Resource-based Verification for Robust Composition of Aspects

Author(s): 
P.E.A. Durr

Aspect Oriented Software Development has been proposed as a means to improve modularization of software in the presence of crosscutting concerns. Compared to object-oriented or procedural approaches, Aspect Oriented Programming (AOP) has not yet been applied in many industrial applications. In this thesis we investigate the application of AOP within an industrial context and propose a novel solution to the problem of behavioral conflicts between aspects.

We report on our experience transferring an aspect-oriented solution to a company called Advanced Semi-conductor Material Lithography (ASML).
We investigate the acceptance criteria for AOP in industry, based on two industrial cases studies. We present a process that includes quantification of the benefits of AOP and elicitation of key worries expressed by stakeholders.

We conducted a controlled experiment to assess the advantages and disadvantages of an aspect-based approach using a tracing example. Twenty developers from ASML were requested to carry out five maintenance scenarios. This experiment has shown that, in case the tracing concern is implemented using an AOP implementation instead of a procedural language, the development effort is on average 6% reduced while the impact of errors is reduced by 77%, for maintaining code related to tracing. For a subset of the scenarios, the results were statistically significant on a confidence interval of 95%.

The so-called aspect interference problem is one of the major concerns in introducing AOP. Aspects can be developed independently and behave correct in isolation. However, due to intended or unintended composition of aspects, undesired behavior can emerge. In this thesis we focus on behavioral conflicts between aspects at shared join points. These are illustrated by a realistic example based on crosscutting concerns from ASML. We present an approach for the detection of behavioral interference that is based on a novel abstraction of the behavior of aspects, using resources and operations. This abstraction enables the expression of behavior in a simple manner that is suitable for automated detection of interference among aspects. The approach employs a set of conflict detection rules that can be used to detect both generic conflicts as well as domain specific conflicts.

Our approach is general for AOP languages, its application to one specific AOP language Composition Filters is also illustrated in this thesis. The application to Composition Filters demonstrates how the use of a declarative advice language can be exploited for automated conflict detection. We detail the analysis process and discuss what information is required from the aspect developer to be able perform the analysis. We also discuss when static analysis is insufficient for detecting behavioral conflicts. We present a run time extension aiming at detecting dynamic conflicts. We discuss optimizations for this run time approach, which exploits the static verification results.

Finally, we propose three improvements to the Composition Filters model to support automated and manual reasoning even further. The first improvement separates what behavior is executed from when this behavior is executed. Secondly, we introduce atomic filters that can be used to build more complex filters. The semantics of these filters are well defined. Although this approach has clear benefits from an automated reasoning perspective, the introduction of atomic filters results in the definition of numerous filters for specifying more complex behavior. Therefore, we introduce a filter composition language that enables the declarative composition of (atomic) filters, such that composed filter behavior can be reused elsewhere.