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Embedded Design Rationale in Software Architecture

Embedded Design Rationale in Software Architecture

Rafael Capilla

Universidad Rey Juan Carlos

Madrid, Spain

Abstract

Theincreasing interest to consider design decisionsanditsrationaleasan inherent part of the softwarearchitecturedevelopment process has led to a number of research works that promote thecapturinganduseof the architecturally significant decisions. Hence,thestakeholders can keep track of the reasons of changes. This paper explores a variety of initiatives from previousworksandadvocates for an “embedded use ofdesignrationale”in software architecting activities with tool support.

the reasons that led to a particular design solution,aswell as the design alternatives considered and evaluated. Therefore, thecommunication between the stakeholders can be enhanced if we are able to explain the reasons of the decisions made.Thispapersummarizescurrent state of the art related to design decisions and promotes theuseof“embedded designrationale”inordertoincorporate design decisions as a usual asset in architecting.

2. Background

2.1 Representing Design Knowledge

Researchersin the software architecture field have proposedtemplatesofattributes for capturing the mostrelevantinformationabout key design decisions [7, 15, 20], including the semantics of the links thatconnectdecisions to requirements andarchitectures as well as thedependencies between decisions. Also, the use of ontologies for organizing and visualizingdifferenttypesof decisions is stated in [1, 15, 18]; as well as modelsable to describe the relationships between thetraditional software artifacts and thedesigndecisions[7, 21]. As a result, the inclusionofdesigndecisionsanddesignrationale explicitly linked to architectures is currentlybeingdiscussed in the upcoming ISO/IEC42010standard (Draft WD4, Jan 2009) for architecturaldescription of software-intensive systems.

2.2 Processes

Asetof complementary processes enrich now the traditionalmodeling task. Making decisions, evaluatingdesign alternatives, searching for similar solutions,orsharing decisions to others, are examples thatbelongtothe reasoning activity [8, 17, 21].

2.3 Prototype Research Tools

Someofthe approaches mentioned before have been implemented in a variety of prototype research tools (e.g.: Archium [13], AREL [19], PAKME[2],ADDSS [6], The Knowledge Architect [14],SEURAT[5],EAGLE [11], The Architectural Knowledge Wiki[22]) that highlight the importanceofdesignrationale.Thesetools provide capturing and documentation

1. Introduction

The shift perceived by software architects since 2004that attempts to include architectural designdecisions as part of the architectingactivity is becomingmore and more importantforresearchersandprofessional softwarearchitects. As Bosch stated in 2004 [3], a software architecture should be seen “as theresult of a set of design decisions rather than a setofcomponents and connectors”. In thiscontext,softwarearchitects need to assumenew roles acting as decisionmakersrather than mere software modelers. Because thereasoning process that guides the design phase oftenremainsimplicit in the architect’s mind, the designdecisions and its underlyingrationaleareoftenrelegated and never recorded. Thus, this tacitprocessand the design decisions made are overlookedandnever made explicit neither documented. Also,theimportanceofrationale management for softwareengineering has been stated in [9], and softwaremaintenance can benefit fromthe decisions captured,inparticular in those cases where an understandingofasystem is required due to, for instance, anunavailabilityoftheexperts or system’s creators (e.g.: staff turnover).As mentioned in [16] “long-term benefits and reduced maintenance costs should motivate users tocapturethedesign rationale, particularly in successive iterations of the system as it evolves” and such benefits should be supported by empiricalevidence [10]. In addition, knowledgesharingbecomes more important tocommunicate,not only the final architecture, but also

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