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Abstract

Software engineers are increasingly relying on object-oriented (OO) technology to develop adaptable software systems. However, the use of OO does not guarantee adaptability. Designers need to engineer adaptability into the software, even with OO. They should also consider the different factors that software systems require to be adaptable, namely, extensibility, flexibility, performance tunability and fixability.
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gramming system. ACM Comput. Surveys 23 (Mar. 1991), 91–124.
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of Reusable Object Oriented Software. Addison-Wesley, NY, 1994.
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ceedings of OOPSLA ‘92 (Vancouver, B.C., Oct. 1992).
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AMUND AARSTEN is a Ph.D. candidate at the Politecnico di Tori-
no in Torino, Italy; email: amund@polito.it
DAVIDE BRUGALI is a Ph.D. candidate at the Politecnico di Tori-
no in Torino, Italy; email: brugali@polito.it
GIUSEPPE MENGA is a professor and chair of Automatic Con-
trols at the Politecnico di Tornino in Torino, Italy; email:
menga@polito.it
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© ACM 0002-0782/96/1000 $3.50
58 October 1996/Vol. 39, No. 10 COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM
INtoday’s rapidly changing busi-
ness environment, adaptability is a
critical weapon for survival. Busi-
nesses must be adaptable in order
to meet increasingly narrow mar-
ket windows. This need for adapt-
ability at the business level has
changed the focus in many business-
es from efficiency to opportunity,
from reducing costs to generating
revenue. For example, an efficient
but inflexible system might reduce
costs, but might also make it impos-
sible for the business to engage in a
new revenue-generating opportuni-
ty. Those businesses that desire this
adaptability are redoubling their
efforts to make their underlying peo-
ple- and software-systems adaptable,
particularly for those systems that
could inhibit business-level adapt-
ability.
Because of these forces, software
developers need to deal with change
like never before. This need for
adaptable software systems is driving
the move toward object-oriented
(OO) technology in many circles.
Certainly one of the promises of OO
has been its ability to make software
more adaptable.
Using OO, however, does not
guarantee that the resulting software
will be adaptable. Adaptability must
be explicitly engineered into the
software, even with OO. Further-
more, adaptability is not a generic
quality of the software system as a
whole: Software systems are adapt-
able in specific, designated ways, if at
all. Therefore the adaptability must
not only be explicitly engineered
into the software, it must be engi-
neered into the software in places
where it will do the most good to the
business.
It is no longer acceptable if a soft-
ware system is correct and solves the
problem for which it was designed.
Ideally the system will be able to
grow and change to solve slightly dif-
ferent problems over time. This cor-
responds to the three stages of the
evolution of software development:
Build the right thing, build the thing
right, and support the next thing.
Build the right thing corresponds to
validation. The requirements must
be accurately understood. There
continues to be a great deal of effort
spent trying to figure out what the
right thing really is. In today’s
world, however, the definition of
“right” changes between the time
when the perceived sponsor says
what they want and the time the
software is delivered.
Because the notion of “the right
thing” is a moving target, the only
way to satisfy the sponsor’s desires is
to make the software adaptable.
Only if the software is adaptable will
it be reasonable to change the thing
that gets built (which will be
“wrong” by then) into the thing that
the sponsor wants at that time.
Build the thing right corresponds to
verification, correctness, and defect
rate. Although everyone has always
been concerned with reliability and
faithful translation of the require-
ments into a solution, the market
was not always willing to pay a lot of
extra money for reliability.
Although there still is not a general
willingness to pay extra for low
defect rates, there seems to be an
increasing intolerance for defects.
In cases where standards have creat-
ed a level playing field, customers
today appear to have less brand loy-
Aspects of Software Adaptability
Mohamed Fayad and Marshall P. Cline
-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t
COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM October 1996/Vol. 39, No. 10 59
alty than ever, and are increasingly
willing to buy a competitor’s prod-
uct if that will be more reliable.
There are probably many reasons
for this shift in attitude, among
them the fact that software current-
ly runs core business functions
rather than just being a tool for
finance, and because the average
software customer is less technical
due to the huge increase in the
market breadth. But whatever the
reasons, customers are demanding
simpler interfaces and more reli-
able results.
Because fixing defects invariably
means changing the software, the
best way to build the thing right is to
engineer adaptability into the sys-
tem. Only if the software is adaptable
will it be reasonable to introduce
changes and/or fix defects with a
low probability that the new changes
will introduce new defects.
Support the next thing. There are
several ways that today’s software can
provide significant value when build-
ing tomorrow’s software. One such
approach is to build reusable parts
that are viewed as “Lego” pieces that
can be snapped together later to
build something different. This
approach clearly works in the small
(e.g., with simple class libraries) and
in relatively low-level areas such as
GUI and database frameworks. How-
ever, in our experience it has less
success at the higher levels in busi-
ness applications. There are many
reasons for this, but the simplest is
the general tension between
reusability and usability: The more
reusable something is, the more
dials and knobs it needs, and this in
turn makes it less easy to use.
On the other hand, making
something easier to use typically
reduces its ability to be reused in a
different domain or for a different
purpose (single-purpose tools are
usually easier to use than multipur-
pose tools). Because of this and
other factors, the high-level compo-
nents in one product are not gener-
ally reusable when building a
different product, and making
these high-level components more
reusable across problem domains
typically increases the cost of using
them at all.
The other way to leverage cur-
rent software investment is engi-
neer adaptability into the system,
which makes it feasible to adapt the
existing system to fit tomorrow’s
needs. This is slightly different than
the reusable parts approach, since
the asset in this second approach is
the adaptable system, whereas in
the reusable parts approach the
asset is the pile of parts with which
the systems are built. Another way
to look at the difference between
these approaches is to notice that
the reusable parts approach relies
on programmers to build tomor-
row’s systems from today’s parts,
whereas the adaptable system
approach is like building a spread-
sheet: The adaptable system can be
customized by end users, or at least
by a lower caliber of developer.
Spreadsheets were an early
example of adaptable systems that
were completely customizable by
end users. The most recent exam-
ple is the Web browser, since, in
combination with the Web author-
ing tools, normal users can publish
static content in a complex distrib-
uted application with a simple
WYSIWYG editor.
There are four factors systems
generally need to be adaptable; two
imply high-level changes (extensi-
bility and flexibility), and two imply
low-level changes (tunability and
fixability).
Extensibility means it is easy to
change the system’s capabilities in
amount, but not in kind. For exam-
ple, a system is extensible if it is easy
to add another graphical device, or
another drawing shape, or another
of what it already has.
Flexibility means it is easy to
change the system’s capabilities in
kind. For example, taking some-
thing that was a graphical system
and making it sensory- or sound-
based. Flexibility is often harder
than extensibility, especially when
on-the-fly changes are desired.
Performance tunability can also be
thought of as a change activity. A
tunable system can be easily
changed in ways that affect perfor-
mance. For example, CORBA
objects are location-independent,
which allows objects to be physically
moved around on the network (e.g.,
to reduce network traffic) without
impacting very much, if any, code.
Java is even more extreme in this
aspect, since the objects can be
moved to any machine on the net-
work on the fly. Naturally none of
this negates the need to do up-front
performance engineering work [1].
However the complexity of current
systems makes it more and more
unlikely that this performance engi-
neering work will be perfect, if for
no other reason than the fact the
software has changed since the per-
formance engineering work was
done, therefore it is increasingly
necessary to engineer tunability into
today’s system.
Fixability is defined as the ability
to fix one thing without breaking
two other things. This can be very
difficult in large systems. It requires,
among other things, separation of
interface from implementation,
and fairly tight specification of the
behavior of each component. How
design patterns fit in: The most
powerful design patterns exist to
support some kind of change. Each
of these patterns provides a specific
axis of change, a specific hinge,
where the system will be adaptable.
Very generally speaking, use a
design pattern wherever you need
such a hinge.
References
1. Berg, B., Cline, M., Girou, M. Lessons
learned from the OS/400 OO project.
Commun. ACM 38, 10 (1995), 54--64.
2. Cline, M. and Fayad, M. Object-Oriented
Design Patterns. (1995) Course notes, 800
pages.
Mohamed Fayad (fayad@cs.unr.edu) is an
associate professor at the University of Neva-
da, Reno. Marshall P. Cline (cline@parashift.
com) is the president of Paradigm Shift, Inc.,
Potsdam, N.Y.
©ACM 0002-0782/96/1000
t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-
... Além disso, um sistema de software dito adaptável pode tolerar mudanças em seus ambientes sem a necessidade de intervenção externa. Segundo Fayad e Cline [41] existem quatro fatores que normalmente tornam um sistema adaptável: extensibilidade, flexibilidade, tunability e fixability. Os dois primeiros implicam em mudanças de mais alto nível e os dois últimos implicam em mudanças de baixo nível. ...
... Tunability é característica da capacidade de melhorar aspectos relacionados a performance. E por fim, a Fixability é a como a capacidade de consertar uma IndoLoR -An Adaptable Platform for Indoor Location Figura 6. Visão Arquitetural de Componentes e Conectores coisa sem quebrar outras duas outras coisas [41]. ...
... Adaptation has been mentioned in several occurrences of research work, and garnered interest among researchers for some time: (Fayad and Cline 1996); (Yarvis, Reiher et al. 1999); (Narayanan, Flinn et al. 2000); (South, Lenaghan et al. 2000); (Efstratiou, Cheverst et al. 2001); (Aksit and Choukair 2003); (Keeney and Cahill 2003). Adaptation is still of interest in the pervasive computing field. ...
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... Having an adaptable learning system will result in more coverage of different user requirements, targets and available resources. During the preliminary work in this domain, Fayad and Cline (1996) discuss four factors which are generally required when working on developing an adaptable system. These are extensibility, flexibility, tunability and fixability. ...
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