Niwot Ridge Resources

A Source of Information for Mission Critical Software Systems, Management Processes, and Strategies

White Papers

The following publications are available for downloading. These documents represent the work product of Niwot Ridge Consulting. Some are conference papers, others are works produced for clients (then edited for publication), and others are provided for your reading enjoyment.

Niwot Ridge Capabilities Overview pdf 165K

Designing, managing, and deploying successful software projects is one of the most significant challenges encountered by modern business organizations.  Never before has Information Technology (IT) played a more important role in bringing competitive advantage to an organization.  Yet, IT has never before been more complex.  In the past, the mainframe paradigm provided turnkey solutions to complex business problems.  The functionality was provided by the software vendor, which may have also been the hardware vendor.  The business processes were adapted to this functionality.  As these processes evolved it was discovered that the systems were not sufficiently flexible or adaptable to meet the new demands of business.  The introduction of distributed processing provided a means to deal with the inflexibility and monolithic nature of these legacy applications.

Architecture Centered Information Systems in the Manufacturing Domain pdf264K

The use of an architecture–centered development process for delivering information technology began with the introduction of client / server based systems. Early client/server and legacy mainframe applications did not provide the architectural flexibility needed to meet the changing business requirements of the modern manufacturing organization. With the introduction of Object Oriented systems, the need for an architecture–centered process became a critical success factor. Object reuse, layered system components, data abstraction, web based user interfaces, CORBA, and rapid development and deployment processes all provide economic incentives for object technologies. However, adopting the latest object oriented technology, without an adequate understanding of how this technology fits a specific architecture, risks the creation of an instant legacy system.

Risk Assessment pdf 827K Zipped 451K

The role of Risk Assessment and Risk Management is to continuously Identify, Analyze, Plan, Track, Control, and Communicate the risks associated with a project. The Webster’s definition of risk is the possibility of suffering a loss. Risk in itself is not bad. Risk is essential to progress and failure is often a key part of learning. Managing risk is a key part of success. This document describes the foundations for conducting a risk assessment of a large-scale system development project. Such a project will likely include the procurement of Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) products as well as their integration with legacy systems.

Influences on IT Strategy pdf 87K

Strategy is creating fit among a company’s activities. The success of a strategy depends on doing many things well – not just a few. The things that are done well must operate within a close nit system. If there is no fit among the activities, there is no distinctive strategy and little to sustain the strategic deployment process. Management then reverts to the simpler task of overseeing independent functions. When this occurs operational effectiveness determines the relative performance of the organization. 

Exception Handling in CORBA Environments pdf 144K

Component-based software development introduces new sources of risk because (i) independently developed components cannot be fully trusted to conform to their published specifications and (ii) software failures are caused by systemic patterns of interaction that cannot be localized to any individual component. The need for a separate exception handling infrastructure to address these issues becomes the responsibility of the exception handling subsystem. COTS components focus on executing their own normal problem solving behavior, while their exception handling service focuses on detecting and resolving exceptions within the local COTS domain. The exception handling architecture of the integrated system is realized by adding exception handling logic to each application component using a middleware approach. 

Catching errors at compile time is the ideal. The rest of the problems must be caught at run-time through some formality that allows the creator of the error to pass appropriate information to the recipient to know how to handle the error. A layered approach to detecting and resolving exceptions provided an incremental deployment strategy that allows exception handling to be added to the application components in small increments, without disrupting the existing code base.

This paper will be presented at the Winter OMG EAI Workshop in Orlando FL.

ERP Deployments in the Newspaper Industry pdf 32K

Managing the outcome of an ERP deployment is difficult at best. There are many obstacles to success, the least of which is the basic understanding that accepting an ERP system into a business is a significant disruptive event. This document describes the processes and activities involved in deploying ERP. The contributions of a consulting firm can significantly add to the probability of success. In the newspaper business domain, the successful deployment of an ERP system not only impacts the backoffice and financial operations, but also the editorial, advertising and press operations. ERP is a mission critical function of any modern newspaper and must be treated as such.

Components, CORBA, and EAI pdf 416K

Nowadays we are seeing a number of technologies emerging in the construction of software for the publishing industry. One technology that is gaining interest from the publishing world is the use of component technologies, with CORBA and EAI as the means of assembling these components into a complete system. This a summary of a presentation given at a recent IPTC meeting.

The Nine Best Practices pdf 98K
The management of software development is fraught with risk: technical risk, market risk, requirements risk, and financial risk. This paper describes nine key management principles for guiding the development of the InSiight software project. These principles are not original. They are taken directly from the work of Norm Brown, the founder and executive Director of the Software Program Managers Network (SPMN). SPMN is a consortium of Department of Defense Program Managers who are dedicated to improving the practice of managing software acquisition and development projects in both commercial and government domains. Full credit for the nine principles is given to Mr. Brown and the SPMN.

Fault–Tolerant System Reliability in the Presence of Imperfect Diagnostic Coverage pdf (zipped) 2.6MB

This paper is a reissue of a work I produced in 1989. This work describes the mathematical deatils of the analysis of a Triple Modular Redundant (TMR) process control computer's diagnostic system. This paper was used in the submission of this computer to the TÜV and SINTIF agencies for certification of its use in the North Sea drilling platform environment, where an uncommanded output (non fail safe output) can occur only once in 10,000 years of operation. (This paper is being updated, so many typos or poor grammar will have most likely have been corrected.)

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