Recent Applications

The applications described here were architected and designed by me.

Some components of these applications were built by me, but most represent a team effort. Robin Smith was responsible for the database portion of the CAATS specification tool suite. Work undertaken by me on the Specification Assembly Tools was based in part on work he and David Fong had done while the three of us were still with Interleaf Canada. Subsequently, the redesign and recoding of these tools was done by me. IOTA was designed and implemented by me, including all components thereof: extensions to RDM, language parsing tools, and transaction processing.

The Bell Atlantic Tariff Management System was architected by me. Components were built by me, but this was an enormous team effort, spanning three continents and four countries. The project was overseen by me, Harry Read of ABMCL (UK), and Denise English at Bell Atlantic (Boston). The initial typesetting design work was done by John Cockram and Jeff Maynard of TKS (Australia). The Livelink integration with TopLeaf was done by several people, the most notable of whom is Marc Stewart. In March 1999, I assumed most of the responsibility for maintaining the typesetting aspects of the system. The initial DTD work was done by Tomas Hansson (Open Text, Ottawa), but was assumed by me in November of 1998. The integration with Adept Editor was done was done jointly by Arbortext and Open Text. The deployment of the system at Bell Atlantic, Boston, was done by me, as was the user training.

CAATS Specification Tools

Bell Atlantic Tariff Management System

Compliance System Integrates with
Specification Process for CAATS

Creating massive documentation sets for complex systems is no easy task. The problems range from supporting a large number of document authors, to managing the actual content of those documents. Hughes Aircraft of Canada (Systems Division) in Richmond, BC began to understand the complexity of the problem in 1992, and now manages the entire document life-cycle for the 20,000 pages of the Canadian Automated Air Traffic System (CAATS) specifications with a small team. 

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The evolution of the specification maintenance process at Hughes has led to the development of a sophisticated suite of tools which is now used for:

Large Specification Maintenance

The specifications for the CAATS system follow, in a general sense, the DOD-STD-2167A standard for the development of systems documentation. The documents for the SSS, IRD and SRS documents amount to roughly 20,000 pages. Additional appendices to these documents add another 20,000 pages of support information. Managing this sheer volume of information, in a critical-system environment, represented an enormous problem for HCSD. When combined with the problem of being able to prove compliance of the CAATS software to these specifications, HCSD realized the only way to step up to the task was with a system which could both automate the generation of these specifications, and the changes to them. 

The problem was tackled in stages, as the CAATS program developed. The first issue was how to actually construct the documents which were being written by up to 100 different authors. Powerful publishing tools and a document management system were implemented, using core software products from Interleaf Canada. These included Interleaf 5 authoring software, Cloverleaf filter building technology, and WorldView Press and WorldViewer for creating full-text indexed electronic collections. Interleaf’s RDM was later purchased for managing revisions to the documents, and their life-cycles. Using this tool suite, HCSD began delivering new electronic collections of the critical sections of the SRSs to Transport Canada on a weekly basis in 1993. 

Ensuring Compliance

Building on this platform, HCSD contracted CTL-X Information Consultants to develop a compliance automation system to manage and maintain all requirements traceability information for the actual content of the specifications.

CTL-X developed a large-scale database application for HCSD, based on ORACLE 7, called Hughes Aircraft Requirements Tracking System (HARTS) to replace the RTRACE product which had been in use up to that time. HARTS was unique in its approach to the compliance automation issue, in that the management of the specification requirements become completely integrated with the management of the content of the Interleaf documents themselves.

HARTS permits HCSD to create relationships between different portions of the specification content tracked by the system, such as requirements statements, and permits the allocation and linking of those objects to software or test engineering objects as well.

Using HARTS, it is possible for a system engineer to propose an allocation of a requirement to a software subsystem, even before that subsystem has been created, then have the allocation accepted or rejected by the responsible subsystem team, or passed to another team.

HARTS provides immediate validation that all requirements in the specifications have been assigned to software subsystems, and that requirement "flow-up" information (e.g., to parent requirements in higher-level documents) is maintained.

Managing Changes

All requirement text changes to HARTS are performed by an application built in Interleaf 5, called the Integrated On-line Traceability Application (IOTA). CTL-X utilized the Interleaf 5 Lisp API to provide an intelligent, object-oriented, expert editor interface to HARTS. IOTA is tightly integrated to the RDM document manager, and changes to HARTS are only triggered when edits to the document have been accepted and approved.

IOTA provides a transaction-based update mechanism for HARTS. Creation, deletion and modification of requirement statements are supported through the Interleaf 5 word processing environment, meaning that clerical staff can implement requested changes to the documents without requiring specialized training in database concepts. The traceability system becomes an extension to standard document management skills and technology already in use by document production personnel.

At the same time, system engineers have complete control over the object allocation process, and the generation and analysis of reports specifically associated with traceability. Using IOTA, HARTS can be kept informed about both the content and structure of the document, and queries against HARTS can be executed by IOTA during document editing, through a program written in ORACLE Pro*C, to validate the appropriateness of user actions before the action is committed.

Document management software is heavily integrated with both IOTA and HARTS. RDM’s configuration management features are used for creating relationships between approximately 2,000 separate files for any one version of the document set, and to map the internal structure of these separate files to sequencing information within HARTS.

RDM’s work-flow features mean that it is possible to generate updates for HARTS only at specific points in a document’s life-cycle. Documents can be created, reviewed, and reworked before the updates are committed to HARTS.

Multi-Dimensional, Multi-Project

Both HARTS and IOTA provide support for dynamic documentation sets which span multiple projects.

IOTA provides features for creating copies of requirements which exist in one project for use in another project, or alternatively to map different views of the same requirement object to their different project parents.

The MAATS system, the Canadian military’s counterpart to CAATS, can reuse portions of the specifications, down to individual sentences, or base new requirements on different but similar requirements in CAATS. The immediate pay-off in the multi-project environment is that establishment of new projects does not mandate the recreation of the compliance information wheel.

Automated Delivery

When it comes time to deliver specifications, HCSD uses a batch process to extract the specification files from the RDM document vault, assemble the files into contiguous documents, and automate the creation of intelligent hyperlinking between the documents and a variety of information derived from other sources, such as HARTS and the CAATS data dictionary. CTL-X developed this Specification Assembly Tool to be capable of assembling the entire CAATS specification suite over night. WorldView documents can then be created for shipment to Transport Canada for review and approval.

Easy Web Access

With the growing interest in information re-use and distribution, HCSD is now exploring ways to implement World Wide Web access to much of the information now stored in HARTS. Using the CGI model, HCSD has built a browser interface to HARTS. This gives systems engineers and software developers an easy-to-use, comfortable interface to the traceability database, through the web browser of their choice.

Relying on ORACLE’s Pro*C for dynamic SQL queries to HARTS, the browser launches the queries and returns HTML-encoded results to the browser, including HTTP-compliant header information. This means the only actual HTML document on the system is an initial index page, from which hyperlinks to the various CGI programs are made.

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Bell Atlantic Tariff Management System

The Bell Atlantic Tariff Management System is designed to integrate an SGML-based authoring system, with a high-throughput loose leaf typesetting system and web-based document management and work-group system, to provide complete, page-oriented document management for eight distinct jurisdictional regulators, including the FCC, each of which has its own page formatting requirements.

Unique to this application is the marrying of page-oriented documentation maintenance processes to international-standard SGML data storage.

Built around Open Text's Livelink Intranet software, the system integrates Arbortext Adept Editor and Turn-Key Systems' TopLeaf loose leaf SGML typesetting software, providing a batch-oriented publishing engine in an n-tier client/server environment, through which all the major functions and processes necessary to Bell Atlantic's tariff management can be accomplished.

Open Text was contracted in 1997 to deliver the system, and defined a tariff DTD which would be suitable for use by all jurisdictions. The most complex part of the application was in meeting the typesetting requirements of each jurisdiction, and locating software capable of managing loose leaf documentation from SGML source data, since the two paradigms are definitionally "mutually exclusive". Fortunately, Turn-Key Systems has such a product.

As part of the project, TKS developed an API which could be called from Livelink. This opened the pathways to allow for a web-based front-end to a server-based installation of the loose leaf software.

From SGML source files, page-oriented PDF, GIF and TIF renditions of changed pages can be automatically generated. This allows for complete web-based electronic submission of the regulatory documents to the jurisdictional regulators for each tariff. Key in this application architecture was the collapsing of the traditional loose leaf document management methodology from "one page = one object" back to the section level, greatly simplifying the management of changes to the documents within the environemnt.

TopLeaf maintains the location of page breaks, and creates pages out of the edited SGML file. It then runs difference tools to detect which pages have changes on them, and then builds printable images of this information.

The printed, paged output, is automatically uploaded back into Livelink using Livelink's API, where users can preview it via their web browser's PDF plug-in.

From a business perspective, Bell Atlantic was motivated to change from the current system, which had been built around Interleaf 5 and Interleaf RDM, due to aging hardware. As a going-forward strategy, they saw the advantages of converting the data to SGML, making their data insensitive to any future technology changes.

For a quick view of the application architecture, look at the slide presentation

I plan on adding more detail to this description shortly.

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