Welcome!

Java Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Lori MacVittie, Trevor Parsons, Peter Silva, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Java

Java: 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
Noted IoT expert and researcher Joseph di Paolantonio (pictured below) has joined the @ThingsExpo faculty. Joseph, who describes himself as an “Independent Thinker” from DataArchon, will speak on the topic of “Smart Grids & Managing Big Utilities.” Over his career, Joseph di Paolantonio has worked in the energy, renewables, aerospace, telecommunications, and information technology industries. His expertise is in data analysis, system engineering, Bayesian statistics, data warehouses, business intelligence, data mining, predictive methods, and very large databases (VLDB). Prior to DataArchon, he served as a VP and Principal Analyst with Constellation Group. He is a member of the Boulder (Colo.) Brain Trust, an organization with a mission “to benefit the Business Intelligence and data management industry by providing pro bono exchange of information between vendors and independent analysts on new trends and technologies and to provide vendors with constructive feedback on their of...
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices – computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be!
Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation and integration; and visibility through intelligent business operations and big data.
There will be 50 billion Internet connected devices by 2020. Today, every manufacturer has a propriety protocol and an app. How do we securely integrate these "things" into our lives and businesses in a way that we can easily control and manage? Even better, how do we integrate these "things" so that they control and manage each other so our lives become more convenient or our businesses become more profitable and/or safe? We have heard that the best interface is no interface. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Co-Founder & CTO at Octoblu, Inc., will discuss how these devices generate enough data to learn our behaviors and simplify/improve our lives. What if we could connect everything to everything? I'm not only talking about connecting things to things but also systems, cloud services, and people. Add in a little machine learning and artificial intelligence and now we have something interesting...
Last week, while in San Francisco, I used the Uber app and service four times. All four experiences were great, although one of the drivers stopped for 30 seconds and then left as I was walking up to the car. He must have realized I was a blogger. None the less, the next car was just a minute away and I suffered no pain. In this article, my colleague, Ved Sen, Global Head, Advisory Services Social, Mobile and Sensors at Cognizant shares his experiences and insights.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) irreversibly encoded. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, will look at how this identity problem can be solved and discuss ways to use existing web identities for real-time communication.
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT. Attendees will learn real-world benefits of WebRTC and explore future possibilities, as WebRTC and IoT intersect to improve customer service.
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, will share some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, an Open Source Cloud Communications company that helps the shift from legacy IN/SS7 telco networks to IP-based cloud comms. An early investor in multiple start-ups, he still finds time to code for his companies and contribute to open source projects.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to create new business models as significant as those that were inspired by the Internet and the smartphone 20 and 10 years ago. What business, social and practical implications will this phenomenon bring? That's the subject of "Monetizing the Internet of Things: Perspectives from the Front Lines," an e-book released today and available free of charge from Aria Systems, the leading innovator in recurring revenue management.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges.
There’s Big Data, then there’s really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at 6th Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, to discuss how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Erik Lagerway, Co-founder of Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services to the modern P2P RTC era of OTT cloud assisted services.
While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehension and conference efficiency.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, will discuss single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example to explain some of these concepts including when to use different storage models.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridstore delivers vmOptimized™ Storage that self-optimizes to each application or VM across both virtual and physical environments. Leveraging a grid architecture, Gridstore delivers the first end-to-end storage QoS to ensure the most important App or VM performance is never compromised. The storage grid, that uses Gridstore’s performance optimized nodes or capacity optimized nodes, starts with as few a...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace. These technological reforms have not only changed computers and smartphones, but are also changing the data processing model for all information devices. In particular, in the area known as M2M (Machine-To-Machine), there are great expectations that information with a new type of value can be produced using a variety of devices and sensors saving/sharing data via the network and through large-scale cloud-type data processing. This consortium believes that attaching a huge number of devic...
Innodisk is a service-driven provider of industrial embedded flash and DRAM storage products and technologies, with a focus on the enterprise, industrial, aerospace, and defense industries. Innodisk is dedicated to serving their customers and business partners. Quality is vitally important when it comes to industrial embedded flash and DRAM storage products. That’s why Innodisk manufactures all of their products in their own purpose-built memory production facility. In fact, they designed and built their production center to maximize manufacturing efficiency and guarantee the highest quality of our products.
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. Over the summer Gartner released its much anticipated annual Hype Cycle report and the big news is that Internet of Things has now replaced Big Data as the most hyped technology. Indeed, we're hearing more and more about this fascinating new technological paradigm. Every other IT news item seems to be about IoT and its implications on the future of digital business.
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. Download Slide Deck: ▸ Here
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.