Software Engineering-Building Blocks for Case

Computer aided software engineering can be as simple as a single tool that supports a specific software engineering activity or as complex as a complete "environment" that encompasses tools, a database, people, hardware, a network, operating systems, standards, and myriad other components. The building blocks for CASE are illustrated in figure. Each building block forms a foundation for the next, with tools sitting at the top of the heap. It is interesting to note that the foundation for effective CASE environments has relatively little to do with software engineering tools themselves. Rather, successful environments for software engineering are built on an environment architecture that encompasses appropriate hardware and systems software. In addition, the environment architecture must consider the human work patterns that are applied during the software engineering process.

The environment architecture, composed of the hardware platform and system support (including networking software, database management, and object management services), lays the ground work for CASE. But the CASE environment itself demands other building blocks. A set of portability services provides a bridge between CASE tools and their integration framework and the environment architecture. The integration framework is a collection of specialized programs that enables individual CASE tools to communicate with one another, to create a project database, and to exhibit the same look and feel to the end-user (the software engineer). Portability services allow CASE tools and their integration framework to migrate across different hardware platforms and operating systems without significant adaptive maintenance.

The building blocks depicted in figure above represent a comprehensive foundation for the integration of CASE tools. However, most CASE tools in use today have not been constructed using all these building blocks. In fact, some CASE tools remain "point solutions." That is, a tool is used to assist in a particular software engineering activity (e.g., analysis modeling) but does not directly communicate with other tools, is not tied into a project database, is not part of an integrated CASE environment (ICASE). Although this situation is not ideal, a CASE tool can be used quite effectively, even if it is a point solution.

The relative levels of CASE integration are shown in figure. At the low end of the integration spectrum is the individual (point solution) tool. When individual tools provide facilities for data exchange (most do), the integration level is improve slightly. Such tools produce output in a standard format that should be compatible with other tools that can read the format. In some cases, the builders of complementary CASE tools work together to form a bridge between the tools (e.g., an analysis and design tool that is coupled with a code generator). Using this approach, the synergy between the tools can produce end products that would be difficult to create using either tool separately. Single-source integration occurs when a single CASE tools vendor integrates a number of different tools and sells them as a package. Although this approach is quite effective, the closed architecture of most single-source environments precludes easy addition of tools from other vendors.
At the high end of the integration spectrum is the integrated project support environment (IPSE). Standards for each of the building blocks described previously have been created. CASE tool vendors use IPSE standards to build tools that will be compatible with the IPSE and therefore compatible with one another.
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