Future Tense

DARPA Researchers Plan Software That Will Run for Hundreds of Years Without Upgrades

Can DARPA build code to run for 100 years?

Photo from McIek/Shutterstock

One of the biggest problems with enterprise software for business is just keeping it up to date. When you’re running programs on a large scale, it’s not so easy to just “do a quick restart” for updates and patches. But letting software become outdated leads to security and interoperability issues. So DARPA wants to create software that can run for more than 100 years, evolving so it won’t need updates and restarts.

The program, called Building Resource Adaptive Software Systems (BRASS), is currently accepting project proposals in multiple areas related to programming language, methods, and new types of program analyses. The goal is to create software that is resilient and adaptive even as the technological environment changes over time.

“The inability to seamlessly adapt to new operating conditions undermines productivity, hampers the development of cyber-secure infrastructure and raises the long-term risk that access to important digital content will be lost as the software that generates and interprets content becomes outdated,” Suresh Jagannathan, DARPA program manager, said in a statement.

In the long run, BRASS could become a sort of family of programs that are targeted at different types of large-scale implementation—soda distributors have different needs than the IRS—but the broad goals of longevity and flexibility would be the same.

Microsoft would have had it a lot easier if Windows XP could have just evolved instead of needing to be upgraded.