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Spring: The Art of Using GRASP Patterns

Spring makes things easy for software designers

When we searched for design pattern articles, we found documentation concerning "Gang of Four" patterns. They are very useful and contribute to a well-designed application. But when I discovered GRASP principles , I advised any one interested to improve his skills design to look at these principles. It gives the fundamental rules of design. In this article we will discover some GRASP principles used by Spring, and the advantages of using them.

Spring is one of the most popular application developement framework for entreprise Java. The Spring Framework does not impose any specific programming model, it has become popular in the Java community as an alternative to, replacement for, or even addition to the Enterprise JavaBean (EJB) model.

Spring makes things easy for software designers, it gives them a good basis to have a well designed projects. but what about Spring itself it's well designed also? To try answering this question let's X-Ray some Spring jars with JavaDepend and discover some designs facts. After analysis here's the dependency graph between all jars analyzed:

And the Matrix view give us more details about the dependency weight between these jars.  

GRASP principles coupling
Low coupling is desirable because a change in one area of an application will require less changes throughout the entire application. In the long run, this could alleviate a lot of time, effort, and cost associated with modifying and adding new features to an application.

Using interfaces and abstract classes can improve the low coupling and we can evaluate the abstractness of a defined module by the following metric:

A = Na / Nc Where:

* A = abstractness of a modulke Zero is a completely concrete module. One is a completely abstract module.

* Na = number of abstract classes in the module.

* Nc = number of concrete classes in the module.

Here's the abstractness of all Spring jars analyzed:

Let's discover all interaces of jars analyzed, for that we execute the following request:


And to have a better idea of Spring interfaces, the treemap view give us an alternative way to see visually the code elements concerned by a request.

Having a lot of interfaces is not suficient to be sure that low coupling is enforced, the question is these interfaces are used? for that let's search for the most used types inside Spring:

All most used types are Class utilities, exceptions or interfaces, and when it concern a logic layer the interface is used. With a good abstractness ratio, and many interfaces used we can say that Spring enforce low coupling, that's make it very flexible.

Factory: When we use interfaces, one interesting question is: who is responsible of creating concrete implementations? Spring provides a good solution using dependency injection, but it's not the way used inside Spring itself. Spring use Factories to do this job, and as you can see it contains many factory classes:

High cohesion The single responsibility principle states that a class should have more than one reason to change. Such a class is said to be cohesive. A high LCOM value generally pinpoints a poorly cohesive class. There are several LCOM metrics. The LCOM takes its values in the range [0-1]. The LCOMHS (HS stands for Henderson-Sellers) takes its values in the range [0-2]. Note that the LCOMHS metric is often considered as more efficient to detect non-cohesive types. LCOMHS value higher than 1 should be considered alarming.

SELECT TYPES WHERE LCOMHS > 0.95 AND NbFields > 10 AND NbMethods >10

Only 4 classes are considered as no cohesive.

Information Expert Information Expert is a principle used to determine where to delegate responsibilities. These responsibilities include methods, computed fields and so on. Using the principle of Information Expert a general approach to assigning responsibilities is to look at a given responsibility, determine the information needed to fulfill it, and then determine where that information is stored. The Eferent  Coupling metric can be an interesting metric to evaluate if some types are more responsabilities, and if they are candidate to be refactored.

The Efferent Coupling for a particular type is the number of types it directly depends on.


These types have a high efferent coupling,and maybe there are candidate to refactoring.

Polymorphism According to Polymorphism, responsibility of defining the variation of behaviors based on type is assigned to the types for which this variation happens. This is achieved using polymorphic operations. Let's search for all polymorph methods, for that we can execute the following CQL request:


The treemap view give us a good idea of using polymorphism inside Spring:

Protected Variations The Protected Variations pattern protects elements from the variations on other elements (objects, systems, subsystems) by wrapping the focus of instability with an interface and using polymorphism to create various implementations of this interface. The “Abstractness vs Instability” graph can be useful to detect projects that will be difficult to change.

This following post describe the utility of this graph and how to exploit it to improve the design.

Almost all jars are inside green zone, it's a good point when changes are needed for maintenance or evolution.

Spring use all GRASP principles, that makes it simple to understand and maintain, and developers can learn many things when discovering and analyzing Spring source code. So give a look inside the source and enjoy with all design best practices implemented.

More Stories By Lahlali Issam

Lahlali Issam Lead Developer at JavaDepend, a tool to manage and understand complex Java code. With JavaDepend, software quality can be measured using Code Metrics, visualized using Graphs and Treemaps, and queried using CQL language, a SQL like to query the code base.

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