Portability of Process-Aware and Service-Oriented Software: Evidence and Metrics

On January 21st 2016, my work of the last years culminated in the defense of my Ph.D. thesis with the above title. Despite today’s date, I guarantee that this is no joke! I obtained the title of Dr. rer. nat. and the thesis publication is currently in progress and bound to be completed in the following month. Since the completion of a Ph.D. is a big thing and the writing of a Ph.D. thesis a considerable amount of work, I’d like to draw some attention to it in this blog post. If you know this blog, me, or my work, then the content of my thesis is little surprising to you, as I have been blogging and publishing its contents for the last years already. But even then, you might be interested in the wrap-up that my thesis essentially is. So here comes the abstract that summarizes it all:


Modern software systems are becoming increasingly integrated and are required to operate over organizational boundaries through networks. The development of such distributed software systems has been shaped by the orthogonal trends of service-orientation and process-awareness. These trends put an emphasis on technological neutrality, loose coupling, independence from the execution platform, and location transparency. Execution platforms supporting these trends provide context and cross-cutting functionality to applications and are referred to as engines.

Applications and engines interface via language standards. The engine implements a standard. If an application is implemented in conformance to this standard, it can be executed on the engine. A primary motivation for the usage of standards is the portability of applications. Portability, the ability to move software among different execution platforms without the necessity for full or partial reengineering, protects from vendor lock-in and enables application migration to newer engines.

The arrival of cloud computing has made it easy to provision new and scalable execution platforms. To enable easy platform changes, existing international standards for implementing service-oriented and process-aware software name the portability of standardized artifacts as an important goal. Moreover, they provide platform-independent serialization formats that enable the portable implementation of applications. Nevertheless, practice shows that service-oriented and process-aware applications today are limited with respect to their portability. The reason for this is that engines rarely implement a complete standard, but leave out parts or differ in the interpretation of the standard. As a consequence, even applications that claim to be portable by conforming to a standard might not be so.

This thesis contributes to the development of portable service-oriented and process-aware software in two ways: Firstly, it provides evidence for the existence of portability issues and the insufficiency of standards for guaranteeing software portability. Secondly, it derives and validates a novel measurement framework for quantifying portability. We present a methodology for benchmarking the conformance of engines to a language standard and implement it in a fully automated benchmarking tool. Several test suites of conformance tests for two different languages, the Web Services Business Process Execution Language 2.0 and the Business Process Model and Notation 2.0, allow to uncover a variety of standard conformance issues in existing engines. This provides evidence that the standard-based portability of applications is a real issue. Based on these results, this thesis derives a measurement framework for portability. The framework is aligned to the ISO/IEC Systems and software Quality Requirements and Evaluation method, the recent revision of the renowned ISO/IEC software quality model and measurement methodology. This quality model separates the software quality characteristic of portability into the subcharacteristics of installability, adaptability, and replaceability. Each of these characteristics forms one part of the measurement framework. This thesis targets each characteristic with a separate analysis, metrics derivation, evaluation, and validation. We discuss existing metrics from the body of literature and derive new extensions specifically tailored to the evaluation of service-oriented and process-aware software. Proposed metrics are defined formally and validated theoretically using an informal and a formal validation framework. Furthermore, the computation of the metrics has been prototypically implemented. This implementation is used to evaluate metrics performance in experiments based on large scale software libraries obtained from public open source software repositories.

In summary, this thesis provides evidence that contemporary standards and their implementations are not sufficient for enabling the portability of process-aware and service-oriented applications. Furthermore, it proposes, validates, and practically evaluates a framework for measuring portability.

If you are interested to know more, I’ll add a link to the free online version of my thesis, as soon as it is available. You can also get a good grasp about conrete results if you look at some of my previous publications. Finally, you can always contact me directly with questions about my work!

: And finally, my Ph.D. thesis has been fully published! You can download it on my publications page (scroll down) or, since it is an open access publication, go directly to the publisher.

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