Applied Modularity - Retrospectives

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Applied Modularity - Retrospectives

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We’ve completed our four part series on Applied Modularity, and I wanted to put a final wrap on the posts by highlighting a few things that may not be obvious. First, a brief review on the series.

  • In Part 1, we introduced the sample application and applied PhysicalLayers pattern to separate our logical layers out into physical layers.
  • In Part 2, we applied the AbstractModules (second refactoring) and AcyclicRelationships (third refactoring) patterns.
  • In Part 3, we applied the SeparateAbstractions (fourth refactoring) pattern.
  • In Part 4, we applied the CollocateException (fifth refactoring), IndependentDeployment (sixth refactoring), and ImplementationFactory (sevent refactoring) patterns.

Through this series of refactorings, we made considerable progress in modularizing the application using a few of the modularity patterns. The diagram at right (click to enlarge) illustrates the progress we made. We started with everything bundled into a single WAR file and wound up with a highly modularized system that satisfied the evolutionary requirements. Aside from the many advantages we spoke about in each post, I want to take a moment to explore a few other thoughts.

A Note On Module Testing

If you’ve explored (and built) the system by getting the code from the Google code repository, you’ll notice that there are a corresponding set of test modules for each module that we’ve created. These can be found in the bin directory (shown at right). Like we do with unit testing, I’ve tried to create a test component for each module in the system. Unfortunately, there’s a flaw in the billtest.jar module.

Similar to unit testing, where we create mocks and stubs to avoid undesirable dependencies, a test module shouldn’t pull in other modules that contain implementation classes. Instead, we should create mocks or stubs to avoid this situation. In other words, a test module should only be dependent on the same set of modules as the module it’s testing. Unfortunately, the billtest.jar module breaks this rule by leveraging the the AuditFacade implementations. That means the billtest.jar module is also dependent on the audit1.jar and audit2.jar modules, but the bill.jar module is not. So billtest.jar is really a module integration test, not a module unit test. It could easily be fixed by creating a mock AuditFacade implementation that lived in the billtest.jar module.

This begs another question….

How do we keep track of module relationships so that we recognize when something bad like this happens?

Even for small systems, without a module system like OSGi, it can be incredibly challenging.

A Note On Managing Modules

Modularizing a system on a platform that doesn’t support modularity is challenging. Hell, modularizing a system on a platform that does support modularity is challenging! One of the greatest challenges is in managing module dependencies. Tracking the dependencies between modules is really quite difficult.

This is where module systems like OSGi really help by enforcing the declared module dependencies. In plain ole Java today, there is no notion of module so there is nothing to help enforce modularity. And the first unwanted dependency that creeps into our system compromises architectural integrity. This is where JarAnalyzer can be helpful. By incorporating JarAnalyzer into my build script, I’m able to more easily manage the dependencies between modules.

JarAnalyzer has two output formats. The first is a GraphViz compliant dot file that can be easily converted to an image showing module relationships. The image at right (click to enlarge), which includes the test modules, clearly illustrates the problem with the billtest.jar module discussed above.

As can be seen, the bill.jar module has only a single outgoing dependency on the auditspec.jar module. So the module that tests the bill.jar module should not be dependent on any other modules, either. However, if you look at the billtest.jar module, you’ll see that it depends upon the audit1.jar and audit2.jar modules. So instead of using a mock or stub to test the bill.jar module, I got lazy and used the various AuditFacade implementations. Look at a few of the other modules, and you’ll discover that none include additional dependencies beyond the dependencies already present within the modules they test.

The second output format for JarAnalyzer is an html file that provides some key design quality metrics, as well as listing the dependencies among modules. Essentially, it’s a textual view of the same information provided by the visual diagram. I’ve included the Summary header of the JarAnalyzer report for the system below (click to enlarge). You can also browse the complete JarAnalyzer HTML report for the final version of the system. There is also a version that omits the test modules.

Look at the auditspec.jar module. Note that it has 8 incoming dependencies (afferent coupling) and 0 outgoing dependencies (efferent coupling). It’s abstractness is 0.67 and Instability is 0.00. This is a pretty good sign. Why? It’s instability is very low, implying it’s highly resistant to change. It possesses this resistance to change because of the large number of incoming dependencies. Any change to this module may have serious implications (ie. the ripple effect of change). But because it’s quite abstract, it’s less likely to change than a module with a lot implementation classes. The Distance for the module is 0.33 (ideal is 0.00), so we’re not far from where we ideally want to be.

In case you’re wondering about all these metrics I’m rambling about, you might want to take a look at the Martin Metrics. In general, without a utility like JarAnalyzer (or a module framework like OSGi), it would have been incredibly difficult to manage the modules composing this system.

A Note on Module Reuse

The reuse/release equivalency principles states that the unit of reuse is the unit of release. Modules are a unit of release, and therefore are a unit of reuse. Naturally, the devil is in the details, and we’re going to discuss these details here.

In Reuse: Is the Dream Dead, I spoke of the tension between reuse and use. That tension is evidently at play here. Earlier versions of the system had coarser-grained modules that were easier to use but more difficult to reuse. As we progressed, we broke these coarser-grained modules out into finer-grained modules, increasing their reusability but decreasing their ease of use. A perfect example of this is the bill.jar module. In the final version, it was quite reusable, since it was only dependent on the auditspec.jar module. However, this came at the price of useability.

To elaborate a bit more. In Part 4, the sixth refactoring, we decoupled the bill.jar and financial.jar modules so the two could be deployed independently (ie. increase reuse). But the runtime structure still has some dependencies. In order to reuse bill.jar, we need a BillPayer type. While an alternative BillPayer implementation could be created, the existing implementation is the BillPayAdapter in the mediator.jar module, which also has a relationship to the financial.jar module. This means that to use the bill.jar module without the mediator.jar and financial.jar modules would require a new consuming module to implement the BillPayer interface.

So what do we do if we want to break this runtime coupling? We should move the pay method on the Bill up to the BillPayAdapter class, and get rid of the BillPayer interface. Now the Bill class has no dependency on the BillPayer interface, but it also can’t make payments. Every action has an equal an opposite reaction, heh?

A Note on The Build

The build was a key element in helping enforce modularity (note: JarAnalyzer helped me manage module relationshps; the build enforced module relationships). Even a framework such as OSGi is only going to manage module relationships at runtime. I talk a bit more about this concept in The Two Faces of Modularity & OSGi, and it’s why we need really good tools that help us design more modular software. It’s our responsibility to craft the modules, and the build is one way to help put in place a system of checks and balances that help enforce modularity before discovering at runtime that one module has a relationship to another. In Part 2, as part of the third refactoring, we refactored our build script to a levelized build. Here’s the before and after build script.

This means that as we build each module, we include only the required modules in the build classpath. This is more easily explained by examining the build script for the final version, where you can clearly see what I’m talking about. Look at line 40. When we build the auditspec.jar module, we include nothing else in the build classpath because the auditspec.jar module doesn’t require anything. Now look at line 60, where we build the audit1.jar module. The auditspec.jar module built in the previous step is included in the classpath. This pattern recurs throughout the remainder of the script. Introducing a module dependency that violates the dependency structure enforced by the build results in a failed build.

A Note on Object Orientation

The way we managed, massaged, and modified module relationships was through OO techniques. By introducing interfaces and abstraction and allocating them to their respective modules, we were able to significantly change the module structure of the system. While we used OO to do this, OO is not a prerequisite. We could just as easily have used other techniques, such as aspects (AOP).

The Final Wrap

If you’ve made it this far through the tutorial, you’ve done well. Overall, this was a pretty lengthy and involved tutorial. In fact, I only touched briefly on all that I really had to say. Yeah, you’ve seen the abridged version here! I think I could pretty easily fill a book with the rest. Hmmm…

I use this same system and examples in quite a few of my talks on architecture and modularity. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to drop me a line via the comments or send me an e-mail (hint: look on the About Page). Or you can track me down at a conference, as I’m always happy to discuss topics related to modularity, architecture, and agility.

I have one final deliverable. As promised way back in Part 1, I intend to show an OSGi-ified version of the system. That will follow shortly.

From http://techdistrict.kirkk.com


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