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Report: Workshop on Object-Oriented Re-engineering (WOOR'97)
Zurich, Friday September 26, 1997

Version 1.0 -- Latest Revision: October, 22nd 1997


The ability to reengineer object-oriented systems has become a vital matter in today's software industry. Early adopters of the object-oriented programming paradigm are now facing the problem of transforming their object-oriented 'legacy' systems into full-fledged frameworks. Dealing with programs exceeding 10,000 lines of badly documented code definitely requires support from methodologies as well as tools.

During the ESEC/FSE'97 conference (1), a workshop was organised with the explicit goal to gather people working on solutions for object-oriented legacy systems. In here we report on the experiences exchanged, the solutions discussed and the ideas explored. More information can be found in the workshop proceedings [Demeyer,Gall'97] or via the world-wide web (http://www.iam.unibe.ch/~famoos/ESEC97/).

Prior to the workshop, participants were requested to submit a position paper describing their work on OO re-engineering. The accepted papers were collected in the workshop proceedings and distributed to the participants in advance so that people could get familiar with the material beforehand. 14 position papers were accepted for the workshop with 26 different authors. The workshop itself gathered 23 persons from 12 different countries in Europe, USA, Australia, and Japan.

The workshop started with a quick tour of the submitted papers covering topics such as code analysis and visualization, repositories, metrics, design patterns, cluster analysis, meta models, restructuring, testing, and architecture. Based on these topics, we split up the group in two separate task forces.

Analysis and Repositories

The first task force discussed analysis techniques and repository technology available for re-engineering. A prominent question was to what extent object-oriented re-engineering is different from 'conventional' re-engineering. It was concluded that re-engineering depends largely on the amount of structure inside the legacy system: OO re-engineering may benefit from explicit structuring primitives such classes and inheritance but --especially in hybrid approaches-- one cannot be sure that software engineers applied those primitives.

A second question was whether it is worthwhile to do a dynamic analysis, or whether a static analysis is sufficient. The question remained unanswered: dynamic analysis is hard to do and generates huge amounts of data, and it is not sure whether the benefits outweigh the costs. On the other hand, pure static analysis cannot address all of the re-engineering issues.

Concerning repository technology, it was agreed that no approach can store all available information and so trade-offs must be made to restrict the repository to a manageable size. This trade off is especially important, since a re-engineering repository must be able to store extra information in addition to what can be extracted from source code. An important area for such extra information is what is required by all kinds of visualization tools.

Finally the participants compiled a list of the tools they have found useful during their re-engineering projects.

Restructuring and Tools

The second task force discussed how one can restructure object-oriented systems and to what extent tool support is required. The work was organised around a number of questions, the first being 'What is the problem?'. Here we came up with a non-exhaustive list of cases where re-engineering is appropriate; some of them were specific for OO others were not. Part of the list was based on the case studies of the FAMOOS project [FAMOOS'97]. The second question was 'How serious is the problem?'. Everybody agreed that it was imperative to publish work on good examples of the necessity to restructure software systems.

The third question discussed in length was 'How do we restructure a legacy system?'. The task force classified the answer into three layers of targets for restructuring: (1) classes, (2) patterns, and (3) frameworks. For restructuring into classes, it seems that starting from (persistent) data is at least a workable approach. After identifying the classes one can concentrate on the methods and finally start to refactor the class hierachy to make the system more flexible. Concerning restructuring into patterns, the general feeling was that it would be useful and that it is feasible to a certain extent. To restructure into frameworks, the group pointed out that frameworks are not necessarily implemented in an OO medium and that the hardest problem seems to be identifying the common functionality that needs to be factored out in the framework design.

The final question concerned how much of the original system is to be preserved in the restructuring process. We agreed that it is hard to come up with a fool-proof definition of 'semantic preserving' or (what seems to be the weaker variant) 'behaviour preserving'. Moreover, proving that a certain restructuring operation preserves behaviour is even harder -- all one can do is agree on a certain model and then prove that the operation preserves behaviour with respect to that model. Viewn from that perspective, it seems that it might be useful to define a model where it is easy to come up with behaviour preserving operations and worry about how to extract that model later.


The workshop showed that the need for object-oriented re-engineering can be seen from at least two perspectives: (1) re-engineering procedural systems to object-oriented; and (2) re-engineering object-oriented systems to improve their quality. The amount of problems that have to be adressed in each of these approaches showed that more practical research is required. ESPRIT projects such as FAMOOS and ARES, that concentrate on several parts of the problem, can contribute a lot to solve at least some of the research issues.


Demeyer, S. and Gall, H. (editors) "Proceedings of the ESEC/FSE'97 Workshop on Object-Oriented Re-engineering". Technical Report TUV-1841-97-10, Technical University of Vienna, Austria, August 1997.
FAMOOS Newsletter Number 02. July 1997. See http://www.sema.es/projects/FAMOOS/
ESPRIT project ARES (Architectural Reasoning for Embedded Systems), see http://www.infosys.tuwien.ac.at/Projects/ARES/
(1) ESEC/FSE'97 was a joint meeting of the European Software Engineering Conference and the ACM SIGSOFT's Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering in Zurich, Switzerland, September 22-25, 1997.

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