" in the world, Andrea Palladio, the simulator can analyze the weaknesses and strengths of performance and reliability of complex software architectures or assist in developing new software. FZI department head Klaus Krogmann explains: "PALLADIO simulates the paths of a user request through a software system according to a what-if principle. Software properties such as response times and resource allocation can then be specifically optimized." For companies, two aspects of this are of particular interest: increasing productivity by avoiding unnecessary implementation efforts and quality assurance.
"PALLADIO is a reliable neutral quality assurance instance," explains Christian Popp, who successfully uses PALLADIO as IT manager at Bertelsmann subsidiary arvato infoscore. HIS, a software for the fraud prevention pool of German insurers, is the first test object at arvato and performed well. "With 30 million accesses per year, HIS is a complex piece of software, and the sensitive data make first-class quality assurance mandatory," explains KIT alumnus Popp, who is familiar with the FZI under different management from his student days.
The demand for a simulator is high not only among software houses, but also in secondary industries such as banks and insurance companies - everywhere where particularly secure, complex software is used. For Professor Reussner, this is a clear sign that PALLADIO is catching on in the market: "Ultimately, innovation is always a good idea that is further developed with a view to use and is ultimately used profitably".