Component Based Software Engineering

In the software engineering context, reuse is an idea both old and new. Programmers have reused ideas, abstractions, and processes since the earliest days of computing, but the early approach to reuse was ad hoc. Today, complex, high-quality computer-based systems must be built in very short time periods. This mitigates toward a more organized approach to reuse.

Component-based software engineering (CBSE) is a process that emphasizes the design and construction of computer-based systems using reusable software “components.” Clements [CLE95] describes CBSE in the following way: [CBSE] is changing the way large software systems are developed. [CBSE] embodies the “buy, don’t build” philosophy espoused by Fred Brooks and others. In the same way that early subroutines liberated the programmer from thinking about details, [CBSE] shifts the emphasis from programming software to composing software systems. Implementation has given way to integration as the focus. At its foundation is the assumption that there is sufficient commonality in many large software systems to justify developing reusable components to exploit and satisfy that commonality.

But a number of questions arise. Is it possible to construct complex systems by assembling them from a catalog of reusable software components? Can this be accomplished in a cost- and time-effective manner? Can appropriate incentives be established to encourage software engineers to reuse rather than reinvent? Is management willing to incur the added expense associated with creating reusable software components? Can the library of components necessary to accomplish reuse be created in a way that makes it accessible to those who need it? Can components that do exist be found by those who need them?

These and many other questions continue to haunt the community of researchers and industry professionals who are striving to make software component reuse a mainstream approach to software engineering.
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