Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Jayaram Krishnaswamy, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Jonathan Fries, AppDynamics Blog

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

Software Archeology: What Is It and Why Should Java Developers Care?

The Java language is very mature and most new Java projects aren't from scratch

The process of Software Archeology can really save a significant amount of work, or in many cases, rework. So what challenges do all developers face when asked to do these kinds of projects?

  • What have I just inherited?
  • What pieces should be saved?
  • Where are the scary sections of the code?
  • What kind of development team created this?
  • Where are the performance spots I should worry about?
  • What's missing that will most likely cause me significant problems downstream in the development process?
The overall approach is broken into a six-step process. By the time a team is finished, and has reviewed what is there and what is not, this process can drastically help define the go-forward project development strategy. The six steps include:
  • Visualization: a visual representation of the application's design.
  • Design Violations: an understanding of the health of the object model.
  • Style Violations: an understanding of the state the code is currently in.
  • Business Logic Review: the ability to test the existing source.
  • Performance Review: where are the bottlenecks in the source code?
  • Documentation: does the code have adequate documentation for people to understand what they're working on?
Most developers regard these steps as YAP (Yet Another Process), but in reality many of them should be part of the developer's daily process, so it shouldn't be too overwhelming. The next question is can these tasks be done by hand? From a purely technical point-of-view, the answer would have to be yes, but in today's world of shorter timelines and elevated user expectations, the time needed to do this by hand is unacceptable.

So if it really can't be done by hand, what tools do I need to get the job done? Let's break down the process step-by-step and look at the tools that could be used to complete the task. Some advanced IDEs exist that include all of these tools and there are open source-based tools that may be able to do some parts of the job.

Visualization is the first step to understanding what kind of code the developer will be working with. It always amazes me how many developers have never looked at a visualization of the code they've written. Many times key architecture issues can be discovered just by looking at an object diagram of the system. Things like relationships between objects and level of inheritance can be a real eye opener. The old adage is true: a picture can be worth a 1,000 lines of code. When thinking about visualization in an object-oriented language like Java, UML diagrams seems to be widely used and understood. Being able to reverse-engineer the code into a class diagram is the first tool that's needed. Later in the process it will be important to be able to reverse-engineer methods into sequence or communication diagrams for a better understanding of extremely complex classes and methods.

Once visualization of the system is done and reviewed, the next step is reviewing the system from a design violation standpoint. This can be done by using static code metrics. Using metrics gives the developer or team a way to check the health of the object design. Basic system knowledge like lines of code (LOC) or the ever-important cyclomatic complexity (CC) can give a lot of information to the reviewer.

Many developers have no idea how big or small the application they're working on is or where the most complex parts of the application are located. Using a select number of metrics, developers can pinpoint "trouble" areas; these should be marked for further review, because normally those areas are the ones that are asking to be modified. Further analysis can also be done on methods that have been marked as overly complex by generating sequence diagrams. These diagrams offer a condensed graphical representation and make it much easier for developers and management to understand the task of updating or changing the methods. Another valuable metric is JUnit testing Coverage (JUC). In many cases when code is being inherited a low or non-existent number around JUnit tests exists and should raise major concerns about making changes to the system. The biggest concern will most likely become how to ensure that changes made to the code or the fixes implemented are correct and don't break other parts of the system. By using the information generated by the metrics tools developers get a better understanding of what's been inherited and some of the complications around the product.

Style violations help complete the picture of the inherited code. Many developers argue that static code audits should be run first, and this is true from a new project perspective. However, when inheriting massive amounts of code, running metrics first usually gives more object health-based information. Once the health of the object design is determined and can point to various areas of the code that need significant work, the audits can further refine that knowledge.

Static code audits include all kind of rules checking that look for code consistency, standards, and bad practices. Audit tools like ours include 200+ audits and will help in understanding the complexity of the application under review. Advanced audit tools include rules for finding things like god classes, god methods, feature envy, and shotgun surgery. These advanced audits actually use some of the metrics to give the reviewers more information. Take god methods for example. This is a method in a class that gets called from everywhere, meaning from an object design standpoint that method has too much responsibility so making changes to that one method could have a dramatic effect on the entire system. Look at feature envy. This is almost the exact opposite of a god class; this is a class that doesn't do much and maybe should be re-factored back to its calling class. When estimating the amount of time to give to a particular enhancement or determine what kind of code has been inherited this kind of low-level understanding is worth a lot.

Business logic review focuses on the testability of an application. By using advanced metrics the amount of testing available can be determined in a few minutes. Inheriting a large amount of code and finding that no unit test exists for it is going to have a dramatic effect on estimates for enhancements, or make the developers realize they probably don't have a way to verify that any changes to the system are correct. The tools needed for testing business logic should include a code coverage product and an integrated unit testing product like JUnit. Having one of the two is okay, but having both opens a lot of new testing possibilities. First, by running the unit test with a code coverage tool, the code to be tested can be verified. Code coverage can also be used when you don't have the advanced audit tools discussed above, plus a good code coverage tool will show all class and methods included in the run of the test. Using an advanced audit like shotgun surgery will highlight a method that has a lot of dependencies but using unit testing and code coverage together ensures that changes to these types of methods can be fully tested and verified. Another advantage to a code coverage tool is found in QA, which runs the product testing scripts while code coverage is turned on. This will tell them two things: whether the test script is complete and whether there's test coverage for all of the applications code. The good thing about this piece of Software Archeology is that usually it can only get better. By adding additional tests, the end result should be a better running system.

The need for a good profiler is key to performance review. Using the tools and results from the business logic review, performance issues can be uncovered and fixed. A key metric to remember is that only around 5% of the code causes most performance issues. So having a handle on where code is complex makes ongoing maintenance faster and easier.

The last step is documentation. Doing all this work is great for the developer, reviewer, or team trying to understand the system. It would be great if that work could be captured and used going forward. Having an automatic documentation generator saves time, reduces overhead, and helps ensure the documentation is up-to-date. This will make it easier for new members joining a team or for the application to be passed to another team.

The ideas around Software Archeology are fairly straightforward; this article took an approach of inheriting a large amount of code and then being responsible for that code. Other expeditions into the code could produce useful design patterns, great algorithms to reuse, or major things to avoid. We all know that software is an asset so using Software Archeology can ensure we get the most out of that investment.

More Stories By Mike Rozlog

Mike Rozlog is with Embarcadero Technologies. In this role, he is focused on ensuring the family of Delphi developer products being created by Embarcadero meets the expectations of developers around the world. Much of his time is dedicated to discussing and explaining the technical and business aspects of Embarcadero’s products and services to analysts and other audiences worldwide. Mike was formerly with CodeGear, a developer tools group that was acquired by Embarcadero in 2008. Previously, he spent more than eight years working for Borland in a number of positions, including a primary role as Chief Technical Architect. A reputed author, Mike has been published numerous times. His latest collaboration is Mastering JBuilder from John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
trust and privacy in their ecosystem. Assurance and protection of device identity, secure data encryption and authentication are the key security challenges organizations are trying to address when integrating IoT devices. This holds true for IoT applications in a wide range of industries, for example, healthcare, consumer devices, and manufacturing. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lancen LaChance, vice president of product management, IoT solutions at GlobalSign, will teach IoT developers how t...
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT's direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Buildi...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
The demand for organizations to expand their infrastructure to multiple IT environments like the cloud, on-premise, mobile, bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. As this hybrid infrastructure increases, the challenge to monitor the security of these systems increases in volume and complexity. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty, Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, will show how properly configured and managed security architecture can...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, will discuss how leveraging the Industrial Interne...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
A critical component of any IoT project is the back-end systems that capture data from remote IoT devices and structure it in a way to answer useful questions. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle large data sets, but they are not well suited to many IoT-scale products and the need for real-time insights. At Fuze, we have developed a backend platform as part of our mobility-oriented cloud service that uses Big Data-based approache...
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, will explain how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.