Sunday, June 09, 2002

More About Components. It appears that Linda and I are locked into some spiral, because my chosen topic before she posted was also about components. Foundations of Component-Based Systems is an excellent secondary companion to Component Based Software Engineering: Putting the Pieces Together by Heineman and Councill. It is a secondary text for practitioners and academics that will provide insights into a narrow slice of component-based software engineering issues. Organization is a collection of papers that are grouped in four sections:
  1. Frameworks and Architectures. Consists of four papers of which I particularly liked Key Concepts in Architecture Definition Languages and Acme: Architectural Description of Component-Based Systems because of professional interests in ADLs.
  2. Object-Based Specification and Verification. The three papers in this section were focused on narrow topics; however, I gained much from Modular Specification and Verification Techniques for Object-Oriented Software Components. This paper alone made the book worthwhile to me, but this is a subjective remark with which you may not agree.
  3. Formal Methods and Semantics. Each of the three papers in this section were, in my opinion, valuable. My favorite, Toward a Normative Theory for Component-Based System Design and Analysis, contained a viable framework and approach to component design, which is a topic that receives little coverage in other component-based books.
  4. Reactive and Distributed Systems. The two papers in this section are interesting in that their topics intersect nicely with the discipline of semantic web engineering. If your interests or work also includes that knowledge area then the papers (Composition of Reactive System Components and Using I/O Automata for Developing Distributed Systems)will 'connect the dots' in a manner of speaking.
Much of the material in this book is academic and/or theoretical, but is backed up with results from projects and supporting project data. What I like most is that the material uses tools and technologies that are hot topics, such as UML, EJB and COM.

The second book is Component-Based Product Line Engineering with UML. Where most books on the subject cover the component-based development life cycle at a high level with an emphasis on the development, deployment and QA aspects, this one is about requirements and design. That is what sets it apart and an important work. It becomes even more important if you are using or trying to adapt the Unified Process to a component-based environment. Obviously if your environment also includes product line development the value of this book increases even more.

The book contains five parts which build upon each other. Part 1 is a thorough, 60-page introduction that compares and contrasts development life cycles, summarizes the approach the book proposes, and the concepts, artifacts and process associated with "KobrA" (a German abbreviation for "Component-based application development".

Part 2 is devoted to component modeling based on the KobrA component model, and covers all aspects in 153 pages. This part ends with an excellent introduction to patterns and UML, which lays the groundwork for the next part. The information in this part drills down into requirements and specifications, which is one of the reasons I cited above that sets this book apart.

In Part 3 (Embodiment) refinement and translation, component reuse and incremental development are covered in detail. Part 4 introduces and covers product line, framework and application engineering. It is here that the KobrA foundation laid in the previous parts begins to become coherent and the viability of the approach becomes apparent.

Part 5 is my favorite because, like Part 2, it gives a view of component-based development that most books gloss over. In particular, the chapters on maintenance and QA are filled with information that reflects the realities of component-based development, and the chapter on quality modeling is among the best treatments of the topic in any book or paper I've recently read. The 60 pages of appendices are also valuable sources of information and knowledge about metamodels, maintenance and process. I found this book to be an invaluable reference and recommend it to anyone who is heavily involved in component-based software engineering in conjunction with product line development.

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