Welcome!

Websphere Authors: Glenn Rossman, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Roger Strukhoff

Related Topics: Websphere

Websphere: Article

The Six Principles of Systems Engineering

IBM's Rational Rules Developed Over 10-Year Period

IBM Rational's six principles of systems engineering are a set of high-level systems development guidelines derived from the careful analysis of successful, complex systems development engagements over the past ten years.

Although they are neither comprehensive nor mutually exclusive, they serve to highlight key areas of focus for organizations interested in quickly building expertise in complex systems development. They also serve as a "measuring stick" for assessing potential problem areas and the root causes underlying symptomatic project deficiencies or failures. It is well-known and accepted that function, schedule, and cost are three key and mutually dependent aspects of project management -- make a change to one, and the effects often ripple through the other two.

A similar relationship exists in product and program management for complex systems development. As shown in Figure 1, the three key aspects are:

  1. Systems architecture
  2. Organizational structure, including the systems development infrastructure
  3. Process, including workflows, best practices, and the like
These aspects collaborate to help achieve the following:

  • "Build the right system and build the system right"

    Architecture focuses on building the right system and model-driven use-case based architectural decomposition lays the foundation for building the system right. Why is architecture singled out? Because it provides the foundation on which the system is ultimately constructed. The choices made in selecting the system's architecture become a lasting legacy - either good or bad.

    Here's a transportation example: The basic architecture used for centuries in building roads or other transportation elements (like rail tracks) was basically point-to-point (the shortest distance between two points can be considered optimal since it minimizes the road length and one would assume maximizes time to travel efficiency). Simple enough, but there was always at least a physical constraint: the terrain, which forced the path to avoid obstacles. There were also other potential constraints such as "hostile" territory or political boundaries.

    In any case, roads were built and paths crossed somewhat haphazardly. Move forward to the 20th century. Population growth generated additional constraints - namely street lights or traffic signs to optimize the flow of traffic through intersections. These are somewhat problematic on roads architected in the point-to-point avoid obstacle approach, especially where more than two roads intersect. A clearly "better" architecture has proven to be laying out roads in rectangular grids. This architecture and the many implementations are much easier to control from a signaling and traffic flow perspective.

    So build the right system and build it right - making it robust (scalable, extendible, easy to maintain, easy to use, and so on).

  • "Do the right things, and do the things right"

    The systems development framework focuses on defining the right things to do throughout the product lifecycle to optimize business value and return on investment and best practices, processes/supporting tools and governance (requirements, quality, change, configuration, and program/project management) focus on ensuring things are done right.

  • "Apply the right resources, and apply the resources right"

    "Doing" and "building" are action verbs; they require resources to perform the "doing" and the "building". The most significant enterprise resource is people, followed by supporting infrastructure. Acquiring, motivating, and retaining skilled personnel applies the right resources, and aligning the organization appropriately to optimize communication, collaboration, and effort applies the resources optimally. A sound enterprise infrastructure (including IT equipment and software) is one key aspect in ensuring the resources are applied optimally, once again maximizing business value and return on investment

    The six principles of systems engineering address all three aspects described above. The three technical principles (noted below) focus on architecture and the derivation of system models, while the remaining principles provide the complementary infrastructures and workflows needed to optimize the technical development environment.

    The six systems engineering development principles are:

    1. Decompose systems, not requirements (technical).
    2. Enable both separation and integration of "key systems development" concerns (technical).
    3. Specifications flow up and down the architecture (technical).
    4. Systems and components collaborate; so should development teams.
    5. Development organizations should reflect product architectures.
    6. Base the "development" lifecycle on removing risk and adding value.
    Let's examine each of these principles, initially from a generic systems engineering view, and then specifically in the context of joint hardware/software development.

    Decompose systems, not requirements
    Since systems and software engineering principles and methods have been written about, discussed, and applied in countless cases, one might think that development teams have a common understanding of such terms as "system" and "systems engineering." Unfortunately, this is not the case; neither across enterprises within a specific industry nor across the product and functional domains within an engineering development community in a single enterprise.

    According to INCOSE (the International Council on Systems Engineering), systems engineering is2:
    An interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, and then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem:

    • Operations
    • Performance
    • Test
    • Manufacturing
    • Cost and Schedule
    • Training and Support
    • Disposal
    A system is a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole, which provides a set of services that are used by an enterprise to carry out a business purpose (mission). System components consist of hardware, software, data, and workers3. Put simply, a system is a complex entity that provides some tangible result of value. Systems engineering is a disciplined approach that helps us examine desired results and determine what can satisfy them. It also helps us determine how to do this within a set of business-critical constraints (cost, schedule, testing parameters, ease of manufacturing, and so on). The "what" is the system, the "how" is the functional requirements, the "business-critical constraints" are the supplementary requirements, and the "desired results" are products of use cases.
  • More Stories By Murray Cantor

    Murray Cantor is a member of the IBM Rational CTO team, taking the lead for Governance and Systems. Cantor formerly lead the IBM Rational field services group, promoting and extending Rational best practices, and working closely with customers on innovative ways to build and deliver systems more efficiently.

    More Stories By Gene Roose

    Gene Roose is a senior systems engineering consultant for IBM Rational, concentrating on model-driven systems development methods. He assists clients with solution analysis and design, architectural derivation and validation, and overall project management.

    Comments (0)

    Share your thoughts on this story.

    Add your comment
    You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

    In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


    @ThingsExpo Stories
    Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation and integration; and visibility through intelligent business operations and big data.
    There will be 50 billion Internet connected devices by 2020. Today, every manufacturer has a propriety protocol and an app. How do we securely integrate these "things" into our lives and businesses in a way that we can easily control and manage? Even better, how do we integrate these "things" so that they control and manage each other so our lives become more convenient or our businesses become more profitable and/or safe? We have heard that the best interface is no interface. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Co-Founder & CTO at Octoblu, Inc., will discuss how these devices generate enough data to learn our behaviors and simplify/improve our lives. What if we could connect everything to everything? I'm not only talking about connecting things to things but also systems, cloud services, and people. Add in a little machine learning and artificial intelligence and now we have something interesting...
    Last week, while in San Francisco, I used the Uber app and service four times. All four experiences were great, although one of the drivers stopped for 30 seconds and then left as I was walking up to the car. He must have realized I was a blogger. None the less, the next car was just a minute away and I suffered no pain. In this article, my colleague, Ved Sen, Global Head, Advisory Services Social, Mobile and Sensors at Cognizant shares his experiences and insights.
    We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) irreversibly encoded. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, will look at how this identity problem can be solved and discuss ways to use existing web identities for real-time communication.
    Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT. Attendees will learn real-world benefits of WebRTC and explore future possibilities, as WebRTC and IoT intersect to improve customer service.
    From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, will share some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, an Open Source Cloud Communications company that helps the shift from legacy IN/SS7 telco networks to IP-based cloud comms. An early investor in multiple start-ups, he still finds time to code for his companies and contribute to open source projects.
    The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to create new business models as significant as those that were inspired by the Internet and the smartphone 20 and 10 years ago. What business, social and practical implications will this phenomenon bring? That's the subject of "Monetizing the Internet of Things: Perspectives from the Front Lines," an e-book released today and available free of charge from Aria Systems, the leading innovator in recurring revenue management.
    The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges.
    There’s Big Data, then there’s really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at 6th Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, to discuss how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines.
    All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices – computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be!
    P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Erik Lagerway, Co-founder of Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services to the modern P2P RTC era of OTT cloud assisted services.
    While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehension and conference efficiency.
    The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, will discuss single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example to explain some of these concepts including when to use different storage models.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridstore delivers vmOptimized™ Storage that self-optimizes to each application or VM across both virtual and physical environments. Leveraging a grid architecture, Gridstore delivers the first end-to-end storage QoS to ensure the most important App or VM performance is never compromised. The storage grid, that uses Gridstore’s performance optimized nodes or capacity optimized nodes, starts with as few a...
    The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace. These technological reforms have not only changed computers and smartphones, but are also changing the data processing model for all information devices. In particular, in the area known as M2M (Machine-To-Machine), there are great expectations that information with a new type of value can be produced using a variety of devices and sensors saving/sharing data via the network and through large-scale cloud-type data processing. This consortium believes that attaching a huge number of devic...
    Innodisk is a service-driven provider of industrial embedded flash and DRAM storage products and technologies, with a focus on the enterprise, industrial, aerospace, and defense industries. Innodisk is dedicated to serving their customers and business partners. Quality is vitally important when it comes to industrial embedded flash and DRAM storage products. That’s why Innodisk manufactures all of their products in their own purpose-built memory production facility. In fact, they designed and built their production center to maximize manufacturing efficiency and guarantee the highest quality of our products.
    All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. Over the summer Gartner released its much anticipated annual Hype Cycle report and the big news is that Internet of Things has now replaced Big Data as the most hyped technology. Indeed, we're hearing more and more about this fascinating new technological paradigm. Every other IT news item seems to be about IoT and its implications on the future of digital business.
    Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. Download Slide Deck: ▸ Here
    BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
    With the iCloud scandal seemingly in its past, Apple announced new iPhones, updates to iPad and MacBook as well as news on OSX Yosemite. Although consumers will have to wait to get their hands on some of that new stuff, what they can get is the latest release of iOS 8 that Apple made available for most in-market iPhones and iPads. Originally announced at WWDC (Apple’s annual developers conference) in June, iOS 8 seems to spearhead Apple’s newfound focus upon greater integration of their products into everyday tasks, cross-platform mobility and self-monitoring. Before you update your device, here is a look at some of the new features and things you may want to consider from a mobile security perspective.