A repair-oriented approach to product consistency in product lines using negative variability


Software product line engineering emphasizes the organized reuse of software artifacts in order to create customized products on demand, while maintenance costs are reduced. In the special case of negative variability, products are created by removing irrelevant elements from a multi-variant platform. One of the greatest challenges connected to negative variability is the question of product consistency. In the literature, several approaches are described to ensure consistent products: either, the derivation of inconsistent products is inhibited in advance, which significantly restricts the product line’s customizability, or the developer is directly involved in repairing inconsistent products, which increases maintenance effort. This paper presents the theoretical foundations of an approach to automatically repair product inconsistencies based on two mechanisms, propagation strategies and selection strategies. The presented approach constitutes a compromise between strict enforcement of product consistency and the reduction of maintenance efforts. Given a consistent product description, the derivation of a consistent product is guaranteed; automatically applied repair actions may be reworked by the developer afterwards. As a proof of concept, the theoretical concepts have been implemented in the model-driven product line tool FAMILE.

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  1. 1.

    Throughout the remainder of this paper, we use the terms domain model and product as synonyms. Similarly, a domain model element denotes a product element. The multi-variant domain model is equivalent to the multi-variant product, or platform. Conversely, a domain model configuration denotes a product (configuration).

  2. 2.

    The notion of forward and reverse is not consistent with the direction of the implication arrow. This is due to “historical” reasons: Initially, the presented approach was restricted to the propagation of selections within parent-child relationships in tree-like products. Parent-child relationships are inverse to dependency relationships (a child depends on its parent). For the same reason, the implication arrow is reversed in [7].

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    In case several candidates with the same number exist, the first element among the list of elements is chosen.

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    In FAMILE, the term selection states is used to denote the inclusion of a domain model element in the disjoint sets \(E_{supp}\), \(E_{enf}\), etc. (cf. Sect. 3.5).

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The authors want to thank Bernhard Westfechtel for his valuable and much appreciated comments on the draft of this article.

Resources Our tool chain FAMILE can be obtained by using the Eclipse update site provided at: http://btn1x4.inf.uni-bayreuth.de/famile/update/ We recommend a clean Eclipse Modeling installation. Screencasts demonstrating the usage of the tool can be found here: http://btn1x4.inf.uni-bayreuth.de/famile/screen-casts/.

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Buchmann, T., Schwägerl, F. A repair-oriented approach to product consistency in product lines using negative variability. SICS Softw.-Inensiv. Cyber-Phys. Syst. 34, 17–33 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00450-016-0329-0

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  • Software product line engineering
  • Negative variability
  • Consistency
  • Product repair