Software Engineering-Domain Analysis

Analysis for object-oriented systems can occur at many different levels of abstraction. At the business or enterprise level, the techniques associated with OOA can be coupled with a business process engineering approach  in an effort to define classes, objects, relationships, and behaviors that model the entire business. At the business area level, an object model that describes the workings of a particular business area (or a category of products or systems) can be defined. At an application level, the object model focuses on specific customer requirements as those requirements affect an application to be built.
OOA at the lowest level of abstraction falls within the general purview of object-oriented software engineering and is the focus of all other sections of this chapter. In this section, we conducted OOA at a middle level of abstraction. This activity, called domain analysis, is performed when an organization wants to create a library of reusable classes (components) that will be broadly applicable to an entire category of applications.
Reuse and Domain Analysis

Object-technologies are leveraged through reuse. Consider a simple example. The analysis of requirements for a new application indicates that 100 classes are needed. Two teams are assigned to build the application. Each will design and construct a final product. Each team is populated by people with the same skill levels and experience. Team A does not have access to a class library, and therefore, it must develop all 100 classes from scratch. Team B uses a robust class library and finds that 55 classes already exist. It is highly likely that

1. Team B will finish the project much sooner than Team A.
2. The cost of Team B’s product will be significantly lower than the cost of Team A’s product.
3. The product produced by Team B will have fewer delivered defects than Team A’s product.

Although the margin by which Team B’s work would exceed Team A’s accomplishments is open to debate, few would argue that reuse provides Team B with a substantial advantage.

But where did the “robust class library” come from? How were the entries in the library determined to be appropriate for use in new applications? To answer these questions, the organization that created and maintained the library had to apply domain analysis.

The Domain Analysis Process

Firesmith  describes software domain analysis in the following way:

Software domain analysis is the identification, analysis, and specification of common requirements from a specific application domain, typically for reuse on multiple projects within that application domain . . . [Object-oriented domain analysis is] the identification, analysis, and specification of common, reusable capabilities within a specific application domain, in terms of common objects, classes, subassemblies, and frameworks . . .

The “specific application domain” can range from avionics to banking, from multimedia video games to applications within an MRI device. The goal of domain analysis is straightforward: to find or create those classes that are broadly applicable, so that they may be reused.

Using terminology that was introduced earlier in this book, domain analysis may be viewed as an umbrella activity for the software process. By this we mean that domain analysis is an ongoing software engineering activity that is not connected to any one software project. In a way, the role of a domain analyst is similar to the role of a master toolsmith in a heavy manufacturing environment. The job of the toolsmith is to design and build tools that may be used by many people doing similar but not necessarily the same jobs. The role of the domain analyst is to design and build reusable components that may be used by many people working on similar but not necessarily the same applications.

Figure illustrates key inputs and outputs for the domain analysis process. Sources of domain knowledge are surveyed in an attempt to identify objects that can be reused across the domain. In essence domain analysis is quite similar to knowledge engineering. The knowledge engineer investigates a specific area of interest in an attempt to extract key facts that may be of use in creating an expert system or artificial neural network. During domain analysis, object (and class) extraction occurs.

The domain analysis process can be characterized by a series of activities that begin with the identification of the domain to be investigated and end with a specification of the objects and classes that characterize the domain. Berard [BER93] suggests the following activities:

Define the domain to be investigated. To accomplish this, the analyst must first isolate the business area, system type, or product category of interest. Next, both OO and non-OO “items” must be extracted. OO items include specifications, designs, and code for existing OO application classes; support classes (e.g., GUI classes or database access classes); commercial off-theshelf (COTS) component libraries that are relevant to the domain; and test cases. Non-OO items encompass policies, procedures, plans, standards, and guidelines; parts of existing non-OO applications (including specification, design, and test information); metrics; and COTS non-OO software.

Categorize the items extracted from the domain. The items are organized into categories and the general defining characteristics of the category are defined. A classification scheme for the categories is proposed and naming conventions for each item are defined. When appropriate, classification
hierarchies are established.

Collect a representative sample of applications in the domain. To accomplish this activity, the analyst must ensure that the application in question has items that fit into the categories that have already been defined. Berard notes that during the early stages of use of object-technologies, a software organization will have few if any OO applications. Therefore, the domain analyst must “identify the conceptual (as opposed to physical) objects in each [non-OO] application.”

Analyze each application in the sample. The following steps are followed by the analyst:
Identify candidate reusable objects.
Indicate the reasons that the object has been identified for reuse.
Define adaptations to the object that may also be reusable.
Estimate the percentage of applications in the domain that might make reuse of the object.
Identify the objects by name and use configuration management techniques  to control them. In addition, once the objects have been defined, the analyst should estimate what percentage of a typical application could be constructed using the reusable objects.

Develop an analysis model for the objects. The analysis model will serve as the basis for design and construction of the domain objects.

In addition to these steps, the domain analyst should also create a set of reuse guidelines and develop an example that illustrates how the domain objects could be used to create a new application.

Domain analysis is the first technical activity in a broader discipline that some call domain engineering. When a business, system, or product domain is defined to be business strategic in the long term, a continuing effort to create a robust reuse library can be undertaken. The goal is to be able to create software within the domain with a very high percentage of reusable components. Lower cost, higher quality, and improved time to market are the arguments in favor of a dedicated domain engineering effort.
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