CEC Faculty Articles

Title

Decoupling Change from Design

Event Date/Location

San Francisco, CA / 1996

Document Type

Article

Date

10-1996

Publication Title

Proceedings of the 4th ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on Foundations of Software Engineering

ISSN or ISBN

0-89791-797-9

Volume

21

Issue

6

First Page

58

Last Page

69

Description

Parnas' seminal 1972 paper, "On the Criteria To Be Used in Decomposing Systems into Modules," identified simplifying change as a critical criterion for modularizing software. Successful designs are those in which a change can be accommodated by modifying a single module. There is a tacit assumption in most of the literature that once a change has been limited to a single module, the cost of making the change is essentially inconsequential. But modules have complexity of their own and are frequently large. Thus, making a change can be expensive, even if limited to a single module.We present a method of decomposing modules into smaller components for the purpose of supporting change. Although similar to the approach of modularizing programs described by Parnas, our approach is specific to decomposing modules. It is not intended to replace traditional high level modularization but rather to augment it with a second level of modularization where the standard of information hiding can be relaxed. The goal of the method is to make modules easier to change by decomposing them around smaller design decisions---ideally encoding only one design choice per submodule component.In this paper we show how submodule components can be used to address the issue of change. We also demonstrate how the ability to address change with submodule components is, to a large extent, independent of the design level modularization. Moreover, we show that, at least in some cases, by using submodule components the choice of high level modularization can itself be changed without having to rewrite large amounts of code.A method of implementation is presented using inheritance, parameterization, and static binding in a way that minimizes implementation dependencies between components. The method supports fine grained decomposition with flexible composability and almost no runtime overhead.

DOI

10.1145/239098.239109

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