Professor Malek Receives Test of Time Award for Work on Self-Adaptive Software Systems

Sam Malek (left) with Ahmed M. Elkhodary and Naeem Esfahani in 2010.

At the ACM Joint European Software Engineering Conference and Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering (ESEC/FSE 2020), held Nov. 13-16, Informatics Professor Sam Malek received the Test of Time Award. The award was in recognition of a paper he co-authored a decade ago with Ahmed M. Elkhodary and Naeem Esfahani. That work, “FUSION: A Framework for Engineering Self-Tuning Self-Adaptive Software Systems,” introduced a novel framework for constructing systems that can autonomously change their behavior at runtime to achieve certain objectives, such as mitigating security attacks or optimizing resource usage.

“An important challenge in the construction of self-adaptive software is that engineers often cannot accurately foresee the system’s runtime properties (e.g., network, usage load) at design time, and therefore, cannot determine precisely the impact changes may have on the system’s quality objectives (e.g., reliability, security),” explains Malek, who currently serves as director of UCI’s Institute for Software Research (ISR). As outlined in the paper, the FUSION framework relied on machine learning techniques to learn how adaptation choices impact various objectives at runtime. “When the runtime conditions do not match those anticipated at design time,” says Malek, “FUSION is able to learn the emerging behavior of the system and continue to make optimal adaptation decisions.”

FUSION inspired future work within the field of software engineering, particularly in the areas of cloud computing and cyber-physical systems. “In both of those computing domains, the ability for software to self-adapt is critical,” says Malek. “Both domains also face substantial levels of uncertainty, and FUSION provided an ideal solution for tackling the challenges facing the construction of software for these domains.”

While Malek knew the paper was highly cited, he wasn’t expecting the Test of Time recognition. “I was not anticipating the award, so when it came, it was a nice surprise.” Even better was reconnecting with his old Ph.D. students to give a joint virtual talk at ESEC/FSE 2020 on Nov. 13. “I published this paper when I had recently started as an assistant professor at George Mason University, and it was with my first two Ph.D. students,” says Malek. “Connecting with them to prepare the talk was the best part of the experience.”

Sam Malek (left) with Ahmed M. Elkhodary and Naeem Esfahani in 2010.

— Shani Murray