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Modelling and Implementation Issues in Circuit and Network Planning Tools

Jukka K. Nurminen

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Technology to be presented with due permission of the Department of Engineering Physics and Mathematics for public examination and debate in Auditorium E at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 11th of June, 2003, at 12 o'clock noon.

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Abstract

This thesis consists of studies of modelling and implementation issues for planning tool development. In particularly it emphasizes issues that are relevant for practical, industrial use of mathematical models and algorithms. Using a circuit design and a network planning tool as concrete examples the thesis analyses the practical issues of the development and maintenance of such systems and, especially, how models and algorithms affect these. An important part of the thesis is observations of the changes in the software products over time and analysis what effect and requirements the evolution has for the models and algorithms.

The thesis deals with implementation in a wide sense. In addition to the issues of the implementation of a given algorithm this work discusses algorithm selection, development process, users' role, software evolution and how these affect each other. In particular the thesis tries to answer three questions: (i) What kind of models and algorithms to use in the tools? (ii) How to divide the work between the computer and the user? (iii) How to develop such tools?

The main part of this research has been conducted using the participant observation research methodology by collecting and analysing experiences in the development of two commercial planning tool products. These results have been tied to the model of planning tool implementation that has been developed as part of this work. In particular the focus has been on how technology interacts with tasks, persons, and organizations. The results are also discussed within the context of established research disciplines such as operations research, software engineering, artificial intelligence, and problems solving environments.

One finding of this work is the practical significance of simple algorithms and other building blocks that are easy to implement and enhance. This is often more important than high accuracy or strict optimality. The work also suggests a practical way to measure and compare the implementation complexity of algorithms.

Another observation is how complex planning tasks should be divided between the computer and human expert. Examples how this is done using knowledge-technology, intelligent interfaces, and different kind of mathematical models are discussed.

Practical issues in the development and evolution of algorithms and software are examined in case studies of routing algorithms and of a network visualization software component. These studies highlight the importance of the incremental development approach and discuss its implications to algorithms and software modules.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 8 publications:

  1. Ketonen, T., Lounamaa, P. and Nurminen, J. K., 1988. An electronic design CAD system combining knowledge-based techniques with optimization and simulation. Gero, J. S., (Ed.), Artificial Intelligence in Engineering: Design. Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam, Netherlands, pages 101-118. © 2003 by authors and © 1988 Elsevier Science. By permission.
  2. Ketonen, T. and Nurminen, J. K., 1989. A knowledge-based simulation environment for electronics design. Proceedings of the 3rd European Simulation Congress. Edinburgh, Scotland, pages 622-627. © 1989 The Society for Modeling and Simulation International (SCS). By permission.
  3. Nurminen, J. K., 1990. RFT design system – experiences in the development and deployment of a Lisp application. Proceedings of the First European Conference on the Practical Applications of Lisp. Cambridge, UK, pages 183-191. © 1990 by author.
  4. Akkanen, J. and Nurminen, J. K., 2001. Case study of the evolution of routing algorithms in a network planning tool. The Journal of Systems and Software 58, No. 3, pages 181-198. © 2001 Elsevier Science. By permission.
  5. Nurminen, J. K., 2003. Using software complexity measures to analyze algorithms – an experiment with the shortest-paths algorithms. Computers & Operations Research 30, pages 1121-1134. © 2003 Elsevier Science. By permission.
  6. Nurminen, J. K., 2003. Models and algorithms for network planning tools – practical experiences. Systems Analysis Laboratory Research Reports E14, Helsinki University of Technology. © 2003 by author.
  7. Akkanen, J., Kiss, A. J. and Nurminen, J. K., 2002. Evolution of a software component – experiences with a network editor component. Proceedings of the 6th European Conference on Software Maintenance and Reengineering. Budapest, Hungary, pages 119-125. © 2002 IEEE. By permission.
  8. Nurminen, J. K., Karonen, O. and Hätönen, K., 2003. What makes expert systems survive over 10 years – empirical evaluation of several engineering applications. Expert Systems with Applications 24, No. 3, pages 199-211. © 2003 Elsevier Science. By permission.

Keywords: algorithm implementation, modelling, routing algorithms, intelligent interfaces, software evolution, network planning, circuit design

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© 2003 Helsinki University of Technology

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