A System Engineering Approach to e-Infrastructure
Systems Engineering - Practice and Theory
Introduction Electronic infrastructures (e-Infrastructures) are the basic resources used by Information and Communication Technologies. These resources are heterogeneous networks, which together constitute a large computing and storage power, allowing resources, facilities and services to be provided to the creation of systems in which communication and business operations are almost immediate, with implications in business organization, task management and human relations, forming a kind of
... chwork of technologies, people and social institutions. e-Infrastructure are present in several areas of knowledge, and they are helping the competitiveness of economies and societies. H o w e v e r , i n o r d e r t o c o n t i n u e w i t h t h i s paradigm, e-Infrastructures must be used in a sustainable and continuous way, respecting the humans and the social institutions that ultimately use them, demand their development and fund their paradigm. This work presents an approach to deal with the interactions between e-Infrastructure technologies, humans and social institutions, ensuring that the emergent properties of this system may be synthesized, engaging the right system parts in the right way to create a unified whole, greater than the sum of its parts. The social components of this system have needs. The answers to these needs must not be associated with the engineering old philosophy of "giving the customers what they want", as the technology alone does not have a purpose; it is only a technological artifact. Technology has a purpose only when one or more humans use it to perform a task. This human presence in a e-Infrastructure System make it a complex system, because humans are diverse -multi cultural, multi generational multi skilled. This diversity can lead to differences between what is expected (planned) and the actual System behavior, and this variation is called complexity in this study. Soft System Methods emerged as a way of addressing complex and fuzzy problems, the objectives of which may be uncertain. Soft methods are aimed at systems in which human and social institutions are present, these methods have an underlying concept and theory of systems, with which the Systems Engineering approach can focus on solving the customer's problem and provides all the customer needs, not only on what has been required (Hitchins, 2007) . www.intechopen.com Systems Engineering -Practice and Theory 278 e-Infrastructure design should have a holistic approach, seeking steps that ensure functional and failsafe systems, respecting humans and social institutions dimensions. This chapter is about Systems Engineering in the design of e-Infrastructure Systems, using Soft System Methods to develop a Systemic Socio-technical approach, crucial in order to identify the correct quality factors and expectations of the social infrastructure in an e-Infrastructure. The following sections, Dealing with Complexity, and e-Infrastructure as a Socio-technical System, introduce background information related to System Engineering and Sociotechnical Systems. Next, the Soft System Method Approach section is about design process of systems in which human and socio institutions are present; in this section, the Consensual Methods are highlighted, and a perspective to a method selection is presented. Next, this chapter presents a Case Study, the design of an e-Infrastructure to be used by ALCUE Units of the Vertebralcue Project, from the ALFA III Program of the European Commission. A Conclusion section is followed by Acknowledgment and References.