Computer Software Engineering

Computer-aided software engineering

CASE (Computer-aided Software/System Engineering) refers to the methods dedicated to an engineering discipline for the development of information systems together with automated tools that can be used in this process.

CASE can be described as harboring two key ideas :

  1. Computer Assistance in software development and/or maintenance
  2. An engineering approach to the software development and/or maintenance.

Some typical CASE tools are:

Classification of CASE Tools

Existing CASE Environments can be classified along 4 different dimensions :

  1. Life-Cycle Support
  2. Integration Dimension
  3. Construction Dimension
  4. Knowledge Based CASE dimension

Let us take the meaning of these dimensions along with their examples one by one :

Life-Cycle Based CASE Tools

This dimension classifies CASE Tools on the basis of the activities they support in the information systems life cycle. They can be classified as Upper or Lower CASE tools.

  1. Upper CASE Tools support strategic, planning and construction of conceptual level product and ignore the design aspect. They support traditional diagrammatic languages such as ER Diagrams, DFD, Structure charts etc.
  2. Lower CASE Tools concentrate on the back end activities of the software life cycle and hence support activities like physical design, debugging, construction, testing, integration of software components, maintenance, reengineering and reverse engineering activities.

Integration Dimension

Three main CASE Integration dimension have been proposed :

  1. CASE Framework
  2. ICASE Tools
  3. Integrated Project Support Environment(IPSE)

History of CASE

All aspects of the software development lifecycle can be supported by software tools, and so the use of tools from across the spectrum can, arguably, be described as CASE; from project management software through tools for business and functional analysis, system design, code storage, compilers, translation tools, test software, and so on.

However, it is the tools that are concerned with analysis and design, and with using design information to create parts (or all) of the software product, that are most frequently thought of as CASE tools. CASE applied, for instance, to a database software product, might normally involve:

  • Modelling business / real world processes and data flow
  • Development of data models in the form of entity-relationship diagrams
  • Development of process and function descriptions
  • Production of database creation SQL and stored procedures

The term CASE was originally coined by software company, Nastec Corporation of Southfield, Mich. in 1982 with their original integrated graphics and text editor GraphiText, which also was the first microcomputer-based system to use hyperlinks to cross-reference text strings in documents — an early forerunner of today's web page link. GraphiText's successor product, DesignAid was the first microprocessor-based tool to logically and semantically evaluate software and system design diagrams and build a data dictionary. Under the direction of Albert F. Case, Jr. vice president for product management and consulting (the rumor that he changed his last name is untrue), and Vaughn Frick, director of product management, the DesignAid product suite was expanded to support analysis of a wide range of structured analysis and design methodologies, notably Yourdon/Demarco, Gane & Sarson, Ward-Mellor (real-time) SA/SD and Warnier-Orr (data driven). The next entrant into the market was Excelerator from Index Technology in Cambridge, Mass. While DesignAid ran on Convergent Technologies and later Burroughs Ngen networked microcomputers, Index launched Excelerator on the IBM PC/AT platform. While, at the time of launch, and for several years, the IBM platform did not support networking or a centralized database as did the Convergent Technologies or Burroughs machines, the allure of IBM was strong, and Excelerator came to prominence. Hot on the heels of Excelerator were a rash of offerings from companies such as Knowledgeware (James Martin, Fran Tarkenton and Don Addington), Texas Instrument's IEF and Accenture's FOUNDATION toolset (METHOD/1, DESIGN/1, INSTALL/1, FCP).

CASE tools were at their peak in the early 1990s. At the time IBM had proposed AD/Cycle which was an alliance of software vendors centered around IBM's mainframe:

The application development tools can be from several sources: from IBM, from vendors, and from the customers themselves. IBM has entered into relationships with Bachman Information Systems, Index Technology Corporation, and Knowledgeware, Inc. wherein selected products from these vendors will be marketed through an IBM complementary marketing program to provide offerings that will help to achieve complete life-cycle coverage.

With the decline of the mainframe, AD/Cycle and the Big CASE tools died off, opening the market for the mainstream CASE tools of today. Interestingly, nearly all of the leaders of the CASE market of the early 1990s ended up being purchased by Computer Associates, including IEW, IEF, ADW, Cayenne, and Learmonth & Burchett Management Systems (LBMS).

Many CASE tools not only output code but also generate other output typical of various systems analysis and design methodologies such as SSADM. E.g.

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