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Will Requirements Interchange Standards be Made Obsolete by the Cloud?

Submitted by Leonidas » Thu 14-Aug-2014, 10:34

Subject Area: Requirements

Keywords: requirements, reqif

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Creating a standard for exchanging system and software requirements documentation between organisations with diverse requirements toolsets was a good idea. The Object Management Group's ReqIF standard is now supported by many vendors. Refer to Michael Jastram's excellent article here: http://re-magazine.ireb.org/issues/2014-3-gaining-height/open-up/
That said, I can't help thinking that the cloud may obsolete this method of exchanging intellectual property before it has a chance to get going. ReqIF, after all, is just a standard for transporting information. IMO it has the following drawbacks:
Fiddling. You have to export from one requirements tool and import it to another tool. If you are a vendor and you want to add comments you have to re-export your commented version back to the original source (refer picture 3 in the above article). How would multiple versions be handled? Integrating additional comments from various sources would be a difficult problem and would be error prone.
Lost in translation. If the originator of the requirements is using an ontology (refer http://www.chambers.com.au/glossary/requirements_patterns.php), as far as I can see, the rich ontology semantics would be lost in transport to external actors.
Not real time. Referring to Michael's article - picture 3: Partner 1 sends to Partner 2 who thinks about it for a while and then, in the fullness of time, Partner 2 sends back to partner one. This synchronous operation is bound to be time-consuming and not supportive of well-established just-in-time, close coupling practices popular with advanced manufacturing organisations.
Cast in concrete. Once organisations see the benefits of storing requirements in a database, they want to innovate. Having a fixed data interchange standard will inhibit this innovation. Worst case, the "new" good stuff will not be exchangeable.
A Cloud Alternative
Here is another solution: the customer deploys a database in the cloud and gives all interested parties controlled access to requirements information. Advantages are: no fiddling, real-time access, preservation of semantics and endless scope for requirements process improvement.
The only downside I can see is paranoia about data security. Having had some experience with virtual machines in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment, my personal belief is that these anxieties will be mollified over time. As a case study, the AWS environment is redolent with firewalls capable of locking down access to client IP addresses and many other security devices. If the CIA is prepared to have their own cloud (constructed by Amazon) I think all this is eminently doable.
Above all I believe this will be done because substantial cost savings will drive organisations into the cloud.
I can't help thinking that ReqIF is a twentieth century solution and that we need to move on.

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