Flux Research Group / School of Computing

Edicts: Implementing Features with Flexible Binding Times

Venkat Chakravarthy, John Regehr, and Eric Eide

Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Aspect-Oriented Software Development (AOSD) 2008.

DOI: 10.1145/1353482.1353496

Middleware, Languages


In a software product line, the binding time of a feature is the time at which one decides to include or exclude a feature from a product.  Typical binding site implementations are intended to support a single binding time only, e.g., compile time or run time.  Sometimes, however, a product line must support features with variable binding times.  For instance, a product line may need to include both embedded system configurations, in which features are selected and optimized early, and desktop configurations, in which client programs choose features on demand.

We present a new technique for implementing the binding sites of features that require flexible binding times.  Our technique combines design patterns and aspect-oriented programming: a pattern encapsulates the variation point, and targeted aspects—called edicts—set the binding times of the pattern participants.  We describe our approach and demonstrate its usefulness by creating a middleware product line capable of serving the desktop and embedded domains.  Our product line is based on JacORB, a middleware platform with many dynamically configurable features.  By using edicts to select features at compile time, we create a version of JacORB more suited to resource-constrained environments.  By configuring four JacORB subsystems via edicts, we achieve a 32.2% reduction in code size. Our examples show that our technique effectively modularizes binding-time concerns, supporting both compile-time optimization and run-time flexibility as needed.