Technical Report: Impacts and Opportunities for Engineering in the Era of Cloud Computing Systems

Report Number:  Technical Report SERC-2012-TR-023-1

Report Name: Impacts and Opportunities for Engineering in the Era of Cloud Computing Systems

Publication Date:  January 31, 2012


Executive Summary
This report discusses the impact of cloud computing and the broader revolution in computing on systems, on the disciplines of systems engineering that have evolved over the last half century, and on new opportunities for these disciplines. This report sees the need for a new synthesis of traditional and computer-science-based variants of systems engineering. It recommends that the Department of Defense (DoD), perhaps in collaboration with other agencies, invest in new research and educational initiatives to develop and implement a new function, and perhaps a new hybrid discipline, of computational systems engineering.

As software and computing have moved to the very center of system design, it is no longer feasible to treat these issues as mere component-level concerns. Rather, they must now be addressed at the highest level of system definition and development. That said, the traditional systems engineering issues of integrating across many other areas of expertise have not gone away. To succeed now requires an integration of expertise from traditional systems engineering disciplines and from the de facto systems engineering disciplines that have evolved in parallel in the computer sciences, notably but not only software engineering and cyber-physical systems. Neither discipline is configured to succeed on its own. A new synthesis is required.

This report focuses on impacts that this revolution in computing, and that cloud computing, in particular, are likely to have on systems engineering and the disciplines of systems engineering. This report uses the term systems engineering to include several fields that address such issues as system requirements, architecture, allocation of development responsibilities to sub-areas, lifecycle process, systems test, evaluation, deployment, and evolution, economics, and human-system integration. We use the term traditional systems engineering to refer to the professional discipline of systems engineering as embodied in institutions such as academic departments of systems and industrial engineering and related professional societies.

This report findings and recommendations for systems and systems engineering in this regard. Appendices A-C then (1) identify opportunities for short-term research with the Systems Engineering Research Center and its contributing member institutions, including members of the group that has produced this report, and (2) provide contact information for the author team.