Programming language abstractions for extensible software components

With the growing demand for software systems that can cope with an increasing range of information processing tasks, the reuse of code from existing systems is essential to reduce the production costs of systems as well as the time to manufacture new software applications. For this reason, component-based software development techniques gain increasing attention in industry and research. Component technology is driven by the promise of building software by composing off-the-shelf components provided by a software component industry. Therefore, component technology emphasizes the independent development and deployment of components. Even though components look like perfect reusable assets, they embody general software solutions that need to be adapted to deploymentspecific needs and therefore cannot be deployed "as is" in general. Furthermore, as architectural building blocks, components are subject to continuous change. For these reasons, it is essential that components can easily be extended by both the component manufacturer to create new versions of components and by thirdparties that have to adapt components for use in specific software systems. Since in both cases concrete changes cannot be foreseen in general, mechanisms to integrate unanticipated extensions into components and component systems are required. While today many modern programming techniques, methodologies, and languages provide means that are well suited for creating static black-box components, the design and implementation of extensible components and extensible software systems often remains a challenge. In practice, extensibility is mostly achieved through ad-hoc techniques, like the disciplined use of design patterns and component frameworks, often in conjunction with meta-programming. The use of design patterns and component frameworks requires a rigorous coding discipline and often forces programmers to write tedious "boilerplate" code by hand, which makes this approach fragile and error-prone. Meta-programming techniques on the other hand are rather code-centric and mostly source code-based. Therefore, they are often not very suitable for today's component technology practice that stresses the binary reuse of black-box components. In this thesis I argue that technical difficulties in the development of extensible software components are due to the lack of appropriate programming language abstractions. To overcome the problems, concrete programming language mechanisms are proposed to facilitate the creation of extensible software. The proposed language features are strongly typed to help the programmer extend systems safely and consistently. The first part of the thesis illustrates the vision of truly extensible software components by proposing a simple theoretical model of first-class components built on top of a conventional class-based object-oriented language. This typed model includes a small set of primitives to dynamically build, compose, and extend software components safely, while supporting features like explicit context dependencies, late composition, unanticipated component extensibility, and strong encapsulation. The second part takes some ideas from the theoretical model and applies them in the design of the programming language Keris. Keris extends Java with an expressive module system featuring extensible modules. The main contributions are: A module system that combines the benefits of classical module systems for imperative languages with the advantages of modern component-oriented formalisms. In particular, modules are reusable, generic software components that can be linked with different cooperating modules without the need for resolving context dependencies by hand. A module composition scheme based on aggregation that makes the static architecture of a system explicit, and A type-safe mechanism for extending atomic modules aswell as fully linked systems statically by replacing selected subsystems with compatible versions without needing to re-link the full system. The extensibility mechanism is non-invasive; i.e. it preserves the original version and does not require access to source code. The overall design of the language was guided by the aim to develop a pragmatic, implementable, and conservative extension of Java which supports software development according to the open/closed principle: Systems written in Keris are closed in the sense that they can be executed, but they are open for unanticipated extensions that add, refine, or replace modules or whole subsystems. The last part of the thesis finally presents a case study which compares an extensible Java compiler implemented using mainstream object-oriented language features with one that was written in Keris. It shows how in practice, extensible modules can be used to develop extensible systems safely and efficiently.

    Thèse École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, n° 2930 (2004)
    Section d'informatique
    Faculté informatique et communications
    Institut d'informatique fondamentale
    Jury: Karl Aberer, Rachid Guerraoui, Mira Mezini, Oscar Nierstrasz

    Public defense: 2004-3-12


    Record created on 2005-03-16, modified on 2016-08-08

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