A Survey of Challenges in Spectrum Based Software Fault Localization

Qusay Idrees Sarhan and Árpád Beszédes
In software debugging, fault localization is the most difficult, expensive, tedious, and timeconsuming task, particularly for large-scale software systems. This is due to the fact that it requires significant human participation and it is difficult to automate its sub-tasks. Therefore, there is a high demand for automatic fault localization techniques that can help software engineers effectively find the locations of faults with minimal human intervention. This has led to the proposal of implementing different types of such techniques. However, Spectrum Based Fault Localization (SBFL) is considered amongst the most prominent techniques in this respect due to its efficiency and effectiveness. In SBFL, the probability of each program element (e.g., statement, block, or function) being faulty is calculated based on executing test cases and then using their results and corresponding code coverage information. However, SBFL techniques are not yet widely adopted in the industry. The rationale behind this is that they pose a number of issues and their performance is affected by several influential factors. For example, the characteristics of bugs, target programs, test suites, and supporting tools make their effectiveness differ dramatically from one case to another. There are massive studies on SBFL that cover its usage, formulas, performance, etc. So far, no dedicated survey points out comprehensively the issues of SBFL. In this paper, various SBFL challenges and issues have been identified, categorized, and discussed alongside many directions. Also, the paper raises awareness of the works being achieved to address the identified issues and suggests some potential solutions too.

Keywords:     Program spectra, spectrum based fault localization, software testing, challenges and issues, survey.