Only the best: high-quality software at Fermilab

The Software Quality Assurance program applies to all applications used at the laboratory.

We all have certain expectations for how particular pieces of software should perform. At Fermilab, we develop and use highly sophisticated software to meet the needs of our scientific programs. We also use commercial applications that have been customized or configured to meet specific operational needs. Regardless of the application, it’s important that the laboratory’s software meets or exceeds the requirements or expectations for its intended use.

Quality software has always been a priority. Our current effort, to help ensure that the software we develop and use meets performance requirements and specifications, involves a team of individuals from across the lab who developed the Fermilab Software Quality Assurance program.

As part of a larger quality initiative within DOE, the Fermilab SQA program applies to all software applications used at Fermilab. Individuals responsible for specific applications are assessing and implementing software quality assurance using a graded approach based on the analysis of potential risks, should the software not perform as intended. Evaluating each software application against potential consequences allows for the implementation of quality control measures at appropriate levels.

The Fermilab SQA implementation follows a three-step process. The first step is to identify and inventory the software applications used throughout the lab. Second, once the inventory is complete, the appropriate QA level (high, moderate or low) for each application is determined based on criteria defined in the SQA program document. Finally, existing controls are evaluated and new controls are implemented as needed to provide the appropriate level of quality assurance. Quality control measures are also defined in the SQA program document.

Implementation of the SQA program is currently under way, with various organizations inventorying and grading their applications. They are also determining which controls are in place and which will need to be established. Program implementation will continue over the next year, with an initial focus on the most critical applications, which are those that meet the high-level QA criteria.

Additional information on the Fermilab SQA program, including FAQs, can be found on the SQA SharePoint site. Questions on the program or approach should be directed to the SQA team.

Bill Boroski and Julie Marsh, Computing Sector, and Kathy Zappia, ESH&Q