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October 27, 1995

ASSERTION DEFINITION LANGUAGE CLAIMED TO EASE THE PATH TOWARDS SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT

By CBR Staff Writer

Sun Microsystems Inc, Japan’s Information Technology Promotion Agency, IPA, and X/Open Co Ltd last week made a beta version of the long-gestating Assertion Definition Language publicly available (CI No 2,462). The language is said to offer developers the ability to capture software interface specifications and automatically generate conformance test suites and interface documentation. It uses a C syntax-like formal notation to describe interfaces that are compiled into readable English and Japanese, and into the C code that will test an implementation of the interface against the specification. It only describes C language interfaces but C++ and Object Management Group Interface Definition Language versions are planned. The three hope that Assertion Definition Language will eventually be linked to code-testing mechanisms such as the UK Defence Research Agency’s TenDRA compiler technology, which Mortice Kern Systems Inc has released as a commercial product, Code Integrity, so that application code can be tested against application programming interface specifications and suites created using Assertion Definition Language . At the moment, Code Integrity tests the plugs and Assertion Definition Language tests the sockets said the X/Open test business unit’s James de Raeve. Linking the two could provide a standard way of defining, designing, testing and converting code, reducing bug-fixing and conversion costs and time. But TenDRA currently uses a Tspec language to define application programming interface header files, not Assertion Definition Language. The problem is money, money that X/Open currently doesn’t have, although all parties say they are looking at ways of making the links happen. Mortice Kern said conversion tools are one option. X/Open developed the first prototype test suites using Assertion Definition Language a year ago and has subsequently been used to develop tests for the Object Management Group’s Common Object Request Broker Request Architecture 1.2 specification and the Japanese version is being used to develop tests for part of the Posix specification. X/Open is working with the Object Group to specify Common Object Request Broker Architecture 2 interfaces in Assertion Definition Language and will use the language to develop Common Desktop Environment test suites. Version 1.0 of the languge will ship on December 15. The Interface Specification defines the signature and behavioural semantics of the interfaces. A Test Data Description defines the test data to be used during the test; a Natural Language Dictionary includes a glossary of terms to be used in the generation of natural language output. The project is the sum of various independent projects related to formal methods and software testing at Sun Labs, Stanford University and the 1987. Sun’s Assertion Definition Language project was turned over to the Open Fundamental Software Technology project back in 1992.

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