To deal with the increasing complexity of software systems and uncertainty of their environments, software engineers have turned to self-adaptivity. Self-adaptive systems are capable of dealing with a continuously changing environment and emerging requirements that may be unknown at design-time. However, building such systems cost-effectively and in a predictable manner is a major engineering challenge. In this paper, we explore the state-of-the-art in engineering self-adaptive systems and identify potential improvements in the design process.
Our most important finding is that in designing self-adaptive systems, the feedback loops that control self-adaptation must become first-class entities. We explore feedback loops from the perspective of control engineering and within existing self-adaptive systems in nature and biology. Finally, we identify the critical challenges our community must address to enable systematic and well-organized engineering of self-adaptive and self-managing software systems.