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Introduction to Pre-Qualification

RTEMS has a long history of being used to support critical applications. In some of these application domains, there are standards (e.g., DO-178C, NPR 7150.2) which define the expectations for the processes used to develop software and the associated artifacts. These standards typically do not specify software functionality but address topics like requirements definition, traceability, having a documented change process, coding style, testing requirements, and a user's manual. During system test, these standards call for a review - usually by an independent entity - that the standard has been adhered too. These reviews cover a broad variety of topics and activities, but the process is generally referred to as qualification, verification, or auditing against the specific standard in use. The RTEMS Project will use the term "qualification" independent of the standard.

The goal of the RTEMS Qualification Project is to make RTEMS easier to review regardless of the standard chosen. Quite specifically, the RTEMS Qualification effort will NOT produce a directly qualified product or artifacts in the format dictated by a specific organization or standard. The goal is to make RTEMS itself, documentation, testing infrastructure, etc. more closely align with the information requirements of these high integrity qualification standards. In addition to improving the items that a mature, high quality open source project will have, there are additional artifacts needed for a qualification effort that no known open source project possesses. Specifically, requirements and the associated traceability to source code, tests, and documentation are needed.

The RTEMS Qualification Project is technically "pre-qualification." True qualification must be performed on the project's target hardware in a system context. The FAA has provided guidance for Reusable Software Components (FAA-AC20-148) and this effort should follow that guidance. The open RTEMS Project, with the assistance of domain experts, will possess and maintain the master technical information needed in a qualification effort. Consultants will provide the services required to tailor the master information, perform testing on specific system hardware, and to guide end users in using the master technical data in the context of a particular standard.

The RTEMS Qualification Project will broadly address two areas. The first area is suggesting areas of improvement for automated project infrastructure and the master technical data that has traditionally been provided by the RTEMS Project. For example, the RTEMS Qualification could suggest specific improvements to code coverage reports. The teams focused on qualification should be able to provide resources for improving the automated project infrastructure and master technical data for RTEMS. The term "resources" is often used by open source projects to refer to volunteer code contributions or funding. Although code contributions in this area are important and always welcome, funding is also important. At a minimum, ongoing funding is needed for maintenance and upgrades of the RTEMS Project server infrastructure, addition of services to those servers, and core contributors to review submissions

The second area is the creation and maintenance of master technical data that has traditionally not been owned or maintained by the RTEMS Project. The most obvious example of this is a requirements set with proper infrastructure for tracing requirements through code to test and documentation. It is expected that these will be maintained by the RTEMS Qualification Project. They will be evaluated for adoption by the main RTEMS Project but the additional maintenance burden imposed will be a strong factor in this consideration. It behooves the RTEMS Qualification Project to limit dependence on manual checks and ensure that automation and ongoing support for that automation is contributed to the RTEMS Project.

It is expected that the RTEMS Qualification Project will create and maintain maps from the RTEMS master technical data to the various qualification standards. It will maintain "scorecards" which identify how the RTEMS Project is currently doing when reviewed per each standard. These will be maintained in the open as community resources which will guide the community in improving its infrastructure.

Stakeholder Involvement

Qualification of RTEMS is a specialized activity and only specific users of RTEMS will complete a formal qualification activity. The RTEMS Project cannot self-fund this entire activity and requires stakeholder to invest in an ongoing basis to ensure that any investment they make is maintained and viable in an ongoing basis. The RTEMS core developers view steady support of the qualification effort as necessary to continue to lower the overall costs of qualifying RTEMS.

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