Software Erosion: A Review
Software erosion refers to the gradual decline in software performance over...

Software erosion refers to the gradual decline in software performance over time, leading to obsolescence and the need for updates to sustain usability. It occurs due to continuous updates made to the software's operating environment. As software development costs increase, existing software extends its functional lifespan, resulting in frequent architectural changes.

Several causes contribute to software erosion. Unexpected changes in the operating system can make the software incompatible with the updated environment. The inability to restore software to its functional state, known as "onceability," is another factor. Additionally, specific components within the software may decay due to low usage frequency, and the failure of one component can lead to the failure of others with strong interdependencies.

Software erosion can be classified into inactive erosion and active erosion. Inactive erosion occurs when software usage decreases, making it unstable and unusable. As the operating environment changes, erosion becomes more likely. Active erosion, on the other hand, happens when software is continuously developed or updated without proper mitigation processes, which can also contribute to erosion.

However, continuous updates are necessary to address changing technology, user needs, capabilities, security, and unexpected issues. Software reengineering, which involves updating and maintaining software, is often impractical and leads to divergence from the original design, causing performance, maintenance, and quality problems. This deviation, known as software entropy, increases the probability of architecture erosion, demanding active mitigation.

Software erosion impacts performance, development, maintenance, and software quality. If left untreated, it can result in unstable software, project objectives not being met, increased resource requirements for rewriting, and higher maintenance costs. Preventive measures should be implemented to address system failures caused by software erosion.

To tackle these challenges, developers should thoroughly understand the causes of errors before attempting to fix them. Thoughtful planning of new features with entropy in mind, as well as communication of architecture evolution within the development team, can reduce erosion caused by divergent changes from the original intended architecture. Maintaining up-to-date documentation is crucial to preserve specific knowledge about software components. Descriptive coding practices, such as using descriptive variables and methods, contribute to effective documentation.

By considering these factors, developers can mitigate software erosion, ensuring the long-term viability and usability of their software systems.

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This post was last modified: 8 Jan, 2024, 1:36 am by Omar G..
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