Why Software Fails (And How Testers Can Exploit It)

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Summary:

This paper summarizes conclusions from a three year study about why released software fails. Our method was to obtain mature-beta or retail versions of real software applications and stress test them until they fail. From an analysis of the casual faults, we have synthesized four reasons why software fails. This note presents these four classes of failures and discusses the challenges they present to developers and testers. The implications for software testers are emphasized.

This paper summarizes conclusions from a three year study about why released software fails. Our method was to obtain mature-beta or retail versions of real software applications and stress test them until they fail. From an analysis of the casual faults, we have synthesized four reasons why software fails. This note presents these four classes of failures and discusses the challenges they present to developers and testers. The implications for software testers are emphasized.

About the author

James Whittaker's picture James Whittaker

James A. Whittaker is is a technology executive with a career that spans academia, start-ups, and industry. He was an early thought leader in model-based testing where his Ph.D. dissertation became a standard reference on the subject. While a professor at the Florida Institute of Technology, James founded the world's largest academic software testing research center and helped make testing a degree track for undergraduates. He wrote How to Break Software, How to Break Software Security (with Hugh Thompson), and How to Break Web Software (with Mike Andrews). While at Microsoft, James transformed many of his testing ideas into tools and techniques for developers and testers, and wrote the book Exploratory Software Testing. For the past three years he worked for Google as an engineering director where he co-wrote How Google Tests Software (with Jason Arbon and Jeff Carollo). He's currently a development manager at Microsoft where he is busy re-inventing the web.

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