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5 Ways Objects Can Communicate With Each Other Heading Towards Decoupling

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5 Ways Objects Can Communicate With Each Other Heading Towards Decoupling

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Way 1. Simple method call

class diagram for hotel
Object A calls a method on object B. This is clearly the simplest type of communication between two objects but is also the way which results in the highest coupling. Object A’s class has a dependency upon object B’s class. Wherever you try to take object A’s class, object B’s class (and all of its dependencies) are coming with it.

Way 2. Decouple the callee from the caller

class diagram for hotel
Object A’s class declares an interface and calls a method on that interface. Object B’s class implements that interface. This is a step in the right direction as object A’s class has no dependency on object B’s class. However, something else has to create object B and introduce it to object A for it to call. So we have created the need for an additional class which has a dependency upon object B’s class. We have also created a dependency from B to A. However, these can be a small price to pay if we are serious about taking object A’s class off to other projects.

Way 3. Use an Adaptor class diagram for hotel
Object A’s class declares an interface and calls a method on that interface. An adaptor class implements the interface and wraps object B, forwarding calls to it. This frees up object B’s class from being dependent on object A’s class. Now we are getting closer to some real decoupling. This is particularly useful if object B’s class is a third-party class which we have no control over.

Way 4. Dependency Injection

Dependency injection is used to find, create and call object B. This amounts to deferring until runtime how object A will talk to object B. This way certainly feels to have the lowest coupling, but in reality just shifts the coupling problem into the wiring realm. At least before we could rely on the compiler to ensure that there was a concrete object on the other end of each call – and furthermore we had the convenience of using the development tools to help us unpick the interaction between objects.

Way 5. Chain of command pattern

The chain of command pattern is used to allow object A to effectively say “does anyone know how to handle this call?”. Object B, which is listening out for these cries for help, picks up the message and figures out for itself if it is able to respond. This approach does mean that object A has to be ready for the outcome that nobody is able to respond, however it buys us great flexibility in how the responder is implemented.

class diagram for hotel
Chain of command – way 5 – is the decoupling winner and here's an example to help explain why. Let object A be a raster image file viewer, with responsibilities for allowing the user to pick the file to open, and zoom in and out on the image as it is displayed. Let object B be a loader which has the responsibility of opening a gif file and returning an array of colored pixels. Our aim is to avoid tying object A's class to object B's class because object B's class uses a third party library. Additionally, object A doesn't want to know about how the image file is interpreted, or even if it is a gif, jpg, png or whatever. In this example object B, or more likely a wrapper of object B, will declare a method which equips it to respond to any requests to open an image file. The method will respond with an array of pixels if the file is of a format it recognizes, or respond with null if it does not recognize the format. The framework then simply asks handlers in turn until one provides a non-null response.

With this framework in place we are now free to slide in more image loaders with the addition of just one more handler class. And furthermore, on the source end of the call, we can add other classes to not just view the images, but print them, edit them or manipulate them in any other way we choose.

In conclusion, we can see that decoupling can be achieved and yield flexibility, but this does not mean it is appropriate for every call from one object to another. The best thing to do is start with straight method calls, but keep cohesion in mind. Then if at a later stage it becomes necessary to swap in and out different objects it won't be too hard to extract an interface and put in place a decoupling mechanism.

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